I’ll admit it, I’ve jumped on the MacBook Pro bandwagon a lot later than most. Just a couple of years ago I was beating the drum about how great the old Macbook Air was for photographers. The thing is, after a few weeks with the 13” MacBook Pro, in some ways, I still feel that way.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some great things about the MacBook Pro (the design of which has been kicking around since 2016, more or less), like the huge, responsive touchpad, and the wonderful display. And unlike most, I actually don’t hate the butterfly keyboard. Performance is kind of a wash, with most of the enhanced specs seeming to go to that pixel-dense display rather than raw speed (though Adobe is equal parts to blame for this with its bloatware).
But for photographers, Apple has taken a notable step back in one of the most important ways: camera and smartphone connectivity.
One of the big issues keeping common folks from embracing DSLRs or mirrorless cameras was the confusion about how to get photos out of the camera. In a recent article about the Google Pixel 3a XL’s portrait mode, I talked about some of the software features of the camera, but I didn’t talk about how hard it was to get the photos off the phone. It was incredibly hard because Apple has made it so.
It used to be you could plug most phones and cameras into Apple’s computers and Image Capture would be able to read and capture the images. But it seems like with MacOS’s Mojave update, that this is no longer possible with most Android phones. It seems like a huge oversight to exclude Android smartphones from this key feature, and for obvious business reasons, one that Apple doesn’t seem in a hurry to fix.
What’s stranger, is that my Google Pixel 3a XL has the ability to connect with my MacBook Pro, but I can’t get the photos off without third-party software (Google recommends Android File Transfer). But on the flipside, I can’t hook up an Apple iPhone directly to the MacBook Pro with the included lightning cable to transfer photos. Sure, I can AirDrop, but then I can’t transfer raw files shot with third-party camera apps on an iPhone. So to sum it up, I can plug an Android-based USB-C phone directly into my Apple laptop, but I can’t plug an Apple phone into my Apple laptop, and once I do plug in that Android phone to transfer photos, I can’t do it easily since Android File Transfer makes me hunt through all the photos on the phone. Oh, and it also gives me a message about not working on the next version of MacOS, so there’s that.
What. A. Mess.
None of this even begins to touch transferring photos from a “real” camera, of which most include an older USB-A style cable, if they’re still including one at all. Without an SD card slot or any other direct way to get photos in, photographers will need dongles on dongles just to get a photo in if they don’t want to buy all new card readers.
Apple marketing VP Phil Schiller’s take on removing the SD Card slot? People didn’t like the card sticking out halfway. I think every photographer could take that compromise just to have the slot built-in.
So while Apple is pondering adding an extra inch to the screen of the MacBook Pro, I’d suggest that they think about adding back some features to its pro-oriented laptop, namely USB-A and an SD-card slot. Maybe there isn’t space on the models with 4 USB-C ports, but on the models with only two, it seems like it would definitely be doable. I’d sacrifice an inch of screen to get more functionality back.
It's not unusual for photographers to call out, for instance, Canon, when they sense a product being crippled for no reason, and so it's surprising that Apple gets a pass.
What do you think? Is this like me calling for Apple to add DVD drives and floppy disks back to computers or do other pros really want ports? Leave your thoughts in the comments.