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Buying a Computer for the Digital Photographer

April 12, 2011 - Dave Hecei
If you are into digital photography you will eventually want to buy a computer. Digital cameras have come a long way and have now replaced film for the average shutterbug. You don’t really even need a computer if you have a digital camera. You can take the memory card out of your camera and take it to your local ‘Mart’ store or corner drug store and have pictures printed. To get the most out of your digital photos or if you want to get serious about photography, then a computer is essential.

There are two decisions to make when buying a computer for digital photography. First is whether to get a laptop or a desktop. The second is choosing between Windows and Mac. I only bring up this last choice because the Mac is very popular with professional photographers. Each platform has its own pros and cons.

Let’s tackle the OS problem first. On the Windows side you have choice, lots of choice. Windows PCs, and Windows OS, are the most popular. You can choose from several major brands and even hundreds of smaller ones or buy one from a custom PC maker. Still the best on most every list out there is Dell. Their PCs are well built and value priced. Others, not in any order, are Hewlett Packard, Sony, Acer, Lenovo, and Gateway. All these makers have hundreds of models to choose from so you should be able to find exactly what you need. Dell is one of the few PC makers that actually built your PC when you order it. They have a few models on shelves ready to go, but their mode of operation is that your PC is built just for you.

Apple has the Macintosh, which runs Mac OS X, or OS Ten. If you want to run OS X you have to buy a Macintosh made by Apple – no other company makes machines that run OS X. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Let’s do the bad first. Since Apple is the only maker of the Macintosh your choices are more limited. They make only three desktop lines (mini, iMac, and Pro) and three laptop lines (MacBook, Air, and Pro). What Apple does make is well designed, well made, and beautiful to look at. They are also priced higher than comparable PC models. This price differential is worth it to most who love the Mac, but PCs are cheaper. Just remember though, you get what you pay for.

Now we can go on to desktop or laptop. This will be a harder decision. Desktops have some distinct advantages. They can be faster, less expensive, and more expandable than a laptop. Since they just sit on a desk and not jostled around, they will last longer. Most desktops have components, like a separate monitor, keyboard, speakers, etc. If something breaks, you just replace that piece and not the whole computer. Of course this doesn’t really apply to an all-in-one design computer, which are becoming popular on the PC side as well as the Mac side.

Laptops have the advantage of being portable. To some photographers this can be a huge advantage. Being able to store and process photos on location can make all the difference. Laptops are more expensive than a similarly configured desktop. Remember that they have to shrink down all those components into a small lightweight device, plus put a battery inside to power it. Laptops travel with you and get tossed around. Add this to the fact that they can also be readily stolen.

When buying a laptop you will have a choice of screen sizes. The most popular is around 15-inches. Others are 13, 14, 16, and 17-inches. The size of the screen determines how big the laptop is, and how much it weighs. Bigger screens need a bigger frame, plus they use more power and need a larger battery. What I’m really saying is that bigger is nice but if weight is an issue you may have to compromise.

Today’s laptops have a widescreen format, which is great for movies and video, but can sometimes be a nuisance for photo editing. Fortunately, most all laptops have an external monitor output. This can be a VGA style port or a digital video type port. When you are at home, you can set up a laptop on a desk with a larger monitor, and even a full sized keyboard and an external mouse. This essentially turns the laptop into a desktop making it more versatile.

… to be continued


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