Every time I hear someone say how much better a camera or lens or computer is from the previous model, I cannot help but think of how little you actually need to create nice images.
I have been using my 2010 13” MacBook Pro continuously as my only computer for 10 years now. Yes, I said 10 years. Back in 2010, my Acer computer I got at the beginning of college took a dive to the ground and shattered. About to start grad school, I decided to get an entry-level Macbook Pro. At the time, I didn’t even own a camera, so editing images was the furthest thing from my mind. My old Minolta film camera was stolen a year or so before that, and it wouldn’t be until after grad school that I got back into photography and purchased a Sony a7. Over the years, I made upgrades to the computer — maxing out the memory at 16GB in graduate school and eventually buying a 512 GB SSD after I was back into photography. Since the time that I made my last upgrade to my computer, I’ve upgraded cameras to a Sony a7R II and increased my film camera collection quite considerably.
Of course, you may be wondering how on earth my computer has lasted this long. If so, you’re not alone. Truth be told, the impending mortality of my computer is not lost on me. For years now, I’ve said, “it won’t last much longer. I’m just waiting for the next model to drop, and I’m going to go ahead and pick up a new computer.” That said, year after year goes by, and I am still rocking the same 2010 13” computer. Given the limited need for a computer in my life — my photography, writing for Fstoppers, and remoting in for work — I haven’t really felt the intense need to make the update very quickly. For the last several years, I kept telling myself that I just needed to wait out the awful keyboards Apple decided to put on the computers, but even that excuse no longer works.
So now, my recent challenge is trying to think through what computer to upgrade to. Of course, with my improved life circumstances and what I perceive to be an increased demand for computational power, I feel like I should be getting a much-upgraded model of computer. Then, the realization strikes what is necessary to accomplish my work and how that’s different from what would be nice and what is complete overkill. Do I need the biggest and best Macbook Pro that money can buy? Absolutely not. Perhaps if I was a full-time videographer or something along those lines, the power would be essential to efficient product delivery. For me, however, I don’t think that I could be convinced that the biggest and best newest computer is necessary to use Lightroom or Photoshop.
In the most extreme and taxing edits I’ve done (stitching 10+ photos or compiling 20+ photos for astrophotography), my computer still performs as well as I could ask for. Even further still, my fiancée occasionally edits some of her favorite photographs from our trips on her base model 2016 Macbook Air, and it does just fine.
At the end of the day, photographers are great about talking all the specs they need to get the job done, but if you’re a hobbyist photographer, consider what you actually need. What are your experiences with delineating what you need from what you want? At what point is it overkill?