MacBook Air for travel photographers

A workshop participant recently asked me about whether the MacBook Air is a good choice for travel photographers. I responded with a few main points that I would consider if I found myself one day inside the Apple Store with a credit card in hand.

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air is a great choice for travel photographers. The obvious selling point is its weight – 2.3 lbs (~1 Kg). However, with this small form factor design, you’ll have to give up a few things that have been with the MacBook family for a number of years. Here’s a short list:

1. Hard Drive: Instead of traditional hard drives found on other MacBooks, the Air has completely switched to flash storage. The advantage of using SSD flash memory is speed. As there are no moving parts, it’s also more shock resistant and in theory less prone to mechanical problems. Macworld has posted some initial speed ‘torture’ test and found that there is no performance degradation over time. This is excellent news. The disadvantage of using SSD flash memory, however, is the price per gigabyte. Right now Apple is only offering maximum 128 GB of storage with the 11-inch model. If you require more storage, it will have to be through external drives.

2. Ports: The Air lacks any Firewire ports but it does have one USB 2 port on either side. In addition, the 11-in model does not have the SD card slot which is available on the 13-in model. I’m a fan of Firewire 800 as I have 2 portable drives for travel so it will be an issue for user like me. If you are planning on using external USB 2 drives then this will not be problematic. Please note that in order to connect the Air to ethernet, an adapter is required.

3. Graphics: According to the Macworld benchmark tests, the graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce 320M – 256 MB) does provide speedy graphics. However, I have not tested it against the MacBook Pros with graphics intensive photo apps like Lightroom or Aperture so I reserve my comment until I have the chance to do so.

Louis Au

As an avid photographer and educator of digital photography, Louis Au knows first hand how challenging it can be to navigate through the labyrinth of ever-changing capture technologies while maintaining quality and sanity.
Louis consults and provides educational seminars for professional photographers around the world. He implements workflows, provides technical training and advises future direction regarding digital capture technologies for individual photographers and studios with small or large work groups. Louis is also one of PIKTO’s instructors for their year-round photography workshops in Toronto’s Distillery District.


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