My friends who think of me as a total geek were really shocked when I announced that I was finally giving in and buying my first laptop. What took me so long? Like most photographers, part of the reason I enjoyed this business is that I didn’t want a desk job. Now we all have desk jobs, sitting in front of Lightroom or Photoshop for hours at a time. I have machines at the studio and at my home office and really liked not being wired in between. But I really needed to let clients see something bigger than the display on the back of my camera, and I wanted a new computer to use for teaching and demonstrations. So it was finally time.
I’ve been using computers for a long time. I used to catalog, sort and label slides on a Kaypro 10 using a DBaseII from the command line. That machine had the extra large 10 Megabyte hard drive and sported 64K of ram. That’s right, not 64GB or 64MB, but 64 thousand bytes. A friend and I bought similar machines at the same time at which point he made a prophetic statement about computers. He named it after himself and called it Ramsey’s law. It states: “The computer you want will always cost $3,000″. That has proven to be remarkably accurate over the years. You can find great machines for just a few hundred dollars now, but if you’re a photographer, the one you want is always around 3 grand.
When I started looking for a laptop my two main concerns were speed and display. I wanted it to be fast enough to run Lightroom, which can lag and stutter on the fastest machines. And I wanted a display that would calibrate well, be visible in high ambient light, and NOT have the ultra glossy finish that seems to be the surface of choice this year with designers. Of course I looked at the high end machines with big screens, optimized for Photoshop, and guess what? They cost around $3,000!
I’m used to working with a pair of large monitors on my studio machine and originally looked for a laptop with a big screen. I realized that big screen means big and heavy laptop. I’ve been doing my best to reduce the amount of gear and weight I carry around, so started looking at the smaller laptops. What I discovered and finally settled on, is a Sony Vaio VGN-Z530N/B. I really like this machine. It has an LED backlit display that is incredibly bright. After setting it up with my Xrite EyeOne Display 2, the difference between calibrated and uncalibrated was very slight. The screen is matte surface, has anti-reflection coating and a scratch resistant layer that offer protection help over time. It is fast, has a nice keyboard, and it very light, at a bit over 3 pounds. It will actually slip into the back pocket of my camera bag, but I’m using a small satchel to also carry the pile of cables and accessories that I’m now toting around. I paid $1,300 for it on sale at MicroCenter here in Dallas.
Photo by Sony