Apple MacBook Pro MJLQ2LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop with Retina Display
Last Updated: August 3, 2016
While many forms of media creation and editing have seen some significant advances within the past decade through both hardware and software improvements, photography is often one of the understated pioneers of media technology. With a strong focus on the ability to load large, high quality, high definition files, and perform very exact, precise edits, photography and image manipulation demand a higher standard of performance to achieve the industry-standard results we see in magazines, educational books, and of course, for photo assets used in web design.
Laptops, then, are a photographer’s best friend. Being able to upload and edit photos while out in the field can save time, especially with options like cloud storage. While laptops may not boast some of the higher end capabilities of a desktop computer, they’re still rather indispensible for professional photographers that want to be able to create albums, add filters to photographs, or just display their work.
Due to the amount of power needed to fully display all of the fine details in a high quality photograph, a powerful processor, or CPU is an absolute must. Some laptops have an integrated graphics card, or GPU, built into the processor or motherboard as well. You can’t afford to skip out on getting the best CPU for your budget if you want to get a machine that won’t slow down when you’re doing high definition edits.
On the note of processors, you may be pondering the cost of an i5 processor against an i7. One of the misconceptions that buyers may have is that the i7 is better, but in fact, not every i5 is slower than every i7. Year of manufacture for either the i5 or i7 have to be taken into account. Chip architectures are being updated all of the time, which means that an i5 processor produced 1 year ago is bound to be more powerful than an i7 produced 4 years ago. Even if comparing chips made within the same year, the increase in performance between i5s and i7s may be marginal at best for your purposes.
For most purposes, 8 GB of RAM is a decent amount. If you plan to be using extensive Photoshop editing, then you may need up to 16 GB. Anything over that will be costly for a laptop, and likely going to waste. Most laptops only have two RAM sockets, and the largest current consumer chip, so-dimm standard, is 8 GB.For your HD, you will find that large, high definition photographs can take up a large amount of space, even more so if you’re saving projects with multiple layers in photo editing software. A 1 TB hard drive should be considered the minimum for your professional laptop, but you might be able to get a laptop at a decent price with a smaller hard drive. If you find the price is right but the hard drive isn’t, consider cloud storage services until you upgrade the laptop yourself. Note that removing and replacing a hard drive requires technical expertise; don’t attempt it if you don’t know what you’re doing, as you could damage the entire laptop.
Laptop monitors are attached to the machine, which is part of the convenience of using one. That said, there are different sizes to consider when purchasing your laptop, all of which will dictate the actual size of the laptop itself– the base must be the same as the screen, after all. That having been said, you will find that most laptop recommendations will be between 12 and 15 inches. Anything higher will have a bigger screen, of course, but could be less comfortable for transport.For color and resolution, this is where you need to look at the high end of the spectrum to get the best product for the profession. Pixels effect your ability to make edits at the very finest details, and color has a solid impact on how corrected your photos can be when you’re doing an edit. In fact, color may have a more dramatic improvement between monitors; even a screen with a lower resolution may be superior if the color brightness and contrasts are better than its peer. Resolution itself is dependent on the size of the screen.
This one depends on why you need the laptop. If it’s for your job, then you should be looking at the mid-to-high end of the budget. Middle is best to save money, but also invest into your career. Higher end laptops may save you the hassle of needing an upgrade for a longer period of time, as long as you don’t get taken in by needless gimmicks that have no benefit for you professionally. Hobbyists should look at the low-to-mid end laptops until they find a comfortable balance between functionality and price, and then upgrade later.
Students have a budget that they need to stick to, but so do businesses and freelancers. For a student, a budget laptop that can still perform well for editing photos is recommended. For businesses, professionals, and freelancers, again, the mid-to-high range of laptops should be good enough to work in your industry.
Again, amateurs will want to consider the low-to-mid range of laptops if this is their first laptop purchase. The reason being, there may be features that you later discover were not necessary, or you may not use software as extensively as you believed, which would require the higher RAM amounts or larger hard drives. Professionals tend to know what they need in terms of specs and requirements, and should feel comfortable making a larger purchase accordingly.
To keep it simple, Macintosh laptops and desktops are the preferred brand for media professionals for a number of reasons.
Apple releases very adequate and capable software with its operating system for users to take advantage of, but particular focus is put on the brightness and contrast of Macintosh displays, which use their proprietary Retina brand to give photographers and video editors a much crisper view of their work.
Macintosh laptops are, of course, more expensive than their PC counterparts. So, if you are running with a very tight budget a PC would do you well.
If you’re reading this, you already prefer to use a laptop for your work, but to make it clear, a laptop is always going to underperform compared to a desktop. It’s a matter of space; desktops have more in their case, which allows for larger components that can draw more power from a cord.
Laptops, by comparison, have to be light and easy to transport, and they can only draw as much power as a battery will allow to be reasonably usable.
If you’re weighing the pros and cons of either, it’s recommended that you take stock of just how often you’re going to use a laptop for photography. If you do most of your computing in a home or office, a desktop is recommended.
Apple is an industry leader in media-capable machines, and their laptops are definitely no exception. This 15.4 inch laptop comes with a Retina display with 256 GB of memory to make for fast, accurate, and very detailed pictures and editing. The 15.4 inch screen is larger than some of its competitors, but it also allows for some very accurate displays, resolutions, and editing that others can’t match. While it may be one of the most expensive laptops on this list, it’s definitely where the bar should be set for photography laptops. It also comes with a 512 GB memory option.
Another great entry from Apple, the Macbook Air series is touted for its light weight and ease of transport, which makes it a nice choice for photographers that like to get their shots in unconventional locations. Like the larger Macbook Pro, the Air boasts a very crisp screen that can show off all of the colors nature has to offer. The low price also makes it very accessible for students and hobbyists that want a professional touch, without having a professional budget.
With a large screen and a powerful process, Dell is no stranger when it comes to producing laptops that can compete on the market. Dell’s Gaming models may not be the first that come to mind when you’re considering the best laptop for photography, but “gaming” actually translates into powerful graphics processors and fast processing power that gamers need to keep from lagging during a match. That can mean a much smoother experience when editing photographs, creating video, and more. Media professionals can think of gaming-branded machines as being media friendly for that reason.
Another powerful machine with a “gaming” brand, the ASUS ROG has a 15 inch screen for cirps displays, but it also boasts a 1TB hard drive for the storage of high resolution photos, and 16 GB of RAM to make for speedy and smooth edits. It also has its own discrete video card, and Nvidia GTX 960M that comes with 2GB of vRAM. All of its power, combined with the price tag of either above or slightly below $1,000, makes this one very capable machine for college students. It can handle just about anything that you want to throw at it in terms of work, or play, and it’s got an attractive factory finish to boot.
Another solid choice for a student or anyone that’s on a budget, MSI’s 17.3 inch screen makes for some nice displays. This model also comes with several different options that you can use to customize how powerful, or affordable, you need your laptop to be. The price can range anywhere from $900 to $1300, but most models come with 12 GB to 16 GB of RAM, Windows 10, and i7 processors of different calibers. The higher end models have the more powerful processors.
For those that want more space, or want to find a nice balance between screen size and hard drive size, Acer’s Nitro series might have exactly what you’re looking for. Its 15.6 inch model comes with 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB HD, along with a Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M GPU. You may also be interested in the 17.3 inch model that comes with a whopping 2 TB solid state drive– more than enough space to capture all of the high quality images that you’re using in your projects, or just store all of the media that drives your day.
With an Intel Core i5 and 8 GB of RAM, the Toshiba Satellite could be the right fit for hobbyists that are after a budget model. Costing anywhere from $600 to $450, it comes in at half of what other models on this list may cost, although you will see a lower performance as well– the Satellite uses an integrated graphics card, which while capable, isn’t quite as great at doing high powered photo editing. A good choice for students that need a low cost laptop that can get the job done, but professionals will want to consider other options.
Light weight, the ATIV Book 9 from Samsung’s a nice choice as well. It is more expensive than some of the others on this list, but it does have a very capable screen with a 3200 x 1800 resolution. It also has one of the smallest hard drive spaces on this list at 256 GB. The laptop uses an i7 processor to give you some faster speeds while using programs, but has 8 GB of RAM, which may not be quite as fast for more memory intensive programs and editing. The touchscreen makes it fast and simple to interact, close, and open programs.
Another touchscreen entry, the Flex has a very agreeable price, coming in well under $1000 on average, as well as an i7 processor and 8 GB of RAM. A 1 TB hard drive should be useful for storing photographs, but it’s a 5400 rpm drive, and not a solid state drive– the difference being that solid state drives are safer for movement and travel with a lack of moving parts. A decent laptop for those that want to transport their machine between the office and other locations.
Finally, we have the Acer Espire E5-571-58GC. With a 1 TB 5400 rpm hard drive and an i5 processor, it’s a very decent balance between the power that you want, and the price that you can afford. Most will come in between $550 and $490. This model uses 6 GB of RAM, coming in slightly under what you might need for photo and media editing, but more than capable for most students and hobbyists.