Photographers: 13" MBP vs iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by febernovo, Nov 7, 2016.

  1. febernovo macrumors 6502

    Sep 6, 2014
    Thought I open up a thread and get you guys opinions

    Seems like a good deal of us do photography, I'm in the market for adding a new light portable machine for photo editing on the go, I currently have a 15" Pro but this baby is almost impossible to carry around in a backpack for a shoot. I mostly use Lightroom to edit and been debating over these three options:

    1. Get myself a high spec out 13" with the touch bar, make it my main computer and get rid of my 15". The 13" is light and easy to travel with. The SD slot will be missed but I can add a reader to my camera bag no much big deal to be honest. For precision retouching I wish the MacBook had touchscreen but the HDR screen is a welcome addition.

    2. Get an 9.7" iPad Pro, looks like Lightroom uses the same engine on both Mac and iOS. I can see myself getting away with editing on the mobile version. This would be a super simple addition to my setup and something I'll feel super comfortable carrying around with me on my camera bag. Now this iPad would not be able to replace my 15" and when traveling would be annoying to carry both devices. The pen would be so useful.

    3. Break away from Apple and get myself a Surface Pro. Potentially I could make it my main computer but I'm hesitant I think I'll miss Mac OS. On the positive side I can run full Lightroom on this machine AND have a pen for precision editing. Also when it comes to traveling I could see myself carrying only the Surface with me and leaving the 15" at home.

    Anyone been considering this devices for photography or maybe has experience editing photos with option 2 or 3?
  2. Maccotto macrumors regular

    Oct 6, 2012
    I ask you: it's really so heavy move with a 15"?
    New 15" is more small and light if you want and can change it.
    The 3 choices have some limits:
    1) best option the 13" but you will leave 15" advantage (more desktop space and more resolution)
    2) mobile versions works only with jpeg and you need everytime connect with wifi to reflex/mirrorless. You also need move your photos manually to pc for edite them again.
    3) surface is beautiful an i tried him but he has very little work space (you need use pen also for change brush), only 1 usb and bad battery life (I arrived to 3-4 hour ! )
  3. tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    I would get the Surface Pro as a complementary device. It would allow you to use full version of Photoshop and Illustrator on the go.
  4. febernovo thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 6, 2014
    It's heavy and bulky for me, I also have problems with the size of it on a airplane tray.

    Also thanks for your perspective on editing on the iPad, No Raw support means I'm not really interested on it anymore.

    I could live with the port compromises of the Surface. Battery life seems kinda meh :-/

    I think more and more its looking like the best choice to compliment my 15". Running full Lightroom with a pen seems like a solid combo.
  5. VesselA, Nov 8, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016

    VesselA macrumors regular

    Jul 26, 2015
    I tried using the 13" ipad pro for photos on a recent trip, but it is a bit compromised. The sd card reader took hours to transer RAW files and ipad is limited to reading 32GB cards. I ended up copying just JPEGS and editing them, which worked, but there was a lack of control not being able to access SD card directly or copy lots of RAW files quickly.

    I also have a 13" RMBP 2015 and a surface pro 4. On next trip it'll be a tricky decision wha to take. Surface pro does it all, but the pencil on ipad is more precise for drawing and art. But I will have to take a proper desktop OS & laptop to have more control over SD card exporting.

    Nice thing is 2015 MBP has built in SD card reader and surface pro 4 has micro SD card reader, so you can use 64GB micro SD in a fullsize SD card adapter and transfer pictures directly.

    I have to say this is one major compromise of the new macbook pros, not having an SD card reader could make transferring lots of large files a problem with the external reader
  6. Beards macrumors 6502a


    Mar 22, 2014
    Derbyshire UK
  7. febernovo thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 6, 2014
    Thanks for sharing your advice. Does seem like using the iPad Pro to deal with RAW images is less than ideal. I do love the SD card slot on my 15" had Apple kept the port on the 2016 13" that would give it a +1.

    Micro SD reader on the Surface Pro could be very versatile for quick transferring
  8. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    Really the SD card is an issue?? an SD card reader is nothing when carrying around photography equipment, and will be just as fast over USB c as any in built slot.
  9. thunng8 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 8, 2006
    Not sure what is wrong with your setup. I used the Apple Lightning to USB3 adaptor. I downloaded about 10GB of RAW into my iPad Pro very quickly. Didn't time it, but it is within 5-10min not hours.

    Not saying the iPad Pro is better for photographer than other choices though. The 'pro' application selection is limited. Lightroom on iPad Pro doesn't have all the features of the desktop version .. and there is no real Photoshop alternative. This will hopefully change when Affinity Photo for iPad is released in the near future.

    Edit: Link to article:

    40 RAW+JPEG within 30 sec. Sounds about right.
  10. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    You're initially deciding between a high end MBP, an iPad and Surface Pro? Seems the hardware you're looking into is all over the board. The MBP will handle what you throw at it. However the laptop is very pricey and you'll have to factor in the cost of dongles which can add up of course. If your workflow is already firmly entrenched with Mac hardware, I'd look to see about keeping things the same. If there are features of the MBP that are absolute show stoppers, I'd skip the iPad and find a decent Windows macine

    Do you shoot RAW? iOS does not natively handle RAW, and from what I've read you may have issues easily integrating that into your workflow. Storage may also be a major issue, since the iPad has much less storage then what MBPs offer.

    The SP uses a slower processor and GPU in then the MBP, so you're paying close to the same but getting inferior performance. What you're gaining is a tablet that can act like a laptop. That's not a bad thing, but if you need a laptop, then the SP may not be the best fit for you. The Surface Book offers more ports, power, and better processors then the Surface Pro. If you were to move beyond the MBP, that would be an option. Another good options would be the Dell XPS 13, much less money you get lost of performance, ports and can configure it the way you need it too.
  11. jlaumans macrumors newbie


    Nov 8, 2016
    Hey everyone,

    I thought I would add my thoughts as I've also been thinking about this for quite a while because I am about to go on a 4-month trip backpacking through Asia and don't want to take my 13" laptop with me because it is too heavy/large. And I didn't want to buy something that I wouldn't use after my trip, so I considered the following options:

    iPad Pro 12.9
    + Powerful and great screen
    + USB 3 speeds
    + Supports RAW when you import from SD card
    + Lightroom mobile has 80% of the features I use
    + Great tablet apps
    + Can travel with just a USB charger + lightning cable
    - Lightroom mobile is less ideal for editing batch photos
    - Too big / awkward for backpacking
    - Workflow kind of sucks, import RAWs from SD card to Photos app, then import RAWs to Lightroom (or other photo editor)

    iPad Pro 9.7
    +/- Same advantages and disadvantages as above, except:
    + Better size for travel
    - USB 2 speeds (Damn you apple!!!)
    - A bit less powerful, but won't be noticeable I think

    Surface Pro 4
    + Full version of Lightroom + Photoshop
    + SD card reader
    - Windows (it's good, but I prefer OS X)
    - Different charger
    - Isn't great as a tablet for basic apps
    - Battery life

    Macbook 12"
    + Full version of OS X
    + Full version of Lightroom + Photoshop
    - Not very powerful for editing photos
    - I just ordered a new MBP, I'm not going to buy another laptop that I won't use when I get back from my holiday.

    I haven't made the purchase yet, but I am 90% sure I am going for the 9.7 iPad Pro. It's all about your personal situation.. but I thought I would let you know how I came to my decision. My setup will probably be:

    1. Shoot photos in RAW + JPG (my camera supports dual SD cards luckily).
    2. Back-up all RAW photos to a WD Wireless hard drive
    3. Import photos to iPad Photos app *
    4. Delete photos in Photos app that I don't want
    5. Import photos I want in my collection into Lightroom and edit there.
    6. Share/publish photos....

    * My Fujifilm camera produces amazing JPGs, so I will probably most often import JPGs and only import the RAW files when I am working with more tricky situations such as night time shots and HDR landscapes

    ...I am sure I am going to really struggle with my new and slower workflow, but on holiday I should have plenty of time to edit my photos on long bus and plane trips :)
  12. jackoatmon macrumors 6502a


    Sep 15, 2011
    sorry, maybe a dumb question, but: editing photos without a mouse & keyboard?

    wouldn't that take like, way too long for each photo?

    i mean i can't even edit them with a trackpad & keyboard myself – gotta get out the mouse

    i'm not a pro photog tho – just shoot DSLR for hobby, so maybe i'm just unaware
  13. PaulWog Suspended

    Jun 28, 2011
    Photography is my hobby as well, although I operate at a professional level (not in quantity/consistency, but in quality, equipment & methods).

    I can't imagine how inefficient I would be if I decided to do pro work on a tablet (iPad or otherwise). Importing, exporting, backing up, man... it'd be a nightmare.

    External backup drive + laptop. That's how you do it. 15 inch is preferable for the screen size, difficult to edit on a 13 inch without switching between viewing ratios much more frequently... but 13 inch would work fine. A trackpad would be fine, but again... a mouse is much easier to get most edits done with.
  14. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Yup, I agree, I just don't see the allure with the iPad with photography. The apps are less powerful, there's limited to no support for RAW, lack of storage is an issue. Working with the images without a keyboard/mouse is a major impediment.

    I see almost no redeeming aspects to using the iPad.
  15. PhoneI macrumors 68000

    Mar 7, 2008
    If you are going to get a surface pro and use it as your main device, make sure you have extra room in your bag for a flask. You will need to drink heavily to accommodate the tons of frustration you will have with that device.
  16. domineus macrumors regular

    Aug 7, 2010
    I would actually get a surface pro 4. The experience for editing is actually good. The problem is using it in lap mode. There's problems...but if those are no issue the surface pro 4 is a top choice. And you an get it much cheaper on swappa.

    Second choice is the macbook pro 13 inch. It keeps you in apple's ecosystem (if you're already invested) and provides you with something relatively reliable. Caveat is portability. I mean it's lighter sure, but not as weight distributed as a surface pro in tablet mode. And even with the keyboard it's still not back breaking.

    Third choice is the ipad pro. It's...not good. It's rather limiting with the editing capabilities. Sure it has the ability to edit raw with iOS 10, but it is capped at 24 mp. I have a sony rx1rii and a sony a7rii which are 42 mp cameras. It's rather slow and cumbersome to edit raw (or even jpg) on the ipad pro. However, the ease of mobile applications is bar none. But the tradeoffs are drastic.

    Personally, the surface pro 4 is the cheapest option offering you the best flexibility. The pen is good, but not as great as the iPad Pro granted. But somethings you still need a full fledged machine. I think lightroom is one of those things even if the mobile app is becoming more robust. Of course YMMV
  17. Maccotto macrumors regular

    Oct 6, 2012
    Lightroom into surface pro 4 work better than photoshop because you can set all with pen and select photos with touch .
    Photoshop is the bad choice for 12" displays : the tools are very tiny and often only with pen you can select them.

    The 13" for my experience is the minimal display for work with photos
  18. febernovo, Nov 8, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016

    febernovo thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 6, 2014
    Yeah! Hitting every price point haha. I can reach the 2016 MBP price because I would consider it a replacement to my 15" Retina.

    Oh man that trip sounds amazing! If you have any social media to share photos (Instagram, Flickr, etc) share it I'm sure some would like to follow your journey.

    I'll suggest you to purchase the 9.7" with some time before the trip so you get to test to workflow if that works for you is just super ideal. What I love about the idea of using the iPad on my backpack is that is one solid piece with no moving parts. So great to travel with.

    My Lightroom editing has become pretty easy. I apply one or two presets and tweak the image a little. Some of the most intense things I do are around local adjustments so removing blemishes from skin or completely patching an area of a picture, touch would actually improve my precision there (I hope).

    I'm leaning towards it. Kind of an Apple fan and making peace with adding a Windows but looks like the best choice while also keeping my 15". Also great set of cameras man, envy that A7, I have the a6300 and I love how light and portable it is. But sometimes I wonder if I should get the A7. I think you can see that I like to travel light haha
  19. indognito macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2014
    I'm still waiting on a professional camera tether solution for the iPad. I can't believe there isn't one after all this time.
  20. Wowereit macrumors 6502a

    Feb 1, 2016
    I would throw in Surface Book.
    It comes with all pros of the SP4 but with double the battery life, bigger screen and a great keyboard.

    Regarding your 3 options, I would put the iPad Pro aside.
    It's not the same category as the others and besides size and pen there are mostly cons.
    If you really need a pen, combine it with the full version of Lightroom and get a Surface, otherwise go with the MBP and stay with your current workflow.
  21. Beards macrumors 6502a


    Mar 22, 2014
    Derbyshire UK
    It does support RAW, I use it on my iPad Pro 12.9"
    There's also a number of third-party apps that support RAW; one of my favourites being ACDSee Pro.
  22. thunng8 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 8, 2006
    iOS 10 fully support RAW in most cameras through the operating system. So any app can use it very simply by calling the appropriate libraries.

    Third party apps like Adobe Lightroom use their own RAW engine. In Lightroom's case, the RAW support is exactly the same as the desktop apps. i.e. fully supports all cameras the desktop engine supports.
  23. jlaumans macrumors newbie


    Nov 8, 2016

    Yeah! I'm very excited for my trip, it's a luxury to be able to go. Good tip to practice my workflow before hand. I hope their are some Black Friday iPad sales.

    You can follow me on instagram:

    and on 500 px

    Share yours as well!

    Btw, those Sony 6300's are supposed to be amazing! If you don't go for the a7 maybe the 6500 is a good upgrade?
  24. febernovo thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 6, 2014
    I love my a6300, the a6500 is tempting but I'll rather wait for the next year line to feel a true upgrade on the a6300 or honestly just wait until the current A7S II body lowers price. I was super tempted to sell my a6300 two days ago and upgrade to a a7 II but I don't want to loose my 4k recording capabilities and the A7S II is out of my budget.

    Fantastic images buddy!
    Here's mine:
  25. kingjames1970 macrumors regular


    Mar 18, 2008
    Hampshire, UK
    I wouldn't replace my Mac with an iPad but I took it on holiday this year and loved using it to import all my RAW shots in Lightroom and seeing them on the go. Don't forget the Apple pencil - if I have an image that needs a lot of retouching especially dust/scratches/folds - nothing beats it for ease of use and is very speedy - I often pop images from Photoshop on Mac over to the iPad to do that. Also fantastic to show photos/designs or whatever to clients. It's an excellent supplementary/quick grab tool.

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