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Review ~ Retina MacBook Pro

I gave myself something less to think about this week.* I purchased the current top of the line Retina MacBook Pro with all the trimmings, 16GB of RAM, 2.7Ghz Quad Core processor and a 750GB SSD. In addition I consider myself lucky to be living in Hong Kong at the moment as this wonderful machine has cost me almost £800 less than it would if I walked into an Apple Store in the UK and handed over my debit card. There is another story behind purchasing this laptop, but I’m saving that for the next episode of JPG podcast.**

I’ve bought a complete machine, the first time in which I have done so and I don’t have to think about upgrading it later, this is it until it dies. I’ve already joked to friends that this is the last Apple Mac I will ever buy. This is where buying the top of the line is refreshing for me; I don’t have to think about any upgrades and the reason why I have given myself less to think about.

I have always bought a laptop with the view to upgrade the battery, memory and the hard disk later on, right at the point when the machine was starting to lag behind my expectations. I always bought the low end model with the capable processor. Purchasing this new computer I can’t upgrade has caused me to think about my previous computing experiences; this laptop is different to everything before it and I’m in a different space mentally.

On reflection I found owning those previous laptops bothered me; making an anxious because the constant quest to find upgrades later took up a large portion of my time. Memory was the easiest kind of. I would buy as much as the laptop could handle by going to crucial.com even though the website isn’t straightforward, but as a geek I put up with the site in order to get the benefits of more RAM. When it came to the hard disk, I think I went to all the websites that sold them; measuring attributes and prices against one another and then finally settling on one model before a newer one came out and then later buying that one as well. I was also always taking a peek in the SSD section of these websites to see if theprices were worth their asking prices yet.

I remember owning a plastic MacBook a few years back. I upgraded the hard drive three times, going from the stock 80GB drive to a 200GB, a 320GB version and then settled on a 500GB model (all 7200rpm models); more instances than when I owned an actual desktop computer (remember those?). It didn’t stop there, I even removed the optical drive and put in another 500GB drive after that! Even further down memory lane, I even went to the effort once of opening up a G3 iBook in order to upgrade the hard disk. For anyone who doesn’t know, there were forty screws of different sizes between you and achieving upgrade nirvana with those laptops. Hence the praise Apple received when they made upgrading the MacBook lines easier when they were first announced. Though I think it was to help them more than it was to help us.

Apple have always being difficult in the initial purchasing process; they were always stingy with their laptop configurations. Apple never included enough RAM or the specs of the hard disk were unsatisfactory in the initial price. This forced me and probably many others to choose a costlier model (more profit for Apple) or I would have to upgrade the ‘Mac of your dreams’ with third party upgrades. The third parties were always cheaper so I always took that option with the acknowledgement that I would be opening up the machine myself. Something else I don’t have to do anymore either, that also means less clutter around the house; I owned two difference screwdrivers and other bits and pieces from left over upgrades.

A Different Computing Experience

By owning a Retina MacBook Pro I’ve lost something that I thought in the past was important to the computing experience. I was always thought I was buying a Mac for the long term, when in fact over a shorter length of time I was spending my personal time looking for these ways to make upgrades; so it wasn’t just money I was spending. In my view there is something to be said about owning a sealed up machine because it liberates me from all this. I can just use the machine with no expectations of taking it further technically unless I wanted to buy another external hard drive.***

In the long run, I can envision Apple lifting our burden from buying third party hard disks at some point. What if everything you owned was stored online on iCloud? Imagine a Time Machine backup sitting online with the transfer speed equal to satisfy even the most impatient among us?

Even OS updates, besides the low price is something we don’t have to think about anymore. When I updated to Mountain Lion, I remember thinking some games took longer to install. Apple’s Gigabit ethernet through Thunderbolt helps, but my point is that an OS install took less time than an application install.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve realised this isn’t a typical review. I don’t really want to talk about the technical aspects beyond the Retina display, but naturally this is a fast and capable machine. All the connectivity options are what I want (especially when there aren’t that many, just two USB and Thunderbolt ports really), the speakers have amazing depth to them when you consider how they have been squeezed into the aluminium chassis. The weight and thinness is something to really admire, especially when my previous machine was the 13″ MBP, which was thicker and heavier. Most of my music feels fresh from being freed from the MacBook Pro’s tiny speakers. Geekbench results have this new laptop  score double over the machine I’ve replaced. When I re-acquire Aperture and record new episodes of JPG Podcast, I’ll be putting it to the performance test. At the moment I haven’t had less than 10GB of RAM free, even after opening every page of John Siracusa’s Mountain Lion review into its own tab in Safari!

The screen itself is fantastic, the clarity to photographs and text is so sharp even at any resolution above ‘Best (Retina)’, which takes me to the bit of the screen that actually impresses me more; the ability to change the resolution! I haven’t been able to do this since I last owned a CRT monitor, hello 2004. Owning an LCD where you can change the resolution is also something I can’t take for granted, I love it!

I’ve always wanted a laptop that had desktop like performance and everything I would want in the one machine, the monitor really was the last sticking point for me. I never liked external monitors, I can’t stand all those wires everywhere. To think I have the same screen real estate as the 17″ MBP that I originally wanted, makes me more than satisfied when it’s coupled with the smaller physical size of a thinner 15″ MBP and in some cases the performance capabilities of the MacPro. The resolution at 1920 x 1200 is still sharp at a normal viewing distance.

I have two quibbles related to this machine, one, the font rendering in Safari is a bit weird; refreshing text incorrectly, it was doing it plenty while writing this review. The second quibble is the unusually long wake up time. I hope both of these are fixed in a future update.

Conclusion

I would continue now to further buy laptops like this just for the existential advantages I just described, yes the cost is steep and not for everyone when it comes to Apple products, but what I’ve described equally applies to say a Lenovo. I know there have been huge articles and discussions about the pros and cons to not owning an Apple Mac you can’t upgrade yourself; with a lot of people poo-pooing Apple because of the lack of upgradability after purchase, but if you are planning on buying a new Apple Mac, consider the benefits of this mental space freed up. I’m really enjoying this MacBook Pro more because of the route I took.

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* I’ve managed to sneak in another discussion about minimalism.

** JPG Podcast isn’t dead, it’s coming back next month. I just have no internet to host shows. I’m borrowing wifi from anywhere at the moment until I get my own data connection.

*** I’ve been waiting for Apple to release the Firewire 800 to Thunderbolt cable (as I write this, the online Apple store is just now accepting orders for them, both of my current drives are Firewire 800 (with USB2) and I had to resort to the USB2 to transfer my work onto this machine. Now I have a Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter, I’ve realised Thunderbolt can only power one device on this chain I had set up with Firewire 800. Firewire 800 is capable of supplying 45 watts while Thunderbolt only supplies 10 watts. This means I can no longer daisy chain my two portable hard drives. I would need to buy a second cable adapter or constantly unplug and swap each drive between the one adapter to make the two backups. Source.

Written by jonathanjk

August 4, 2012 at 10:04

Posted in Podcast highlight, Software

Tagged with , , , ,

JPG Podcast – The One Where Adam’s Opinion is a Blunt One

Already our eight show is upon us and Adam with myself find ourselves discussing Ridley Scott’s Prometheus for the first 40 minutes. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, you can skip ahead (I employed the use of chapters in this episode for those who want to jump ahead), but we basically go over some of the plot points and reviews for this new take on the Alien mythology. Once we’re satisfied we briefly round up the show with some extra WWDC discussion and some critiqing of the superhero films that happen upon us soon.

Download via iTunes or direct download.

Show Notes:

Damon Lindelof interview

My review of Prometheus

Prometheus Unbound: What the Movie was Actually About (Updated with some really interesting videos which are not part of the discussion in the podcast).

Prometheus: Rebuilding hallowed vfx Space

fxguidetv Visual Breakdown - Download

Music by Blink Twice with the album the Demon Haunted World

Written by jonathanjk

June 22, 2012 at 00:48

< Insanely Great, Walter Isaacson’s: Steve Jobs

I bought the Walter Isaacson’s ebook about Steve Jobs on the day of its release. One day after release, I finished it, I’m a fast reader and too impatient to read it in small doses. Below are a few thoughts I had on the book. It’s not a review, it’s not out to spoil it for others, but there are bits I want to pick on and quote:

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Written by jonathanjk

October 25, 2011 at 22:25

Fuji X100 ~ Round Part Six

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Fuji X100 ~ Review: A Love Returned, Nostalgia Reclaimed

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Fuji X100 Review

Introduction

I really only want to write once about the amazing Fuji X100. I will satisfy that intention by approaching it from two aspects:

  • As somebody who recently moved from an SLR system; replacing his setup with just the Fuji X100 (most of the technical comparisons are against my previous Canon equipment, some might consider this the wrong approach as the Fuji X100 isn’t an SLR replacement, but it is what it is).
  • As somebody who wanted to get back to the simplicity and joy of using a rangefinder camera (this was after having previously flirted with a number of them over the years, in particular a pair of Contax G2′s).

Image by Flickr User Nokton

So you’re reading this, there is no doubt you’re already well informed about the Fuji X100. Especially if you have been a regular reader of this blog. I’ve posted so much news, reviews and general information about the Fuji X100. I’ll dispense with in-depth tests, image results, pixel peeping and weighty comparisons. You will have read them elsewhere. I’ll re-post some of the links if I feel I can’t add anything to what has already been published.

As we all know, the excitement started in September 2010 at the Photokina Trade show. When I first saw the X100, I thought it could give back to me a bit of my nostalgia for handling a film camera, while at the same time I also thought, finally this is what many photographers have been asking for; a digital sensor wrapped around the beauty and character of a rangefinder camera.

Image by Flickr User Tingan Bow

It didn’t surprise me that it would be Fuji who were bringing a digital rangefinder to market. Fujifilm were always a little different with their innovations, releasing cameras now and again that were a bit odd; making us sit up and think for a moment. They did it with the GF670 (medium format film camera) and the Fuji W1 (a 3-D camera).

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Fuji X100 ~ David Babsky: How to Show Irrational Bias (Part 1)

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This review of the X100 blew my mind when I read it the first time, it’s by a guest writer called David Babsky over at stevehuffphoto.com. This review does Steve Huff no favours while it’s on his website, as it’s a terrible piece of writing both in content and form. It’s surprising when David Babsky can’t articulate himself in the manner befitting a teacher. The piece is an insult to Steve Huff’s audience, the quality is just that bad with no journalistic integrity, monkeys must have written and proof read it.

Normally I would just make a comment and move on, but you’ll see later in part two why I didn’t. David’s severe unprofessional negative bias is revealed right away, there’s no attempt at all to be objective or take a constructive critical approach.* It’s clear David just wants to bash a camera he doesn’t want to buy.

I’ve provided a breakdown of the 15 problems in his review with what I think is a fair rebuttal.

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App Review ~ FolioBook

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FolioBook 2.2

FolioBook Home Screen

Foliobook is the iPad portfolio app that allows you to create your own magazine-like home page. Professional Photographer Magazine said “Its the most unique customisable portfolio app”. Not only does it allow you to express your work and your individuality, Foliobook is also fast and easy to use. – FolioBook website.

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Fuji X100 ~ Round Up Parts 3 and 4

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The Phoblographer has written a six day field test of the Fuji X100. Fairly in-depth covering his first six days with the camera. Check out the days, I’ve included the sections for each day as well:

  • Day 1 - Ergonomics, Focusing, Handling, Menus, Ease of Use, Image Quality (there is also an attempt to shoot manually).
  • Day 2 – Quirks, Image Quality (film modes), Metering, Macro Mode,
  • Day 3 – Film Modes, Metering, Viewfinder Overlay, Bokeh & Image Quality (Macro Mode), About 35mm,
  • Day 4 – Conditions, Flash, Macro Focusing in Low Light
  • Day 5 – Exposure Fine Tuning, Exploring the Meter, ND Filter, High ISO, Low Light Focusing, Auto White Balance
  • Day 6 – Battery and using it with a DIY Ring Flash.

- Michael Carptentier reviews his Fuji X100 against the Panasonic GF1. Originally in French but it’s been run through the Google Translator here. Good comparison between the two cameras. I’m still buying the Fuji X100 though.

- Dpreview have updated their Studio Comparisons, they have also included Fuji X100 test shots.

- Thom Hogan says ‘skip for now’.

- Outback Photo: Field Test Review - Nice lengthy write up with plenty of test images.

- Great size comparison of the X100 against a Leica IIIf

- Ryan Brenizer has used his X100 on a wedding shoot, he shares his well considered thoughts.

- Steve Huff: The top 7 complaints of the X100 and how I get around them. – Great list of fixes to the most common complaints with this camera, most of which are shockingly easy to overcome and aren’t actually an issue.

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- Does the current battery charger annoy you with its cable? The guys over at x100enthusiasts.com have come up with a clever hack to cut out the cord. Check it out here, the picture says it all.

- The same guys from x100enthusiasts have also create a Hyper-focal distance chart for the X100.

- This last link from the same website as previous has a discussion about alternative camera straps. Personally I’m a fan of the standard strap until I find another one I had my eye on but can’t remember the link to. Why? I can wear the camera under my jacket and forget about it while walking around. Though the Gordy strap at the end of the discussion does look nice.

- Do you want a solution to couple GPS to your FujiX100 (or any camera really)? Check out gps4cam over on the Apple App Store.

- Daisuki Photo have tested some SD memory cards for your Fuji X100. More comprehensive then the information I linked to in a previous update. They tested 7 SD cards, surprisingly, some are faster than others but are rated slower. Anyway, we all want to buy one of the new UHS-1 cards don’t we? :-) Helpfully, Daisuki have shopping links to various countries if you want to purchase them.

- For those interested, Daisuki Photo also have a X100 vs GF1 review (making a few comparisons between all the regular attributes plus a video quality comparison), ISO test between the X100 and the GH2 and a size comparison between the X100, GF1, GH2 and the EPL-2. It’s amazing how the X100 isn’t that much bigger and even more amazing how I didn’t come across this website earlier.

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Petr Kleiner’s photo stream can be found here. There are a whole series of these beautifully crafted portraits so check them out. Petr is really showing off what the Fuji X100 can do. The actual image can be found here.

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This image was taken from Fuji X100 Street Photography Flickr Group. I felt like included it because of the perspectives present in the image.
Pigeon & People

Pigeon & People

Photo taken by photovia, his photostream can be found here.

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