Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

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Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Wed Aug 20, 2014 2:56 pm

A friend of mine is looking for a laptop to replace her aging 17" HP laptop that she is finding too heavy to lug around, for her photo shoots. She is a professional photographer, and also has a good quality NEC color calibrated monitor.

The big challenge is that she doesn't want to spend too much money (hasn't given me a number but pointed me to some sub-par options that were in the $300-$400 range).

Reading between the lines, I think she will be happy with a 14" or 15" laptop with a 1080p screen, minimum Intel 4400 integrated graphics (or the AMD equivalent), reasonably light-weight, and a minimum of 8GB RAM.

Is it possible to get a laptop with these specs for around $500? I have been trawling woot, newegg and other sites, and most often, the laptops have something or the other that is a deal-breaker. For example, most laptops in this price range have 1366x768 screen res. I am not looking for super awesome color accuracy or a fancy panel (the NEC would do the job of being the display for serious image editing), but I would imagine that if she is using the laptop screen for image editing/checking, at least she would need 1080p.

Oh, one more thing: I think the NEC monitor is a 10 bit panel. No idea if Intel or AMD's current gen integrated graphics support 10 bit colors. I would presume this would make a big difference for black and white photography, but I am a novice in these things.

If the target price is way too low, should I wait for a Black Friday deal?

Thanks in advance,
Arun
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Wed Aug 20, 2014 3:51 pm

As a general rule of thumb, a laptop that costs less than a grand is a laptop that isn't worth the money. At that price range, you're looking at subpar comsumer-grade dreck that will be broken in some way or another within a year, especially if it's being dragged around town and used in the field like a photographer might. Business-grade laptops, purchased new, are going to start around 1000-1200 with the specs you list, and go up from there. Lightweight ultrabooks that will be comfortable to use on the go will cost even more.

One option your friend might consider is off-lease business equipment. Dell Financial Services sells used equipment directory, or you can purchase through a reseller like ServerMonkey. You might also be able to find a local reseller with inventory that you could select from.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Wed Aug 20, 2014 4:05 pm

i an not a mac person so i was looking at the lenovo w540. it comes with either a 1080 or a 2880*1660 res screen and a build in color sensor but you are looking at $1,400. i process raw files from a d600 (24mp) on an old laptop with 16gb of memory and an ssd but that is more $$$. add a few layers or adjustments and those files get huge. i just cant imagine working on a single file in photoshop or batch processing with a $500 laptop. i think you would be lucky to get away with less than $1,600 and unfortunately the savings would likely come from some big compromises like no ssd or lack of memory.

the only way i know to save money on a laptop is order the basic model with you minimum processor and then clone out the 5400rpm hard drive with ssd and add your own memory. i feel like most of the upgrades are where the companies make their money.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Wed Aug 20, 2014 4:42 pm

Unfortunately, your best bet will not be anywhere near $500. It'll probably be closer to $1500, like these.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Wed Aug 20, 2014 4:53 pm

You need to ask her just exactly how she wants to use the laptop on the move.

Crappy TN panels can be calibrated; every photo editing program supports zooming, so resolution isn't as important as one might think; and so on.

If she just wants to show proofs to a client, a tablet may be a better option, for example. If she wants to be able to deliver on the go, she needs to start saving.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 10:38 am

Thanks for all your comments. Personally, I am a diehard Thinkpad user (using it excusively for over a decade - for both work and personal use), and that would always be my first recommendation to anyone who needs a laptop for work.

I do understand that the budget I laid out is fairly unrealistic. The Dell Refurbished site is very interesting. I was able to narrow down to two models that are priced $650 and $750 - which is not bad I guess. My only peeve about these two options are that they only support USB2. Again, maybe I am thinking like a tech guy and not as a photographer. Here's the thing - my friend is fairly tech unsavvy, and also has unrealistic expectations of how much stuff should cost (laptops and related stuff mind you, not when it comes to camera equipment :) ). I can talk to her for sure, but also wanted to understand other options.

http://www.dfsdirectsales.com/edealinv/ ... pe=&query=

Is there a Thinkpad equivalent of this?

Here's my other open question - considering how much integrated graphics have evolved, is (say) Intel HD4400 "good enough" for image editing? Does one really need a massively over-specced machine with a fancy discrete graphics solution? Mind you, she is only going to be doing photo editing (Photoshop and the likes), not 3D modeling or any of the other power hungry stuff. But again, I speak as a novice. So my question is - will a run-of-the-mill current gen Intel or AMD laptop suffice? If so, what could be a viable option? Or again, am I just being too unrealistic? I'm thinking in the $600-$800 range (if not the $1k+ or $1.4k+ range as you recommend for a proper workstation laptop). And of course, with some compromises - but the right compromises (which is where I really struggle).

And another thing to think about is Broadwell and Intel's 14nm process node - that should launch in a few months. Worth waiting for it?
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 11:26 am

Integrated graphics is actually fine- very little 'photography' work can be properly accelerated.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 11:54 am

It looks like lenovo has an "outlet" for scratch & dent or refurb sales, but nothing for off-lease equipment that I can find. Still, I see some decent deals here.

I'll vouch for the quality of the Latitude E6520. They're older machines, but they're still fairly solid performers, and I would attribute the majority of the failures I've seen to abuse. It will of course benefit tremendously from an SSD upgrade, but that may be out of your price range.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 12:14 pm

Avoid the nvidia gpu's for photography. Their color gamuts are still wonky. It can be fixed through a registry hack, but both Intel's and AMD's are safe.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 12:20 pm

I'd caution against the Latitude 6500 laptops (6520, 6530, etc.). Build quality is abysmal compared to other enterprise laptops and battery-life sucks. A lot of my college friends (and my fiance) ordered Dell laptops through our university's computer store as they were cheaper and a more familiar brand than Lenovo. They've been less than satisfied with them, while none of the Thinkpad users I know have had any problems.

Yes, I'm picky about brands. I also don't have any issues with older Latitude laptops (6500 and 6510 are great!), but since 2011 they haven't been the same.

TheEmrys wrote:Avoid the nvidia gpu's for photography. Their color gamuts are still wonky. It can be fixed through a registry hack, but both Intel's and AMD's are safe.

Interesting. I haven't seen anything about this before. Could you post some links? Does it apply to Optimus?
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 12:26 pm

Airmantharp wrote:You need to ask her just exactly how she wants to use the laptop on the move.

Crappy TN panels can be calibrated; every photo editing program supports zooming, so resolution isn't as important as one might think; and so on.

If she just wants to show proofs to a client, a tablet may be a better option, for example. If she wants to be able to deliver on the go, she needs to start saving.


Resolution is important - you need to have enough of it to display image, histogram, color panels, etc.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 12:27 pm

lonleyppl wrote:
TheEmrys wrote:Avoid the nvidia gpu's for photography. Their color gamuts are still wonky. It can be fixed through a registry hack, but both Intel's and AMD's are safe.

Interesting. I haven't seen anything about this before. Could you post some links? Does it apply to Optimus?


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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 12:47 pm

Here's my advice...

1) Buy refurbished with a manufacturer warranty in place. You'll save money, very likely you'll a system you had no clue was used before, and still get a warranty. I've bought my last 3 laptops this way, saving an average of nearly $400 each. The manufacturer refurbished sites are a great place to look.

2) Get an IPS screen. Absolute must for photography. You're just not going to get a good quality screen on a laptop otherwise. Not all the IPS options out there are outstanding but they'll be miles better than even the best TN options and viewing angles are a much bigger deal on a laptop.

3) Hardware wise I think your friend will be happy with any option from the last two generation of Intel Core i5 or i7 processors. I think expandable RAM would be a good idea, not an absolute must, but a good way to maybe extend the useful life of the laptop a bit with a cheap upgrade in a year or two.

I think these are easily met if you're buying in the refurbished market and staying under $650-$700. $500 is a real stretch and if your friend is making a living from their photography there's no justification to go that cheap.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 1:42 pm

lonleyppl wrote:I'd caution against the Latitude 6500 laptops (6520, 6530, etc.). Build quality is abysmal compared to other enterprise laptops and battery-life sucks. A lot of my college friends (and my fiance) ordered Dell laptops through our university's computer store as they were cheaper and a more familiar brand than Lenovo. They've been less than satisfied with them, while none of the Thinkpad users I know have had any problems.

Yes, I'm picky about brands. I also don't have any issues with older Latitude laptops (6500 and 6510 are great!), but since 2011 they haven't been the same.

TheEmrys wrote:Avoid the nvidia gpu's for photography. Their color gamuts are still wonky. It can be fixed through a registry hack, but both Intel's and AMD's are safe.

Interesting. I haven't seen anything about this before. Could you post some links? Does it apply to Optimus?


Huh, my experience has been the opposite. The older 65xx's seemed to have strange issues and generally felt very plasticky, whereas the fleet of 20-odd 6520s I manage at work (currently phasing them out in favor of more powerful machines) is as reliable as anything else I've worked on. I've also got a couple of 6530s that haven't shown issues, either. My older Precision Ms are dropping like flies, though...

Haven't personally used Thinkpads in the last five years, but I hear a lot of groaning about how they've slipped since the IBM days. Don't know if it's typical "back in the good old days" stuff or if the complaints have merit. HP mostly just seems to cost a zillion dollars compared to the rest, never used their business laptops personally.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 2:33 pm

Yeats wrote:
Airmantharp wrote:You need to ask her just exactly how she wants to use the laptop on the move.

Crappy TN panels can be calibrated; every photo editing program supports zooming, so resolution isn't as important as one might think; and so on.

If she just wants to show proofs to a client, a tablet may be a better option, for example. If she wants to be able to deliver on the go, she needs to start saving.


Resolution is important - you need to have enough of it to display image, histogram, color panels, etc.


That's one of the reasons that I asked how the laptop would be used- detailed editing in Photoshop is difficult at low resolutions, but I can get by just fine in Lightroom on my 1366x768 TN-equipped laptop, while I use a 30" HP IPS at home.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 2:34 pm

TheEmrys wrote:Avoid the nvidia gpu's for photography. Their color gamuts are still wonky. It can be fixed through a registry hack, but both Intel's and AMD's are safe.


I'm thinking that this may still apply to HDMI outputs, but I'm speaking only from distant memory.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 2:38 pm

I'd look at Lenovo's outlet. They generally make nice systems and their outlet prices are usually way better than what you'll get for a similar system at retail.

I don't think you'll need much for graphics power, and any i3 or i5 will probably sufficient as well. People have been editing high res photos for years with far less cpu and graphics power than is available these days.

Something like this:
http://outlet.lenovo.com/outlet_us/item ... 347XE7/445

Small, 1366x768 IPS screen, Ivy Bridge i3 CPU

Or, something slightly newer:
http://outlet.lenovo.com/outlet_us/item ... RF1037/445

Small, 1080P IPS screen, Haswell i5 CPU

RAM can be upgraded cheaply if they don't run smooth enough with 4Gb, though I doubt it'd be an issue.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 2:52 pm

Point: I've uploaded 18MP images from a Canon 7D to an old Acer Timeline 1810TZ (64-bit dual core, 13x7 res, upgraded with 4GB of RAM and a Samsung 830 SSD) and done basic edits. I usually did this on the road when I wanted a quick backup (CF cards like to die randomly) or needed to perform general edits that were not dependent on absolute color accuracy or high-end processing power. Once in a while, I would do a bit of advanced touch-up. While such an old laptop was not blazingly fast, it was faster than one might expect, particularly with the SSD onboard.

Counterpoint: for heavy lifting and long-term archival, I inevitably moved everything over to a Core i5 desktop at home.

Your friend needs to decide which operating model she wants to follow: (1) a good desktop at home for the power and storage-hungry tasks and an inexpensive laptop for road use, or (2) a nice laptop that will cover both locations, but either be heavy and hot (DTR) or light and very expensive (ultrabook). Can't dump all the money into cameras and lenses and then expect a cheap computer to be "good enough." A good computer is an essential piece of capital equipment for a photography business and needs to be budgeted accordingly.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 3:29 pm

If you go with a high-quality refurbished laptop to handle most (if not all photo work), look at these 15 inch and these 13 inch models. They all have a one year manufacturer's warranty for all new and refurbished systems, and you can buy an extended warranty if desired.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 3:47 pm

asliarun wrote:Thanks for all your comments. Personally, I am a diehard Thinkpad user (using it excusively for over a decade - for both work and personal use), and that would always be my first recommendation to anyone who needs a laptop for work.


I used to be a diehard Thinkpad user/recommender as well. Unfortunately their build quality/reliability has taken a massive nose dive over the past few years. If you do go towards Lenovo, avoid like the plague their "Thinkpad Edge" and "Ideapad" lineups, unless your friend is willing to spend extra on the extended warranty. I saw enough E530 series with failed mainboards at 13 months so many times I lost count.

Not trying to slam them with anecdotal evidence, but I won't be owning or recommending them again anytime soon. Source: 10 years as a Service Manager/Lead Technician in a high-volume local non-big-box service center.

Highly recommend an off-lease/refurbished business class unit if you need to stay around the price point you mention. As others have mentioned, compromises will likely be required.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 4:11 pm

divide_by_zero, neither the Thinkpad Edge or Ideapad lineup are Thinkpads. They're priced like that too. Just around me I have all T4x0 models from T400 to T400, T510s and T520s, a W530, and several X1 Carbons. My anecdotal evidence suggests there's been zero reliability or construction quality changes. What has changed is the keyboard and amount of whining people do over it.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 5:05 pm

slowriot wrote:divide_by_zero, neither the Thinkpad Edge or Ideapad lineup are Thinkpads. They're priced like that too. Just around me I have all T4x0 models from T400 to T400, T510s and T520s, a W530, and several X1 Carbons. My anecdotal evidence suggests there's been zero reliability or construction quality changes. What has changed is the keyboard and amount of whining people do over it.


No argument about the T4x0 series, and the T5 series were mostly solid in my experience as well. I was seeing more failures on newer generations of these series, but it wasn't as pronounced as it was with the lower-end models. Have had a bit of experience with the X1 Carbons (which I rather enjoyed) and a substantial amount with the Yoga 2 Pro which is my secondary work PC. The Yoga is a frustratingly flaky machine. There's a 100+ page thread on Lenovo's site related to ongoing WiFi problems (good thing there's a speedy SSD for my thrice-daily reboots to get wifi working again), and another issue regarding some sort of wonky implementation of DPTF that causes problems for many users.

Anywho, we may quibble about what makes a "real" Thinkpad, but the lower-end models are indeed being branded as such, and in my experience the higher-end stuff is no longer as bulletproof as it used to be. To each their own, but I'm certainly not going to be buying another one.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 6:05 pm

divide_by_zero wrote:
slowriot wrote:divide_by_zero, neither the Thinkpad Edge or Ideapad lineup are Thinkpads. They're priced like that too. Just around me I have all T4x0 models from T400 to T400, T510s and T520s, a W530, and several X1 Carbons. My anecdotal evidence suggests there's been zero reliability or construction quality changes. What has changed is the keyboard and amount of whining people do over it.


No argument about the T4x0 series, and the T5 series were mostly solid in my experience as well. I was seeing more failures on newer generations of these series, but it wasn't as pronounced as it was with the lower-end models. Have had a bit of experience with the X1 Carbons (which I rather enjoyed) and a substantial amount with the Yoga 2 Pro which is my secondary work PC. The Yoga is a frustratingly flaky machine. There's a 100+ page thread on Lenovo's site related to ongoing WiFi problems (good thing there's a speedy SSD for my thrice-daily reboots to get wifi working again), and another issue regarding some sort of wonky implementation of DPTF that causes problems for many users.

Anywho, we may quibble about what makes a "real" Thinkpad, but the lower-end models are indeed being branded as such, and in my experience the higher-end stuff is no longer as bulletproof as it used to be. To each their own, but I'm certainly not going to be buying another one.

The "Yoga 2 Pro" is Lenovo-branded, not Thinkpad branded (to confuse things there is indeed a ThinkPad Yoga that looks much better). Except for the ThinkPad Edge (they got rid of that rather quickly) and the now ThinkPad L series, the other products bearing the "ThinkPad" name should still be above average. What else is out there though, even the real ThinkPads of today are not as reliable as models from a few years back? I don't see HP and Dell getting any better. Then there is the keyboard, while it has become "chiclets", is still way better than the competition. I am a trackpoint user, and nobody does it better than ThinkPads.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 6:15 pm

divide_by_zero wrote:No argument about the T4x0 series, and the T5 series were mostly solid in my experience as well. I was seeing more failures on newer generations of these series, but it wasn't as pronounced as it was with the lower-end models. Have had a bit of experience with the X1 Carbons (which I rather enjoyed) and a substantial amount with the Yoga 2 Pro which is my secondary work PC. The Yoga is a frustratingly flaky machine. There's a 100+ page thread on Lenovo's site related to ongoing WiFi problems (good thing there's a speedy SSD for my thrice-daily reboots to get wifi working again), and another issue regarding some sort of wonky implementation of DPTF that causes problems for many users.

Anywho, we may quibble about what makes a "real" Thinkpad, but the lower-end models are indeed being branded as such, and in my experience the higher-end stuff is no longer as bulletproof as it used to be. To each their own, but I'm certainly not going to be buying another one.


There's no quible. It's all about what's built for business and what's not. The Thinkpad Edge and Ideapad are clearly consumer products. The former was an attempt to leverage the Thinkpad brand but it was never built for use in the same way a "real" Thinkpad is. Basically, if it's not a model of this page I don't consider it a "real" Thinkpad: http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/

Oddly enough I also have a Yoga 2 Pro, which I purchased refurbished (and saved about $500 on to the same configuration new). I haven't had any WiFi issues or any at all for that matter. I also don't understand why you haven't had it RMA'd if you really are rebooting three times (or even once) a day to fix it. In fact, I find that REALLY confusing you haven't had it serviced.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Thu Aug 21, 2014 7:23 pm

slowriot wrote:Oddly enough I also have a Yoga 2 Pro, which I purchased refurbished (and saved about $500 on to the same configuration new). I haven't had any WiFi issues or any at all for that matter. I also don't understand why you haven't had it RMA'd if you really are rebooting three times (or even once) a day to fix it. In fact, I find that REALLY confusing you haven't had it serviced.


Glad to hear you're not having wifi issues. The thread on Lenovo's site (now up to 127 pages - neat!) certainly suggests that a large number of owners are having such problems. There are a few reasons I haven't sent it in, since you implied curiosity/confusion about the reasoning. Essentially, I do not wish to encounter the same situation as many, many others on the Lenovo site who have sent in the unit *multiple* times without a fix. And thus far Lenovo has adamantly refused to send out any replacement parts; the entire notebook must be shipped to them. Given the current project I'm working on at work, I can get by with flaky wifi for the time being. It's my secondary workstation that's being used for some specific testing that requires the 3200x1800 display functionality much more than it requires stable wifi. Once this product launch cycle is done, I will most certainly be perusing a fix with Lenovo.

And I'm gonna now hop off this thread so it can get back to laptop suggestions, rather than a laptop do-not-buy list. :)
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Fri Aug 22, 2014 5:50 am

The first laptop I can think of with a decent 1080p IPS screen is an Asus N550, and they're nowhere near the price range your friend wants.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Fri Aug 22, 2014 1:12 pm

Right now there is a very decent deal on an ASUS Q501LA. I think your friend will be in good shape after an SSD swap for around $100.
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Re: Laptop suggestion for photographer friend

Postposted on Mon Sep 08, 2014 1:11 am

Really your friend needs to put some more money away for a laptop with an IPS panel, i5 processor (for editing) i7 if on sale and at least 6GB of ram (if photo editing). If they are getting by now then tell them to wait and save the extra money to get something that will actually help them. At $500.00 you make way too many compromises.
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