Cheapest sensible laptop for photography
June 6, 2013 8:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm beginning to take photographs again, and my apartment has no real easy space to set up my currently-decommissioned desktop PC. My present laptop is super low-end and it's a horrible drag trying to do anything with photos on it. Please recommend a minimum spec replacement - a few more details after the cut.

Ideally, I'd like:
- Enough processing power / disk space to use Lightroom and work with RAW files
- Fairly decent screen - is doing photo work on a laptop screen even worth considering?
- Form factor is a fairly low priority, but if it could be Not Humongous that'd be a bonus.

Any and all advice is appreciated - I'm massively out of the loop with this stuff right now so don't worry about being patronising!
posted by ominous_paws to Technology (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's hard to know what your budget is, but a Macbook Air plus USB 3 or Thunderbolt hard drive would be a super-compact and very powerful setup. I've used Lightroom a fair bit with this setup and it works pretty damn well.

I wouldn't consider any laptop screen big enough for detailed professional work, but 13" is fine for fun stuff.
posted by Magnakai at 8:56 AM on June 6, 2013

I'm going to assume that you're interested in using Windows.

Mostly any new laptop will have a fast enough processor to deal with photo editing. You're going to want a lot of RAM in it, at least 8GB, more if possible. For the screen, you should be looking at an IPS screen, not a TN screen. IPS panels have better color reproduction and viewing angles (and are a bit more expensive).

I'd suggest also getting an SSD (solid state drive, allows for 4x faster writes as a hard disk drive) as your main drive in the laptop. Yes, it will probably only have a total capacity of 128-256GB. However, you can do your editing on the SSD to reap all of the benefits of the speed, and transfer all of the photos once you're finished to a USB3.0 external drive.
posted by dobi at 8:58 AM on June 6, 2013

Response by poster: Say a budget ceiling of GBP £600, or as close as possible, if that's ridiculously cheap...
posted by ominous_paws at 8:58 AM on June 6, 2013

Cheapest Mac laptop and a copy of Aperture from the app store.
posted by w0mbat at 10:56 AM on June 6, 2013

Buy a used dell precision m6400 on ebay, with the RGB LED screen. It's available in both matte and with a glass cover.(check out the specs page there, then carefully read over the specs of the ebay auctions and look up the service tag here)

Nothing else that you can get for the price(3-600 depending on specs/condition) can come even close. Max out the ram, and throw in an SSD and a 1tb or larger disk in the other hdd slot.(it holds two!)

You now have a fairly ultimate system for maybe $6-800 that has a nicer screen than it generally even seems possible to buy for a desktop. A core2duo will still crush lightroom too, you don't need to worry about the CPU.

I also just quickly checked, and 600 pounds is almost 1000usd. You'll be able to do this no problem. Nothing else you'll get for the money will be remotely close to this.
posted by emptythought at 3:06 PM on June 6, 2013

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