Does Size Matter?!

Ok, I’ve done the unthinkable! As photographers we need the most powerful laptops we can get our hands on so we can edit quickly in the field. So, what possessed me to leave my super fast Apple MacBook Pro at home and decide to take the MacBook Air on my assignment to France (mentioned in an earlier post)?

Well, it was all down to weight. I wasn’t sure what the level of access would be on the job, or how much trekking would be involved. On the camera equipment front, I decided to take the bare minimum, so I packed a couple of 1D MkIII bodies, a 16-35mm F2.8L MkII, a 70-200mm f2.8L IS, the 50mm f2.5 macro, a 15mm f2.8, a 580EX II flash and a couple of teleconverters. I really wanted to take the 300mm f2.8L IS, but decided that as I was going to be on foot and in the mud, it would’ve just slowed me down and brought excess fatigue. Anyway, the 70-200 and the x1.4 converter are a superb combination.

I’d originally packed my 15” MacBook Pro, but after I lifted the backpack (a ThinkTank Photo Ultra Light and Artificial Intelligence laptop sleeve) onto my back, it was just going to be too heavy to carry all day.

I’d originally got the MacBook Air to use as a laptop for holidays and to have with me on days off (I always have some camera gear with me). I’d played around with Aperture 2.1 on it and it worked fine, but was slower than my other Macs. I decided to risk it and packed the Air instead.

I was really glad I did! As it turned out, I only had around a mile of trekking to get to and back from the site, and I did this a couple of times a day. But having less weight to carry, really helped. As it was, after filing throughout the day and then late into the night, sleep was usually around four hours; so, anyway to cut down on fatigue was welcome.

We’d found a lovely little cafe in Romelles and this turned into a media office for our stay. The battery power on this tiny machine is amazing. Using it full on, I was getting over three hours of power. The single USB slot was a bit annoying, but usable. I do wish it had a Firewire 800 port as this is what I normally use for importing images. So, my workflow was to plug in the USB 2 card reader, import into Aperture 2.1, edit and prepare the images for FTP. Then I’d plug in the 3G modem, wire and unplug. This was followed by plugging in an external portable hard drive and backing up all images.

The only problem was that the machine was noticeably slower in use as I was editing hundreds of RAW images, however it was useable. Aperture’s minimum requirements are 2Ghz processors and the Air has 1.8. Also, not having a dedicated and powerful graphics processor is also an issue. But, as I mentioned, it did work and I didn’t miss any deadlines. As the assignment finished three days later, I evaluated my choice, and considering that there was a fair amount of trekking, I decided that the choice to bring the Air was the correct one. My back was certainly thankful (as were all the locals and other journalists who couldn’t believe the MacBook Air’s size!).

One thing I forgot to mention; I’ve got the 64Gb SSD version and I’ve never seen any computer, on any platform or any price point, boot up, start programs or shut down as quickly as my Air! Also moving files around either from the Air, or onto the Air is seriously quick too.

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