MacBook Air i5 13" for Photography?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by christurbo, Sep 23, 2012.

  1. macrumors regular

    I currently own a 13" i5 2011 MBA.

    I want to get into photography in a big way and I am currently deliberating over a 5D MK3 or a D800.

    Would the MBA become a worthy workhorse or would I need to purchase a MBP?

    I used to have a 2010 15" MBP but sold it due to its size, and benchmark test of the 2011 MBA.

    I am mindful that the little fan will be screaming whilst using Lightroom/CS5/FCP.

    Also can it cope with a 27" external monitor?

  2. macrumors 68040


    If you are choosing between 5DIII and D800 without a second body, then I have to ask what is your main subject area. For example D800 has the resolution for great stills; however, the frame rate for those large files is not so hot for shooting wildlife or sports. I believe the 5DIII is a better compromise between large file and corresponding resolution versus max frame rates. Both are excellent bodies.

    A maxed out MBA could obviously run LR, PS,...etc. The question is will you get fustrated at the speed. I can not answer that as the wife and I bite the bullet and with with maxed out rMBPs. We have them on Apple Care and will keep them for at least 3 years. They have the CPU/GPU power and memory to run the apps. They also have the SSD space for multiple week photo trips collecting raw files. We keep our media libraries (LR library, Itunes music, documents) in external drives....not on the SSD. So we each have over 600GB for photo capture in the field. We have our rMBPS connected via HDMI to 25" monitors as the moment. We plan to go with 27" IPS panels by the end of the year. You can connect via HDMI, Thunderbolt, or use a Thunderbolt adapter for Display Port and other connect types. Personally I am hoping for an Apple Thunderbolt Display refresh to replace the USB 2 hub with a USB 3 hub.

    Neither camera body, especially with a good glass collection, will be inexpensive. The same goes for a rMBP. But in both cases, either purchase can contribute to years of fun photography. I hope some of this ramble helps.
  3. macrumors Penryn


    If you're going to shoot D800 and keep the RAWs, then you're going to have some serious issues with speed.

    I'm currently running LR, but with Fuji X100 RAW files. It only shoots 12 MP, but that's absolutely fine for me. My 2011 11" MBA with 256 GB SSD is not "slow", but it's certainly not considered "fast". It's very usable.

    For a D800, it would be slow, even for JPEGs.
  4. Gadger Snr, Sep 23, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2014

    macrumors member

  5. christurbo, Sep 23, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012

    macrumors regular

    I am airing on the 5D MK3 due to the fact that I will never need the megapixel count of the D800 would also like to use it for the odd video capturing necessity.

    I am also on the lookout for a new display. The Dell U2412m has taken my eye.
    What is the max amount of monitors a 2011 spec i5 MBA can daisy chain? I would probably just need the one.

    I have also seen the korean IPS 27" panels which are supposedly the same panel as the 'Apple Cinema Display'. I dont think I could risk it though.

    I have read that newer version of Lightroom would benefit from 8GB of Ram something I do not have [4GB]. Could this be an issue?

    I have a home network with RAID'd NAS, and also have USB HDD for backup so no need for space on my SSD.

    What do you think about the size? I felt it was a little to small, however I did not have chance to play with it. What was autofocus like?
  6. macrumors 68000


    You can get away with 4GB of RAM if you keep the number of open apps to a minimum. When I'm editing, I usually have opened LR, Safari, and Mail. iTunes is huge so I don't open while editing.

    I would definitely get a couple of external drives regardless of which Mac you use. Then now that I think about it. You do know that the Air doesn't have a disc drive nor a extra usb ports. Plan your route - what will you have connected to your Mac. Honestly, I would go with a Macbook Pro 13in because you get that firewire port and disc drive. I use my drive to back up photos to DVDr.
  7. macrumors 68020

    Nikon has significantly beefed up the video capabilities of the D800, e. g. the new season of Dexter is shot with a D800. If you look at the DxO Marks, the D800 is the second-best camera ever tested, only bested by its almost-identical twin, the D800 E (which lacks an anti-aliasing filter).

    If you don't need 36 MP, I'd rather suggest you have a look at a D600: it has a very capable AF system, 20 MP resolution (which is close enough to 24 MP) and is ranked #3 on the DxO marks.
    If you plan to spend that much money on a new body, forget about a cheap Dell display. You should look into getting a NEC or an Eizo display.
    No, you can only drive one external display. Resolution-wise, the Air can drive any display you can throw at it (officially, I think it tops out at 2560x1600). There are USB monitor adapters, but I wouldn't use them if performance is any concern.
    You should have at least 8 GB RAM, and indeed you can custom-configure MacBook Airs to have 8 GB RAM. Personally, I'd probably wait just a little longer to wait for Apple to release the 13" Retina MacBook Pro. Given the 15" Retina MacBook Pro, it should be lighter than the current 13" Pro, significantly more powerful and have a gorgeous screen.
  8. macrumors 68020


    I'd be more mindful of the storage capacity. RAW files eat away at it pretty quickly; in just one shoot I use up 20-50GB! Now in a 256GB Air that's already 20% of the storage gone.

    If you're going to go with the Air, plan on using an external drive for backup and storage. Even my MacBook Pro 15" with its 500GB hard drive isn't enough; I have to offload my unused archive photos to an external 2TB FW800 drive and a 3TB Time Capsule for redundant backup via Vault and Time Machine. Heck, a lot of professionals use Drobos or Pegasus arrays for 12TB+ storage!
  9. macrumors 6502

    Your choice of bodies depends greatly on your investment in lenses to date. I love my Canon 5DIII and also have a 5DII, 1D3 and a dozen canon lenses.

    As to travelable work horse lap top you see my choice below. Definitely need the largest drive, fastest processor and most memory you can afford. For home work, I use the MB Pro with 27" Apple monitor. In the field the 13" MB Air rocks.
  10. macrumors 68000

    What kind of photo's do you make?
    The D800 makes huge NEF files, but don't let that fool you. Its JPEG's are better than any basic processed CRF in Lightroom, as the in-camera JPEG processing of Nikon is seriously good. And they handle very well on any Mac.
    The thing you don't want to miss from either the D600 or D800 are the 14+ stop D-range. It makes any Canon sensor like a previous generation one.

    And the D800 is well suited for sports too. Don't be fooled by the 4fps. You are a pro an capable of pressing the shutter at the right moment do you? The AF is very pro. For sports you don't want more than just some cropping, so again, the perfect JPEG's are all you need. And if you need more FPS at sports, just put it in DX mode, it still delivers 14 mpixel and makes your tele-lenses 1,5x as long.

    Oh, and forget about the U2412. It is the crippled version of the U2410. Dell still sells the old for a good reason (better backlight). But have a look at a U2711 too. And if you are spending like this, forget all displays and just go and grab a Nec PA271W or Nec PA301W. They are the last you need, and almost half price of similar good Eizo's.
  11. macrumors regular

    I currently have a commercial specification NAS which has a RAID configuration and is 2TB at the moment all my current work is saved there, only my apps are run off the MBA. I would love a thunderbolt drive though!

    I got hold of PS CS6 today to trial the MBA and it seems fine, however I have not played with any RAW files yet.

    In answer to your questions I am in the lucky position of having no lenses or bodies as I sold them all a while ago.

    This is a welcome return to photography with a view of investing some serious time into it to help start my partners business and also possibly take things further myself.

    I like all sorts of photography including landscape, sports, portraits, etc.

    So here I am deciding what tech to buy.

    I am having a real hard time deciding about the 5D3 or D800. The thing that is putting me off the D800 is the RAW file size. You stated that it was good in JPEG, can you scale down the MP size? If so how does that effect quality in comparison to a 5D3? I am also going to lapland in a few months and didnt really want to be lugging an external flash, something the D800 would tick a box on.

    I am also dubious about the aliaising and moire on videos with the D800, something the 5D3 is fine with. Noise also looks inferior due to the high MP count.

    I should buy both it would be a lot easier! :D

    Regarding the panel, I have been looking out for the u2410 which can be purchased for a decent price.
  12. macrumors newbie

    Newbie Digital Photography 2012 MBA

    I am looking to get into digital SLR photography, I am considering a Canon D6 on the advice of a neighbor who shoots a much higher end camera. I am also looking to go back to a Mac. I will mainly be shooting my toddler, portraits, birds, nautre shots, just about everything, maybe even some sports shots down the road in 3-5 years, more than likely sounds like I will need a new body by then. I have also been told to get a high quality lense such as the LS/ IS series if I go with Cannon, any advice?

    I am looking at a MBA i7 2.0, 8Gb RAM, 512 SSD
    From waht I can ascertain this would more than handle CS6 for photoshop, and some development work for webpages and waht not, is that correct?
    Starting out should I be looking at Apeture to get going? My goal is to get a new iMAC later in the year for my main workstation.

    I would welcome the feedback form those who are more experienced with my Mac needs as well as my need to find a quality SLR.
  13. macrumors 68020


    First of all the 6D is too high-end for a novice to start with. For that price I'd rather get a much better computer and a 60D or a 7D with a good lens.
    The 60D or the 7D with a 24-105mm f/4L or 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM are a treat to shoot with. They give just as good an image quality as the 6D for a fraction of the price. Of course you will lack the full-frame sensor but that hardly matters if you're just starting.

    As for the MacBook Air, I'd highly recommend against it, unless you're also planning on getting an external monitor. Rather, get a MacBook Pro 15", either the classic or Retina. Both are leagues more powerful than the MacBook Airs and have screens capable of displaying much more accurate colors. The classic MBP also has upgradeable RAM and storage, which is a crucial feature especially when you don't know your limits in photography and might need to upgrade in the future.

    This I can speak from personal experience; even with 5TB external storage and 500GB internal storage, my growing Aperture libraries couldn't fit on a single 500GB drive, so I had to split it into 3 different libraries, one archive, one family and one working library, with the working library on local storage and others on the external. Eventually both the archive and working libraries were just way too big to fit on a 500GB drive, and I swapped the hard drive to a 750GB drive in a jiffy. Same with RAM; I'm starting to feel the limits of 8GB, so I'll always have the option to go to 16GB, whereas with the Retina MBP and MBA you're stuck with soldered-on permanent RAM.

    Running Photoshop, ironically, is not very important in photography. In fact, I know many photographers who have never touched Photoshop! They either go straight to JPEG or use Lightroom, DPP or Aperture for RAW management instead. Photoshop is only for the heavy edits, like when you have blemishes that just can't be fixed through the basic retouch tools.

    So my recommendation: a crop-sensored camera, anything from the T2i to the 7D, with a good lens like the 24-70 f/2.8L (old), 24-105 f/4L, 17-55mm f/2.8, or 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6. All of these are very good lenses and will serve you nicely without breaking the bank. As for the computer, either a 15" MacBook Pro or the iMac 27", but not a MacBook Air.

    If money is no object then just buy a 1D X with 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, maxed out Mac Pro with triple Dell U3011 monitors. :p
  14. macrumors newbie


    D800, has never let me down so far.
  15. macrumors 68010

    If you go with the D800, make sure you max out the memory on your MBA. Especially if you're shooting RAW, the file sizes are pretty significant. You will need to upgrade your memory if you haven't already.
  16. macrumors regular

    I will only comment on the Mac portion of your question. I have to agree with Prodo on this one. A MacBook Air with those specs and that price would be much better spent on a 13" or 15" MacBook Pro. At $2200, a 15" Retina MacBook Pro gives you quad-core, Retina Display and more screen real estate. Plus, the color performance on the Retina Displays are supposedly high quality.

    If you are not wild about using only a laptop, a standard MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and a Thunderbolt Display would be almost the same amount of money and you would have the "portability" and "screen size" points checked off of your list.

    Just my two cents!
  17. macrumors 68000


    The first time I read the title of this thread, I saw "MacBook Air i5 13" for Pornography"

    I have no idea why I needed to share that.
  18. macrumors 68020


    Well there is artistic nude photography...
    If you need a fast, mobile solution, there you go. :D
  19. macrumors 68000


    Or you could get an old PC. Take it slow. Really enjoy it. Oh god, I can't stop!
  20. macrumors regular

    I picked up a maxed out 2012 MBA earlier this year (11" but connected to big screen) as a stop gap until the iMac comes out. It has no problems at all working with D800 files and that includes doing an image stitch of 10 shots into a giant panoramic! It even works quite well with Capture NX, which is notorious for being slow at times.

    Fans do kick in though with prolonged use, it must be said!
  21. macrumors 68040


    For primarily stationary objects (landscape, still life..etc.) the Canon 5DII is excellent. If moving targets (wildlife, sports, kids) are the prime target a 7D is excellent.

    Look at the refurbed bodies and lenses from Canon for a good deal. also you can trade in older Canon bodies for extra credit. My 5DII and 24-105 were both refurbed units and in excellent condition.
  22. macrumors 65816


    I'm shooting the D800 with 14-bit lossless compressed RAW. If you want some numbers to work with, here are some.

    Most of my images are between 45 and 50 mb (50 is rare but 47-48 are not).

    Writing them out as 100% jpgs via Lightroom 4 gives 18-26 mb.

    I process on a hexacore Mac Pro 5,1 with 24 gb ram and tons of disk space, and a Dell U2711.

    I went on a trip and took along someone else's 15" MBP mid-2011 with i7, 8 gb ram, and a 7200 rpm drive. It did the job, but I was aware that it was noticeably slower than the Mac Pro.

    The D800 is spectacular. As another poster said, the dynamic range is extraordinary. The metering is also the best I've ever used.

    I've been thinking about retiring my 17" 2008 MBP in favor of a 13" MBA, but I don't know how well the MBA will run LR4 and handle the D800 images.

    We do have an 11" MBA i7/8GB/256 and I'm thinking about installing LR4 there and seeing what happens. If I do it, I'll report here.
  23. macrumors 65816


    I did install LR4 on an 11" MBA (i7/8gb/256) which I then connected to my Dell U2711.

    I brought over a couple of dozen D800 RAW images and did various things to them.

    It was completely acceptable. More lag than the Mac Pro (maybe half again the time) but since the absolute time for an operation wasn't great, the lag didn't come close to being annoying.

    I admit to being surprised, but there it is. I couldn't be happy doing everything on an Air, but if I needed to (like while traveling) it wouldn't be bad at all.

    So take this as confirmation of what Richard Peters said yesterday.

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