Macbook air 13 2011, a good upgrade for photography?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by gdourado, Jan 21, 2012.

  1. gdourado macrumors 6502

    gdourado

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2010
    #1
    Hello,
    How are you?
    I sold my 2009 macbook pro.
    It was the 17 inch model.
    It had the core 2 duo 2.66, gforce 9600 and I had installed an ocz agility 1.
    Now, I'm looking for a new machine.
    I use my computer just for general web and bogs and photography.
    I just use lightroom, PhotoShop CS5, photomatix pro and the web browser.
    I already have external firewire hard drives, so storage is not a concern.

    I'm really thinking about buying a 13 inch air with the sandy bridge I5 and a thunderbolt display.
    This way I could have a great display with ips for photo edit, an excellent dock with fast ports and have a truly portable laptop, unlike my 17 inch pro.
    The other option was a 27 inch I5 imac.
    It was cheaper. The thing is I don't really like the integrated display and computer concept. Although more expensive, a separate display could last me several laptops or computer generations.

    so, after all this, if you've read this far, these are my questions to you:

    - is the air really faster and noticiable more performant than my old macbook pro?

    - for what I said I would use the computer, would the air do a good job?

    - would the imac option be that much faster?

    - any of you use the air for similar tasks? Any problems with raw files?

    - any other advice?

    Please help me out.

    Thank you!

    Cheers!
     
  2. pgiguere1 macrumors 68020

    pgiguere1

    Joined:
    May 28, 2009
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    #2
    The CPU will be faster than your old 2.66GHz C2D, but not really noticeably.

    It would do a very good job when paired with the Thunderbolt display if you don't need advanced 3D graphics.

    I would like this better than an iMac but that's a personal choice. The iMac would be a bit faster but I think mobility is more convenient.

    The HD 3000 graphics drivers currently have issues with Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom on Lion but that will be fixed in the upcoming 10.7.3 update.
     
  3. gdourado thread starter macrumors 6502

    gdourado

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2010
    #3
    Hello,

    Thank you for your reply.
    When you say it will be faster, but not by much, do you mean I will nite notice it? Won't it be faster when rendering adjustments on Adobe camera raw on raw files?

    Also, can you please explain a little bit more about those hd3000 driver problems?won't I be able to use those programs until the osx update?

    Cheers!
     
  4. pgiguere1 macrumors 68020

    pgiguere1

    Joined:
    May 28, 2009
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    #4
    I upgraded from a 2009 15" MBP with a 2.53GHz C2D to an i7 MBA and while I did notice a small difference in CPU power, it wasn't that big of a deal. The true difference was the form factor and ultra fast SSD. I would imagine that with a 2.66GHz it would be even less noticeable.

    The Adobe programs will open but you will have issues when using the brush tool and other similar tools. Depending on the brush size, the cursor will often be misaligned (by a large margin, maybe 100 pixels) with where the brush actually paints. The cursor may also disappear or jump around when you move it over different menus. The effect of certain tools (healing brush, clone stamp, etc.) will sometimes be invisible until you drag the window around to force a refresh of the display.

    More info there:
    http://feedback.photoshop.com/photoshop_family/topics/brushes_not_working_on_2011_macbook_air
    https://discussions.apple.com/message/16841814#16841814

    I think it's unacceptable for some Macs (which are the industry standard for graphics design) to not support Adobe software when Lion has been on the market for so long and comes with every new Mac.
     
  5. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #5
    Personally, I think a 15" MBP is better suited as photographers main computer over a MBA.
    The easily upgradable storage. The option of pulling the optical drive and putting another hard drive (or SSD). The ports, larger screen and of course the discrete GPU are also advantages.
     
  6. gdourado thread starter macrumors 6502

    gdourado

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2010
    #6
    Hello.

    Yes, I agree that the 15 inch 2011 mbp has impressive specs for a laptop.
    I did not consider it for two reasons. First is cost. The mbp is more expensive than the 27 iMac (at least here in Portugal). The cost of a mbp plus the thunderbolt display would just be too much.
    Also, the mbp would not be too portable, so with that in mind, ans cost, I would prefer to go iMac.
    Also, I don't inted to keep the air for as long as I kept the mbp I had. I inted to sell it on a year to then upgrade to the refreshed version of the air. So altough I must agree that the mbp would hold It's performance for more time, like 4 years, I don't intend to keep it that long. I lost too much money selling my 17 inch three years after purchase.

    Cheers and thank you all for your insight.
     
  7. Durious macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2008
    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta
    #7
    as long as you stick to 13" you should be fine as you'll need that for the express card slot for your firewire storage device
     
  8. pgiguere1 macrumors 68020

    pgiguere1

    Joined:
    May 28, 2009
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    #8
    The 13" MBA has an SD card slot, not ExpressCard. To have ExpressCard on a MBA, you need a Thunderbolt to ExpressCard adapter, but he won't need one for FireWire since the Thunderbolt Display he plans to buy will already give him FireWire.
     
  9. mac26 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    #9
    Go for it!

    Go for it! MacBook Air's + ATDs are popular choices for many photographers I know.

    It really would be a perfect machine based on your description, I do occasional CS5 work on my Air 11" i5 and it's great!
     
  10. thekev, Jan 21, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2012

    thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #10
    It's popular because it's Apple. Eizo, NEC, Quato, HP dreamcolor, all significantly better. Dell has one that seems to be popular among amateur/prosumer photographers. The reason the other guys have avoided LED backlighting on their best displays is that it's problematic in terms of color. It shifts the color temps a bit. The Air is okay but if your files get big, it lacks a lot of ram. I just think the Apple display is a disappointing product for what it costs.

    Edit: should clarify some of those are expensive, a couple of the Dells are quite popular, and NEC is really good assuming you can afford a calibration sensor of reasonable quality. The issues with the Apple are that they don't calibrate well, drift pretty bad (you mentioned several computer cycles, and they drift horribly past a year or two, but a lot of displays have that problem) and their quality control on displays has never been very good.
     
  11. gdourado thread starter macrumors 6502

    gdourado

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2010
    #11
    Hello,

    Now you got me a little scared. I thought the apple display was a good choice.
    I know that there are better eizo, nec and lacie displays out there, but that kind of professional monitors are also quite more expensive than the apple display.
    I like the fact that the apple display has an integrated thunderbolt dock, to connect to the external arrays, Ethernet, and so on.
    Also like the resolution, and thought that the fact that it is an IPs panel, could calibrate well with a spyder 4 pro.

    I was actually more concerned about the power of the air for edit.
    I don't really batch process.

    Any more thoughts to help me make up my mind?
    Cheers!
     
  12. dsc888 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2010
    Location:
    Boston, MA USA
    #12
    The Apple Cinema Display isn't a bad monitor. Anandtech's review actually was pretty favorable. And it does calibrate well with the Spyder4. I have the non-Thunderbolt one which is almost identical to the newer unit. The panel is made by LG. The color gamut is good. The downsides of it vs the Eizos and NECs is that it a glossy display which means that reflections will be an issue if you cannot control your room lighting. This can be serious for folks working in bright offices with lots of windows.

    Also, the display lacks a polarizer that helps to limit back light bleed when the screen is displaying blacks. The lower right and left corners on my ACD is not as black as I like it to be when the screen is displaying black bars while using Netflix or when displaying dark photos for example due to the LED light strip bleeding through.

    If you need a monitor that has a larger color gamut, then you need one that uses CCFL back lighting instead of LEDs in the Apple, BTW. Originally, I had the Dell U2711 which also uses the same LG panel but a matte screen and CCFL back lighting with 98% Adobe RGB gamut. But I returned it like many others due to over aggressive matte display that caused a shimmering effect on the screen.

    So all in all, it depends on what your needs are. If you edit pictures non professionally and care able keeping the Apple aesthetics, then the ATD is perfect. If you need super accurate colors and a matte display or edit professionally, then you may want to look for alternatives. Research at sites like dpreview.com to get other people's opinion. Good luck.
     
  13. charlieroberts macrumors 6502a

    charlieroberts

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    #13
    I have used a mba for lightroom, and it feel really good. Snappy and responsive.
     
  14. thekev, Jan 22, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2012

    thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #14
    Bleh didn't mean to. The more critical your workflow, the more you might notice these things. Most photographers basically wing it, even if they don't realize they are doing so. Here is my experience with Apple displays (consistently). They are dumb displays in that they don't really process internal corrections of any kind. They are often too bright to match printed whites. The glossy thing is quite annoying. LED backlighting is inferior to CCFL in terms of matching printed color gamuts. The spyder4 is new enough that its hardware/firmware is probably updated to deal with LED backlighting. Most of the old ones did a very poor job with this.

    I haven't done as many comparisons at that budget range as I should, but my suggestion is that you view one. Profiling it with a spyder makes a difference (obviously) but it won't change the brightness/contrast much. Go to an Apple store. Take along a printed photo and make sure you can access the digital version from that display. Turn it down until you have a relatively close approximation (you have to figure this is in bright office lighting and photo editing is basically done in a really dim area typically). See if you can get the brightness down to where it's close. See what the display looks like in terms of contrast at that point. Apple in the past disappointed me in this regard, and I've looked at every one of their lcd displays from the beginning.




    I owed this a response. It's quite well written. Polarizers aren't used on any modern desktop displays, and they have some downsides. There are other ways for compensating backlight bleed, but they're time consuming in manufacturing. I actually preferred the sRGB (ccfl) displays in a lot of ways. They're simply easier to adjust. The problem there was with the bad ones, after a bit they'd no longer give you a really good sRGB. Sure the gamut was the same size but it could be quite shifted ("similar" to the problem with LED). The matte coating is an LG thing. If you keep the area dark, it's less of an issue, but yeah otherwise the sparkle is irritating. With the glossy coating the backlight of the display is enough to cause reflections even in complete darkness.

    I want to address the backlight bleed you're experiencing too. This is a unit to unit variation thing. Backlight bleed is not typically consistent. If it's intolerable, you may be able to return it and try your luck again.
     
  15. dsc888 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2010
    Location:
    Boston, MA USA
    #15
    hekev,

    Thank you for your response and concern. Your very knowledgeable post will help many readers tremendously. As for my ACD, I noticed the same amount of bleed on ALL the units at the Apple stores I went to locally so it seems like a "normal" amount.

    Apple seems to use a single light bar at the base of all their displays which explains the "Yellowing" issues at the bottom third of so many iMacs. Those I did return for a full refund as they affected the image more so than the back light bleed. Another win for CCFL lit panels.
     
  16. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #16
    Well ccfl panels aren't perfect either. Even the best displays can have minor bleed issues. If they're well designed it can be minimal enough to correct with a mechanic like panel blocking meaning essentially reducing the contrast range by a slight amount in favor of superior uniformity. It has to be implemented carefully or you can run into further problems as the display ages. The more expensive displays implement this with various methods. They all have their own names for it. I just try to make the point that purchasing a display panel only brings you halfway to a quality display. Then even beyond that you have to look at how long the display performs at a respectable level.

    It's really a deceptively complex purchase, and it can be incredibly annoying even explaining the details. I mean there's the calibration vs. profiling thing. Even if you're purchasing a hardware sensor with a display that offers hardware LUT based calibration (as in the display processes more data internally) the hardware sensors themselves (like the Spyder) can drift over time much like the display, and sample variation is present at that level too. I try to stick to a fairly simple metric in discussing this stuff. Not everyone is going to have a fully profiled printing device and viewing booth that the display will be set to match, but if they are using this for color critical work, there's somewhat of a rough checklist. You can look at if it produces visually neutral blacks, whites, and greys. You can see how the performance is when tuned roughly to a print brightness level (as in nowhere near max brightness when new), and how well it holds the gamma 2.2 curve does matter. If the values are severely off in highlights or shadows, it affects the visual perception of details. I'm saying even if it's impossible to really get a perfect workflow without a very wide array of hardware, there are details in a quality device that would benefit many people in creative fields.
     
  17. Naimfan macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2003
    #17
    This. The biggest failing of the Air is that it is forever locked to 4 GB of RAM. If you try a base MBP and go from 4 to 8 to 16 GB RAM in Photoshop (assuming you're working on large files), the difference is obvious.
     
  18. theSeb macrumors 604

    theSeb

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2010
    Location:
    Poole, England
    #18
    In general, CCFL back-lit panels are more prone to backlight bleeding than LED panels.

    Then when it comes to LED panels, those with edge lit LED back-lighting are more prone to bleeding than panels with local dimming via full dynamic LED arrays. I don't know if any monitors have local dimming, but I do know the more expensive TVs have them.
     
  19. ecib macrumors regular

    ecib

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    #19
    As a MBA owner, I would say go with a 13" MBP over the Air if you're sticking with Apple. The bottom line is you just get more for your money when it comes to your use case. The MBA is capable for what you want, but the MBP gives you more memory (you're working with media files), the ability to upgrade your RAM and futureproof, and the screen itself is infinitely better for viewing media. While the MBA has a higher resolution, it looks positively washed out compared to the pro (though you mentioned that you'll have an external display, so maybe this doesn't matter to you that much).

    My girlfriend has a MBP so I've used both extensively. Personally I like my MBA better because it is far lighter (I carry it around a lot) and I dig the SSD that makes daily use much snappier (applications open much more quickly) among other things. To each their own, but I think the value for you lies with the MBP.
     
  20. raftr macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2007
    Location:
    Ireland
    #20
    My i5 1.7 4GB Air is my only computer, I use it for web development, Photoshop and Lightroom. 90% of the time I use it with a very large external LCD which it drives without hiccups.

    The Air copes with all I throw at it without any problems but I am upgrading the SSD to a larger and 2x faster 6G one in hopes it will further speed up loading previews in Lightroom. Not that it is slow as it is now, not at all. I just want to get rid of the one-second "Loading from Previews…" that appears occasionally and browse the photo library smoothly.

    I wouldn't go back to MB Pro unless it's as thin as the Air (which is rumoured to happen soon btw.).
     
  21. Boe11 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2010
    #21
    I think the MBA + TBD would be a great choice for you, based on the description you've given us. The air would be a delight to bring 'out in the field' even compared to a 13" MBA and it should be plenty fast for your work.
     
  22. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #22
    Large displays only tend to hiccup in things like gaming. While I did see a complaint on the integrated graphics for photoshop yesterday, it sounded like a driver issue rather than one of raw power.


    You explained that better than me. I can't recall that many that used full LED arrays. NEC had the 2180WG which was $6k in 2005 or so for a 21" display. It required a colorimeter with custom firmware and proprietary software for calibration. Samsung had the XL24. I think it started out around $2000 a few years ago. They never became that popular. The sort of high end desktop display market seems fairly tight.
     
  23. gdourado thread starter macrumors 6502

    gdourado

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2010
    #23
    Hi,

    I thank you all for sharing your knowledge and experience.
    I'm finding this topic really helpfull and I'm learning quite a lot...

    The thing that drives me towards the thunderbolt display ia how beautifully in integrates with the MacBook air... With it I cod have a hi res display, FireWire daisy chained external storage, gigabit Ethernet, charger for the laptop battery, all with just two cables...

    As far as the air... The 4gb is scaring me, kind of...
    I currently have a 5d and shoot 12mpx raw files.
    I'm thinking about buying a Fuji x100 which is also 12mpx.
    I don't batch process, but edit raw files on Photoshop and Lightroom.
    If buying a new computer, I would like to see a performance boost from my previous one.

    If I go with the 13 air, is the I7 build to order option worth it?

    Cheers!
     
  24. Naimfan macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2003
    #24
    No. You'd get more benefit from the 13" MBP with 8 GB of RAM.
     

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