The New MacBook Pro, a Photographer's Perspective

The New MacBook Pro, a Photographer's Perspective

Blair Bunting is a good friend of mine, and by far one of the best commercial portrait photographers out there today. He just published a blog post regarding the highly lauded (while simultaneously seriously attacked) new MacBook pro with retina display. While the display is absolutely breathtaking, it has a serious disadvantage. Is the display too good?

"What makes photography easier? The question itself can’t be answered in any one way because it is distal in nature, the proximal being, “who is the photographer?”

For simplicity let’s assume that I am the photographer in this case (saves me from others telling me I’m wrong).

Back to the matter at hand, will the MacBook Pro Retina make photography easier? The answer is simple, it is the most fortunate pain in the ass to hit the photography world in some time.

The excuse of not having the resolution to edit on the fly is gone, replaced by an absolutely beautiful screen that carries more pixels than the 30″ cinema displays on my desktop. The color, latitude, viewing angle and distortion are strong enough that I am comfortable adjusting and proofing from the comfort of the 1′ by 1′ box known as an airplane seat. The speed is there for any file to be manipulated, and since I don’t do much compositing, the depth of the RAM is easily enough. Perhaps it’s enough for video editing, but I don’t do video, so that isn’t a concern for me. Portability is good and weight is more than I expected, but not terrible. Also, the SD slot on the side will make life easier for those shooting the D800, as it make one less peripheral to carry to location. As a tech geek, I also marvel at the design and innovation in the system, truly art in engineering.

So with all this you are thinking, “Hmm, a perfect laptop?” No.

This laptop ushers in a new era that is going to be painful before it gets better. You see, the resolution is a double edge sword in that it looks beautiful to see images on it, but since most of our websites are at 72dpi, they look absolutely terrible. Yes, you can always display them smaller, but the draw of full screen is taken away. Yes, you could always upload all the image at 220dpi, but your site will take roughly 14 years to load (that’s an approximation).

So where do we find ourselves? The laptop is great… for the person that uses it on set, but horrible for the person who’s clients shop photos on it."

Widely recognized for his vibrant and unique imagery and lighting, Blair Bunting's advertising clientele includes Pepsi, General Motors, Addias, Discovery Networks, British Petroleum, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship series. Blair has worked with numerous movie and television personalities, professional athletes, and high profile politicians. His editorial and portraiture work has appeared in countless national and international newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, Business Week, Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN Magazine.

Republished with permission.


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Brian Hawkins's picture

I agree, Retina looks amazing, but applications need to catch up before a serious photographer can make use of it.  Here's a quick test I did at the Apple Store of CS5 on the new display

Mother of god, Thats terrible!

Patrick Hall's picture

So wait, expanding an image in PS that has more pixels than Retina still doesn't allow for HD displays?  I had no idea PS or software in general controlled that

Brian Hawkins's picture

Photoshop and other non-Retina-capable applications think they're working with a 1440x900 display, so that is the graphic the program is generating. Meanwhile, the Mac knows it needs to scale all that up to the 2880x1800. This is done by taking each pixel and expanding it to a four pixel area on screen (called pixel-doubling, since each linear dimension is doubled). That's why it looks pixelated. Adobe is working to update this for CS6, but no word on when. I hope Lightroom isn't far behind.

José Tomás Tocino's picture

I don't think that's a problem of Photoshop, but a problem of Mac OS. Photoshop makes no assumption about the resolution of the screen, it's Mac OS the one that is doubling the resolution for non-retina display-prepared software. 

Brian Hawkins's picture

Yes, exactly.

Honestly? You are very narrow minded to post this "scandalous" article. The fact that applications have to catch up by adjusting the parameters to new age Retina display doesn't make the new Macbook Pro a bad laptop.

You must have something smeared in your eyes because I didn't read this as a trash talk towards the new laptop.

"It's not perfect, yet" is more accurate.

Keep your pants on and keep calm....

Haha. Does stupidity hurt? The laptop is perfect, the aplications aren't. It's called progress in techology. Keep your brain on and please do not reply with bollocks.

Eduardo Schäfer's picture

 Fanboy detected

Absolutely, as someone who's day job involves web design the first thing I thought when I saw that new screen is terror. It functionally means ALL websites need to be redesigned for yet ANOTHER resolution now. There was a time we could design a site to fit 800x600 and everyone was happy, now it has to scale from pre-retina iphone size all the way to this new retina laptop. The effort to make that work is rapidly rising but conversely clients aren't open to paying more for their websites so we are rapidly approaching a catch 22. :(

And this is only the beginning..;. wait until a 27" retina display hits the imac scene.  Assuming the same pixel density we are talking 5,184 pixels wide.

As for the end user, this is going to have a huge impact on ram usage to render so much more information. A 15" MacBook Non-retina Pro with 8gb of ram has tons of memory. That same 8gb will probably barely cut it on the retina display. Especially for editing photos, video, and playing games.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think this is a good thing.  As a graphical artist, I want my viewers and potential clients to see my work at it's best.  It's like saying we'd prefer 56K modems because our websites are designed for them....give me high speed and larger images!

And now that Verizon offers 300 MBS internet, who cares how big websites are, right? It's just a really big inconvenience for everyone, and going to be expensive to match what Apple is already charging a lot for.

That's all well and good for countries like the US who have super high speed internet available. Here in Australia, web is not that fast because the gov't has been very lax with updating lines and technology to allow the companies to expand.
We pay a lot of money for our internet and i'm currently pumping (for me its superfly fast) a whopping 6 Mbps...

I've been concerned about this retina display ever since it was rumoured at!

For users it is. It just means everything takes way more effort to do. When I entered the industry you built a site to work in IE6 and were done so you could focus on being creative. now we have to target 10-15 different browsers and another 10 or so resolutions. 80% of my job now is just adapting to different platforms. Furthermore a site that took 8 hours to do now take 30 hours. But clients still expect it to cost the same.

I'm not saying progression is a bad thing, but its just getting tedious how many different directions things are progressing. Esp since so many people are still stuck in the past so we STILL have to support 10 year old machines.

I don't know, maybe im just jaded hahaha.