#544. Photo Editing: A Fresh Start at Casa DS!

#544. Photo Editing: A Fresh Start at Casa DS!

A few weeks ago, my article (The MacBook Pro. Overpriced gimmick or World’s best laptop for photographers ?) garnered comments that where overwhelmingly … divided. Talk about entrenched camps. Interestingly, the transfuges who raised their hands seemed to be exiting the Mac world, drawn by the sirens of powerful GPU cards (Razer Blade …) and innovative thinking (Microsoft Surface Studio …).

All of which left me very undecided, until the screen hinge on my works horse XMG broke in half. Time to make up my mind.

Well, against the advice of 99% of my entourage and most of the online media, facing the scorn of my children and the disgust of my work partners, my money went to Cupertino.

Hats off to One Paul Perton for that 🙂 Paul patiently explained the upsides of Macintosh ownership, the joy of using well honed machines and the long-life and reliability he’s experienced for the past 20 years. Up to the point when, unimpressed by my inability to make up my child’s mind, he summed his advice up in a short & sweep wrapper that leaves Nike looking drab and uninspired: “Just f$&king do it! You won’t regret it”.

So, here we are, 5 weeks later, with me typing this post on an unfamiliar keyboard with the speed of an dim-witted 4 year-old, two fingers and tongue sticking out. I f$&king did it, spent twice what I wanted to and live to tell the tale.

Do I regret it? Heck no!

Not now, anyway.

Bed of roses 🌹🌺 🌸 ? Not really! Devilishly hard, rather 😤👹👿👺.

It’s an incredible amount of hidden automation we have inside ourselves. Not just the keyboard shortcuts, but the logics of file management, OS oddities, trackpad weirdness … For a life-long PC user, a Mac betters Aesop’s tongue 👅 as best and worst of all things.

 

The Good

Where do I start? No, that’s easy. The screen. The screen alone is 60% of why I bought the new MBP. And it is brilliant beyond anything I’ve seen on a laptop before. Colours look pure. Compared to a Samsung S7 and an S6, it is less saturated and flattering, slightly more neutral. Compared to my old screen, well, you actually can’t really compare it, it’s so in another league completely. Compared to the excellent Dell XPS 13, it’s a lot brighter and at tad more alive. Blazing mediterranean winter sun on the screen, everything remains super easy to read with the screen at 60% power, even though it is super glossy. Fantastic.

The touchbar is brilliant. It may be a small productivity boost but is mostly a very pleasant user experience. All the emoticon I have inflicted upon you are just one (silly) example of the numerous uses for this dynamic tool: as soon as I type a word, related emoticons appear on the touch bar. Example: angel 👼. And there’s a lot more: on the fly volume and brightness adjustments, tab switch, editing tools that would be hidden inside menus …

Also, standard apps are brilliant. Pareto would get a boner. Pages, Photos, Keynote,  … as far as my limited experience goes, these really are a case of doing 80% of the work at 20% of the effort. Photos is actually a superb, lightweight piece of kit. The first photo (plane in clouds) was processed in Photos, using the inbuilt Apple RAW processor.

Luminar preset

Luminar preset

Some shortcuts are really intuitive and time-saving. Multilingual auto correct on all apps is a huge time saver for me. The list goes on.

 

The Bad

Some shortcuts are bewildering. 3 finger dancing gets old quite quickly.

Onboarding. Seriously guys … when you’re turning an innovative star into a cash-cow behemoth as Tim Cook is doing, you really need better on boarding than this. Coming from the PC world, a Mac sends a culture shock greater than

Finder. I must be missing something, but Finder feels very uninspired.

Compatibility and drive management. Put simply,  to one of my PC backup devices work on the Mac. I have to format one from scratch then copy stuff onto it. Silver lining: it can be formatted for Mac and PC (which is probably not easy from the PC side of the pond, so I shouldn’t complain).

Keyboard. It’s fast and pleasant to use. But the placement of familiar symbols is just all over the place and downright painful to relearn. Why oh why is it so difficult for companies to settle on a standard keyboard …

 

The Ugly

Ugly and Mac are rarely found in the same sentence. This is one magnificent looking piece of kit. But this restless search for pretty does induce some pretty unpleasant behaviours. Some situations involving slightly technical manipulations (installing software for instance) are dealt with using pretty graphics and no text at all, leaving the neophyte baffled and frustrated.

Some tiny, unexplained, unprotected icons can dismount drives in a single mistake click, leaving yours-truly in a state of rage not seen since Steve Jobs demo tantrums. Generally speaking, I can’t help feel some features are pretty for the sake of being pretty, at the expense of user experience. Modern PCs feel more logical in some respects.

Processed with Luminar

But that’s pretty much it. Cold Turkey? Yeah, plenty. That beast was enormous. But no withdrawal syndrome from leaving the PC behind.

As honestly and free from choice-supportive bias as possible, I LOVE this thing !

But it didn’t come alone.

 

MacPhun Luminar

60% screen, 10% reliability – I’m going to want to change it after a few years, anyway 😉 – that leaves 30% in my reasons for buying pie-chart. Luminar accounts for those. After looking for alternatives to LightRoom long and hard, Luminar caught my attention and actually made me buy an expensive computer just to run it. Stupid, right?

The thing is, Luminar is excellent! Really.

The marketing positioning is this: the only photo editing app that evolves with your skills. Be that as it may, the customisable work environment is really interesting. I’ll get back into this in a more formal review, but you can start with presets to find something that suits the photograph and your tastes, move on to filters for a more refined approach then fine tune with abundant local retouching tools.

The software builds onto the excellent Photos app and feels like a Photoshop / LightRoom hybrid. All photos on this page except the first were processed using Luminar.

Happy Camper ?

You bet. The combination of a near perfect screen, fast machine, software that comes closer to single-stop (for my needs) than any other before is really all I could have hoped for. So far, I highly recommend this combo: 5 DS stars.

More, much more very soon. Questions about this setup? Fire away 🙂

 


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8 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Leonard January 05, 2017

    Welcome to the Club, Pascal. Good Luck, Frustration and Happiness awaits in varying daily amounts. A question, then, and a comment:

    Question: Did Luminar come with the purchase price, or did you buy it separately?

    2 Comments re Finder. This is one of the “tools” that subtly distinguishes Windows from Mac. Try this: Press the Apple key & “N” together – a finder window should appear. Now do it again. Another Finder window. Resize them side by side. In the right hand window, locate a folder that has multiple folders within. In the left hand window locate a file that you wish to move into the folder in the right window. Click & Drag and it’s moved. Hold the option key whilst dragging and it’s copied. If the right hand window displays an outboard device onto which you wish to copy files from the left, drag and drop without further ado. I use this last technique when I need to copy files or folders onto a unique back-up.

    Here’s another trick, assuming that this works the same way on the laptop as it does desktop Apples desktop: Display room always being limited, you may prefer that Finder vanishes from view once you open a selected file. To do this instantly, hold the Option key whilst opening said file. Finder should disappear from view until called for again. It’s like Hide & Seek – always brings out a childlike smile. Of course, it makes little rational sense that the same key that permits copying a file also enables closing a window.

    One last thing for the moment: You seem to like Luminar. Wait till you get your hands on MacPhun Tonality Pro.

    Lmn

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 05, 2017

      How well you know me. Tonality pro is the latest addition to the Applications folder 😉 Luminar was a separate purchase. It costs 60$ which is a lot, and dirt cheap. A lot because it’s not a complete piece of software yet. No catalog features (though, as an plugin to Photos, it really doesn’t need any). Dirt cheap because it offers the 80% of features you’d want from Lightroom and Photoshop combined and throws in interesting presets. Plus a very rapid development cycle. It’s a bit slow to open, but a lot faster than the first release from a month ago. MacPhun are obviously very serious about making this a stunning app.

      Re Finder. It does some stuff well, but feels cramped compared to the more open explorer experience in the PC world. Still, if this means fewer bugs, a more secure system and a less bloated OS, it’s all good.

  2. Avatar
    Steve January 05, 2017

    Pascal, I seem to remember Paul evangelising a couple of decades ago! I remember him saying, “Just ‘kin do it,” to me too. Finally when I applied a Windows update that caused my machine to crash in a heap, I tossed it in a skip, drove 120 miles to John Lewis’ and bought a Mac. This was the era of the dome-shaped iMac with anglepoise screen. It’s still my favourite and currently sitting on a worktop (in working order) in the garage as I can’t bring myself to throw it away. My son ran it as an iTunes and email machine for several years before retuning it when his phone did a better job. Have I ever regretted it? Nope. Are Macs perfect? Nope. Can they be quirky? Sure. But the overall experience has been a pleasure. And best of all when pals say to me, “You used to be in computers can you help me with a Windows problem?”, I can honestly say No, having missed out entirely on the last few iterations. Is it still based on that old 64 bit DEC OS? 😉

    Steve

    Note to self – fire up Liminar and have a real play with it.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 05, 2017

      Thanks Steve. Paul must have owned a huge chunk of the Apple shares from the start.

      Still, it’s good advice as the Mac makes for a very pleasant experience. And since 6 hours of my days, almost every day, are spent with a computer on my table or knees, that makes a huge difference to my life.

      Luminar is quite slow. And I’m finding posterisation in some B&W conversions. Apart from that it’s an absolute hoot to use. I’m pretty sure both niggles will be addressed quickly.

      Cheers

  3. Avatar
    jean pierre (pete) guaron January 05, 2017

    I can only cheer you on, from the sidelines, Pascal. Microsoft itself wrecked my Windows 7 operating system, which is now slowly devouring itself and becoming progressively more and more unreliable. I cannot access various basic functions – and it’s only getting worse as this drifts on. And unlike Apple’s customer service people, the Microsoft rep who explained to me what they had done, and what I had to do to fix it, didn’t even have the manners to apologize.

    Apple, on the other hand, as Paul has pointed out, is reliable. And good. This machine is now 7 years old, and when my camera shop offered me an Eizo screen ex-demo, I had to turn it down because 10-bit output didn’t exist when this thing was made. And although I’ll have that when I eventually replace this iMAC, it’s not likely in the short to medium term.

    So – what’s the difference?

    Well the first thing I found with MS (nice of them to name themselves after an unfortunate disease!) was that it chews up so much memory that I couldn’t run post processing software like Lightroom in it anyway. Oh – BTW – Microsoft is using exactly the same machine as Apple – because this iMAC is partitioned to give them both half the disc drive. So this is a VERY “level playing field” comparison.

    Second – MS is as slow as a wet winter, compared with Apple – which fires almost immediately.

    Third – that “blasted spinning wheel” that people get around to complaining about with Apple. Well that happens in MS, too. And God help you when it does. It can freeze you out for ages (so can Apple’s spinning wheel), but it can also crash the PC. And that can cost you unsaved work that was on screen at the time of the crash. I couldn’t count the number of times MS has done that to me in the past 12 months. But when the only thing left to do with Apple’s spinning wheel was to reboot the machine, I was back up & running in a fraction of the time it would take on a PC with MS and without losing anything. Oh – and it happens nowhere near as often.

    Fourth – searching for things on Apple is a cake walk – open a new finder page, fill in the blank to tell it what to search for, and BOOM – it’s right there in front of you. The MS equivalent – running off the button in the bottom of the screen – is flaky; the first tier doesn’t do an in depth search and it shuts if you want to keep working on the screen while it searches, so you select “see more result” and it then pads off at a painfully slow rate, to report back minutes later. Those wasted minutes all add up.

    Fifth – damn, I love that screen! OK – an Eizo screen is essential for some pros – but an Apple screen is so good! Dunno whether I had to, but I calibrated mine anyway. And what I see on screen is what rolls off my printer. That’s comforting right now, because I have to pass up the chance to get into Eizo cheap – there’s no point in spending several grand on a screen I may not be able to use for a year or longer, and which I suspect will be nothing more than pure self-indulgence, once the next iMAC is on my desk. The current generation of iMAC’s are out of this world.

    Adding onto that list the current deplorable condition of MS on my computer, that’s 6 compelling reasons why I no longer want anything further to do with Microsoft’s idea of a computer operating system. And it’s not even a comprehensive list. But if you asked me to list the things I hate about Apple, then – to be perfectly honest – I’d have a hard job thinking of ANYTHING to put on the list. I’ve given them both “equal opportunity” – there’s just no equality in the results they have both produced over the past 15 years. Apple is first past the post, and MS is stalled halfway round the track, chewing grass.

    I no longer use iPhoto, Pascal. When I moved everything over to this machine from my first iMAC, tracking all the photos from the iPhoto catalogue system drove me nuts, so I’ve replaced it with my own system.

    And I prefer desktops to laptops, but that of course is a personal choice. I’m happy to process my images at home and when I’m away, my cams always provide a back-up copy of everything anyway.

    Like Paul – I’m sure you’ll be happy with your choice. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of “Apple for Dummies” – there’s bound to be a day you need to refer to it, and it pays to have a copy in the house/office (although you’re unlikely to add it to the gear you carry with you on field trips!) That will help get past the stage of missing the way things happened – or were supposed to happen, anyway – on the PC 🙂

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 05, 2017

      Yes. Customer service is pleasant. There was a problem with my pro credit card at the moment of payment and the people on the phone dealt with that in minutes and very kindly.

      One of the articles that convinced my to switch was written by a video editor who was trying to debunk the “16GB RAM is not enough” myth. He had to run a ton of instances of very heavy processes to get close to that limit whereas Lightroom + Firefox (an efficient browser) soon made my PC 16GB RAM look cramped very often.

      The spinning wheel. I get that on Luminar when it starts up. Nowhere else and I’m pretty sure that will disappear soon.

      The screen is wonderful. I’ve seen retina screens criticised online, and just can’t figure out why. This one has a wide enough gamut for most of my needs. And, yes, if you’re a pro editing fashion shots, get a dedicated screen. As standard, this is miles ahead of anything else I’ve used and owned. It lets me edit pictures under brutal sunlight, it’s just incredible …

      I used to like my XMG laptop and still do, a lot. But one thing that drove me up the wall with Windows is being shut down for a reboot in the middle of work. That cause my kids to hear words that shouldn’t ever come out of a dad’s mouth. So very infuriating. That ALONE is worth the switch when you work on computers a lot.

      A good desktop is very nice, but mine is in my home office, which I almost never use. The terrace is so much nicer 😉 And it’s nice to be with my family while editing pics rather than stay upstairs in my room.

      The Apple for Dummies is actually a good idea. Thanks 😉

  4. Avatar
    Mike Dale January 06, 2017

    Welcome to Apple World. Be sure to check out Affinity Photo for only $39. It’s still early days for it but it will be a great Photoshop alternative if it’s not already.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 06, 2017

      Thanks. Looks like there’s a lot of choice around 🙂

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