Computers for Digital Photography

Mac vs. PC debate continues…

A recent question from a client:

“I’m about to upgrade computers.  I need something portable, so I’m going towards a laptop at the moment.  I’m currently stuck on the PC vs. Mac fence.  Are the benefits of going Mac still manifest or are PCs becoming as reliable?”

My response:

“Over the past 20+ years, I’ve used both Macs and PCs (and Unix workstations) in my digital imaging work. I’ve used all kinds of laptops and desktop machines, plus servers of various flavors. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Historically, Mac’s disadvantage has been cost. Windows disadvantage has been stability/reliability.

Currently, I use a Dell laptop with Vista Home Premium and have been very happy (surprisingly so!) with it. It’s a refurbished model, with 4 GB RAM, 250 GB hard drive and 2 GHz Intel processor.

My main workstation in my studio is a Mac Mini, which I really like, too.

If money was no object, I would always go Mac, all the way. But I can’t always afford  high-powered Mac laptops (never mind the Mac Pro desktops…) so I got the Dell to use as my “road computer”. And in 6 months of heavy use it has never let me down.

Windows machines take more know-how and maintenance to keep running smoothly. Windows is also vulnerable to a much wider range of viruses and spyware than Mac OS X.

When it comes to choosing a computer for your digital photography, if you’re an experienced computer user, you can get great results with a Windows machine (yes, even Vista!). And Windows 7 is on the way. Windows has come a long way in terms of usability, and the photo editing/imaging software (Lightroom etc.) is very stable on most PC configurations.

On the other hand, most photographers who switch from PC to Mac rave about the experience and wonder why they didn’t do it sooner. Most everyone loves working on a Mac.

So it’s really a price vs. performance issue. You get a lot more for your money with a Windows machine. But in some cases the Mac OS is definitely worth paying more for… and Apple hardware is some of the best available.

Personally, I don’t see any reason to choose over the other…. I use both, at different times, for different purposes.

I know this falls short of a definitive answer, but I hope it gives you the info you need to move forward in your decision-making process.”


  1. You should be doing diplomacy for the President!

  2. David – yeah, that’s kind of the feeling I had while writing… the interesting this is, that when it comes to computers, not being tied to one platform really has its advantages.

    I still use my trusty PowerBook G4 – which was my ONLY computer for almost 5 years – but now just for music, video, etc.

    And I am now considering a Windows machine as my main workstation.

    Not that I don’t love Mac (and Apple for that matter) but these days I am more willing to consider “workarounds” that are more feasible.

    In other words, I could save for X number of months to buy a new Mac, or I can have a new PC today. In my workflow, the software is ubiquitous, and I am comfortable on both platforms. S why wait? Why spend the extra money?

    Which brings me back to my statement in the original post. If money is not an object, I will be all Mac, all the time.

    Until then, it’s all a workaround…

  3. While I have been an Apple Fan Boy for a long time, I buy and maintain computers for about 20 people (employees and family). I am just finishing a big upgrade cycle for me and one of my employees, and after exploring everything out there I bought her a Dell XPS Studio 16 laptop with the i5 and myself a new i7 MBP. She is a diehard windows user and uses only AutoCad and a couple other windows only products. I wanted to like the Dell as it is fast and a beautiful machine, but while it is half the cost of my new Mac, it (and every other PC laptop I looked at) just falls short in so many categories, particularly the screen, battery life, weight and size, and build quality. I went with the 17″ i7 with the matte screen and am not disappointed at all. I also replaced my trusty 2006 Mac Pro with the new i7 iMac and connected my 30″ display to it and now have the best of both worlds with the superfast vivid all in one and the still awesome Apple 30 incher. I handle storage with a FW800 LaCie Big 4 Quadra. It is so nice to have a cool and quiet workspace again!


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