Saturday, June 20, 2009

Exciting New Toys

I'm afraid I've gone and done something that may make me less relatable.

For quite a while now, Jess and I have been using the desktop PC that we built for her in college six years ago. Because we built it ourselves, it's a bit of a Frankenstein, with different parts swapped out over the years. Anyway, it's time for a new one.

We wanted something with a more coherent look, so we were thinking about getting a Dell rather than building another PC. Jess was pushing for an iMac, though.

Here's how it broke down. The iMac is super compact, with no tower taking up floor space, and only one cord to plug in. It's also of course very elegant, which is really nice when you're doing artistic or design work--you want your "workspace" to inspire you.

Just weighing price and functionality, though, Macs don't make much sense. They are more expensive than an equivalent PC, while at the same they are less flexible, far more difficult and expensive to repair, and you can't carry components like the monitor forward to future computers. They also seem to be less efficient; compare the system requirements for a video game between a Mac and a PC--the Mac requires twice the horsepower.

In the end, though, I was won over by the elegance and form factor. Jess does a lot of design work, and we both do a lot of photography. We both wanted the work station to be gorgeous and exciting to work at, so we decided the price was worth it.

So we got the bottom-end 24" iMac. The main difference with the more expensive models seems to be the graphics card, which I've learned is not important for design work or photo editing. The most important factor is the amount of RAM, and all the iMacs come with 4GB.

We bought it refurbished, which cut $200 off the price and brought it down to $1299. The refurbished iMac is indistinguishable from the new one, the only drawback is you don't get the beautiful Apple packaging. I hear un-boxing a new Mac is something everyone should experience at least once.

The 24" screen is amazing. If you've used an editor like Photoshop, you know it covers your screen (and often the picture you're trying to work on) with a bunch of palettes. The wide screen is awesome because it affords plenty of room around the photo for all those sidebars.

So now I've estranged myself from my readers because I have a beautiful, fancy new computer that's inspiring to work at, and you're probably back where I was last month, editing on your 14" laptop. But wait, it gets worse.

Jess and I have made due without Photoshop for about four years now, since we started getting serious about photography. As Jess has started to do more design work and photography as well, we've gradually learned more about what we can do in Photoshop and the advantages it has over the GIMP. So... we decided to spring for it.

As you might imagine, I'm feeling mad with power at this point. The universe is pretty much mine to control. Who can stop me now that I wield Photoshop on a brand new iMac?

But have you looked at Photoshop CS4 on Amazon? It's a $700 program! It's an incredible tool, though, and if you know how to use it, it can be almost as crucial to your photography as your $1200 camera. So maybe that puts it more into perspective.

We've also heard people rant and rave about another Adobe program, which works in conjunction with Photoshop, called Adobe Lightroom 2. People will tell you this program revolutionizes photography, and we ended up throwing it in as well. I'm really excited to tell you about Lightroom, though I think it had better wait for another post.

So I feel that I've betrayed you all a bit. Up till now I've been, like many of us, relying on a smattering of free programs for editing, and jumping through hoops to accomplish things that can be done much more smoothly in Adobe's fine tools. Now, I'm sitting on some $2,500 worth of editing hardware and software, which makes more of what I do and share potentially inaccessible. I don't want that to be the case; it always frustrates me when other people share photography lessons with an attitude of "you're interested in photography, so of course you have Photoshop". Hopefully you won't find that here.

The reality is it's a lot to invest for someone still learning, and it makes sense to hold off on it for as long as you reasonably can. But don't let that stop you from taking great photos!


  1. Well Congratulations!!!
    Sounds like a very exciting time of experimenting ahead!
    We've just upgraded to a new HP notebook, and now finally have room to download GIMP. Now I just need to work out how to use it. I've barely used any editing software on my photos til now. Might be interesting!

  2. I'm a Mac user myself (same computer) and will never return to PC! Once you get used to your Mac you will love it... I promise!
    Good luck and enjoy!

  3. So jealous of your new toys!! I have been eyeballing the adobe lightroom as well, but am in the very beginnings of my photo learning curve.

    I love reading your blog, it helps to hear about others experimenting and finding their way along as I do, plus you are ahead of me in the learning curve, so I can learn from you!