Tag Archives: MacBook

2010 MacBook Pro – Initial Impressions

After waiting close to a year, Apple announced their new line of MacBook Pro laptops.  I’d been in the market for a new laptop to replace my 3+ year old white MacBook, and the introduction of the high resolution display pushed me over the edge.  I ordered the upgraded, glossy, high resolution screen on the base 15″ model.  After waiting close to two weeks, it arrived today!

Unboxing

As always, Apple’s packaging is almost as beautiful as the product itself.  I tried to document the unveiling with photos, but I’m afraid they do little justice to the actual beauty of the product.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
MacBook Pro 15" Shipping Box
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Shipping Carton Open
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Back of MacBook Pro 15" Box
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Front of MacBook Pro 15" Box
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Box Open

At this point, it’s easy to see the actual beauty of the product.  (It’s really not as shiny as the photo may indicate since there is a protective plastic film covering the laptop).  Perhaps I’m a bit of the odd man out here, but I had never handled the unibody MacBooks.  There is no Mac store within 50 miles of my home and none of my friends have one.  So let me just say that taking it out of the box was quite the experience.  To start with, the engineering is simply beautiful.  It’s very easy to tell that this was made from one solid piece of aluminum.  There are virtually no seams and everything lines up perfectly.  The second noticeable thing was simply how solid it felt.  Because of it’s unibody construction, it feels oddly solid and dense, yet not overly heavy.  It’s somewhat difficult to describe.

Removing the plastic film and opening the display was just as stunning.  While not everyone likes the look of the glossy display, I really like them.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Glossy Screen and Keyboard

The other item which caught my attention was the black keyboard.  My white MacBook came with a white keyboard (clearly) and frankly, it always seemed to look dirty after being used for a couple of days — necessitating a good cleaning.  The black keyboard not only looks great against the aluminum housing, but I think will prove to be less revealing with regards to dirt and grime.  Great job Apple.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Beautiful Design!

User Interface

While it comes as no surprise that the user interface on an Apple product is good, I have to give very high marks to those items which have changed since my last MacBook.  The first, and most obvious, is the new trackpad design.  Apple has opted to get rid of any discrete buttons and instead equip their laptops with one very large trackpad.  Even my old MacBook had the best trackpad I’ve ever used.  This one is even better.  The entire bottom two thirds of the trackpad is physically a button (which depresses with a click).  While this may sound odd at first, it’s actually very intuitive.  Not only that, the inertial scrolling feature Apple added makes so much intuitive sense to me that using my work computer’s scroll feature (the right edge of the trackpad) seems awkward and inefficient.  For those who haven’t heard the hype, the whole idea behind inertial scrolling is that if you use two fingers to scroll up and down in a document, flicking them down makes the document keep scrolling a little even after your fingers have left the track pad.  This flicking motion makes it very easy to scroll very large documents.

The other huge feature that cannot go unnoticed is the display.  I absolutely love the high resolution display!  I’ve seen some negative comments regarding text sizes with the higher resolution display and will admit that packing extra pixels into a display of the same size will shrink text — that’s a given.  But personally, I don’t find anything unreadable while the laptop is comfortably sitting in my lap.  The higher resolution really shines when photos are displayed.  They are stunning!  Finally I can actually see a decent sized rendition of my photos in Lightroom while having toolbars on the side of the screen!

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
My Desk with External Monitor

Performance

Please bear in mind that this is, indeed, an initial review.  Also please bear in mind that there are numerous speed tests available on the web for these processors.  And I really am not into benchmark numbers or other synthetic tests.  With that said, I am willing to say the performance is really good.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that I find that I no longer have to wait for previews of my photos to render in Lightroom.  I find that clicking on Firefox or Thunderbird produce almost instant windows.  In short, I rarely find myself waiting for the computer to do something.  And that, for me, is what really matters!

Conclusions

Thus far, I’m completely satisfied with my purchase!  I really love the solid aluminum unibody design.  I love the high resolution display!  As I’ve said before, the performance is such that I never feel that I’m having to slow down my workflow to wait for the computer to catch up.  In all actuality, I have to say that this is the best laptop I’ve ever used.  I’m not, by any means, done writing about this wonderful new tool!  In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be doing much more in-depth reviews of individual aspects.  If there is something specific you’re curious about or interested in, I’m open to suggestions!

MacBook Pro 2010 – A Photographer’s Dream?

After almost 10 months of waiting, Apple announced the latest upgrades to their MacBook Pro line of computers.  And while many seem disappointed with Apple’s latest product release, I’m thinking that this may represent the new standard for photographers and other media professionals.

For those who haven’t been following the release closely, the latest generation of 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pro models have been upgraded to use Intel’s latest Core i5 and i7 processors.  (For those curious, the 13″ line of MacBook Pros has stayed with the Intel Core 2 Duo line of processors, but did see a speed bump as well as more RAM standard.)

In addition to the upgraded processors, the other hot news is the change in graphics cards.  All 15″ models now come with a discrete graphics card – an NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M.  Models are available with either 256MB of graphics memory or, for the higher end model, 512MB.

For a full review of all the latest options, I suggest reading the Engaget’s description of the updates, or their Review of the MacBook Pro Core i7.

So what does all of this mean to photographers?

Processing Power

Pure processing power has always been on the list of necessary features for a photographer’s laptop choice.  Converting RAW images, running programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture and storing / cataloging the hundreds of images taken every day is simply a processor intensive task.  And while the previous MacBook Pro machines were indeed powerful, over the course of the last 10 months, a lot of upgrades have come about in mobile processors.

In an effort to stay competitive, Apple made a smart decision to include the latest Core i5 and i7 processors in this generation of MacBook Pros.  Early benchmarks of these Intel processors has shown very favorable results and these should prove to provide an even better user experience to anyone doing complex computing.  While there have been many complaining about the lack of a quad core option, Apple has always been conservative with their laptop specs.  I guess, in this case, I’d rather have a rock solid laptop with slightly slower processor than the latest and greatest processor at the sacrifice of stability and build quality.  However, I’m sure many would not agree.

Screen Resolution

While the upgraded processor is a huge draw for running Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom, the other huge news is the ability to add a higher resolution screen to the 15″ product line.  For me, this alone makes these a huge step above the previous generation MacBook Pro for any sort of photographic tasks.  And while the 17″ does have an even higher resolution, many mobile professionals can’t justify the additional bulk.  In fact, most professional photographers I’ve conversed with feel that the 15″ is the best option with regards to bulk and horsepower.

While some may argue that there is really very little gain from the new higher resolution screen, let’s do some quick math.  The 13″ screen has a standard (non-upgradable) resolution of 1280×800 or 1,024,000 pixels.  The standard 15″ resolution of 1440×900 pixels equals a total pixel count of 1,296,000 (for those doing the math, that’s only a 26.5% increase over the 13″).  And while this does indeed make a difference, if you’re anything like me, the more pixels the better — especially for a program like Adobe Lightroom.  Enter the new upgrade option from Apple.  For only $100 more (for glossy, $150 for a matte option), the latest 15″ can be ordered with a 1680×1050 pixel resolution for a total pixel count of 1,764,000.  This is a 36% increase over the standard 15″ configuration and a whopping 72% increase over the 13″ model!  That’s huge!  I’m sure we’ll see many people upgrading for that feature alone.

Graphics Processing

The NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M has received its fair share of criticism in the last week.  However, since this chip was manufactured exclusively for Apple, and has only been released for a week, I really feel it’s too early to pass a harsh judgment.  In fact, early reports show it being more than adequate for most users.  Also, according to many (including the above Engadget review), the latest version of Photoshop (CS5) will take full advantage of the upgraded GPU.  I can only hope that Lightroom 3 (when released) will also follow suit as rendering a couple GB of images can currently take a noticeable amount of time.  Only time will tell how well this graphics option will perform.

Conclusion

Personally, one of the biggest reasons I’ve stuck with my 3+ year old MacBook was the fact that the MacBook Pro line simply didn’t offer enough incentive to upgrade for my uses.  And when Apple announced the new 13″ Pro models, I thought I’d finally found my next laptop.  However, with the discrete graphics option now standard on the entry level 15″ models, and the option to add a higher resolution screen, I really feel that the 15″ MacBook Pro is the perfect portable photographic companion!

Update:

The new MacBook Pro arrived and my Initial Impressions are posted (as well as unboxing photos).

Business Trip Photography

Airplane flying overhead against a blue skyWhile dates and times are subject to change, it is now official that I will be traveling to the UK on business for two weeks.  Naturally, my first thought was what camera gear will I take?  But see, since this is a business trip, I am somewhat limited amount of space to pack my own gear.  So, the question becomes, what do I take?

Computer

I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to have to take my MacBook.  This will force me to carry two laptops (work provided and personal), but I really can’t figure out a way around it.  My only form of communication with my wife and friends will be through Skype and since my company completely locks down my work laptop, I have no choice but to take my own personal computer.  This brings up problem right away though.  I now have to carry on two computers.

From what I can tell, you’re better off with only one carry on bag for international travel.  So I started searching for laptop bags that would hold two laptops.  I also didn’t want to purchase a single trip item so I wanted something that I’d use for a long time.  Having owned one Timbuk2 bag, I knew that if I could, I wanted to stick with them.  Their bags are great!  So I ordered a Commute 2.0 with the idea that one laptop can go in the laptop area, and the other can go in the main compartment.  Keep in mind that I have to also have power cords, plug adapters and assorted cables for both laptops so that eats into my remaining space.  So… what room is leftover for camera gear?

Camera Gear

This is where things get tricky.  I have basically two options.  My Nikon D200 with one lens, or my Canon G10.  Remember, whatever I take has to fit in the above bag!  Now obviously, these two cameras are somewhat opposite with regards to size.  And as much as I love the G10, I’m a bit concerned that I’ll miss my dSLR once I get over there. Plus, when else will I have a chance to travel to Europe?  Shouldn’t I take the best camera possible?

On the other hand, the G10 and charger take up less space than the dSLR body itself.  And I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to remove the lens on the D200 to get it to fit into the bag.  Which means if I’m walking around, seeing sights, I’m going to have to remove the lens ever time I want to put it back in the bag.

Whatever I choose, I’m definitely packing my Ultra Pod. I received this as a gift and I can’t begin to explain how handy it is! It’s tiny, fits anywhere and is far superior to trying to balance your camera on a ledge, rock or picnic table!

So what do you take when traveling on business?

I’ve asked many people what they do when they travel for business. Everyone has different answers and it’s clear that many people have honed their preferred kit from years of experience.  For now, I’m leaning on taking my G10 and concentrating on enjoying the sites.  By all means, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Tools of the Trade

NIKON D50 @ 28mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/3.3, ISO 200 | zoom in
Day 1 - Daily Photo Equipment
Click here to purchase prints!!

For my first day of this project, I thought it only fitting to show the tools I will use every day.  In no particular order, the following equipment will accompany me on this journey:

  • Nikon D200 dSLR Camera Body
    • Nikon 50mm f/1.4D Lens
    • Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S DX Lens
    • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens
  • Canon PowerShot G10 compact camera
  • Nikon SB-600 Flash
  • MacBook 13″ w/ Adobe Lightroom
  • Assorted tripods, memory cards and card readers