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TourBox Elite is a Hyper-Customizable Bluetooth Editing Controller

The TourBox Elite editing controller

The TourBox Elite editing controller

Following a successful launch of the original TourBox in 2018, the company is back with its follow-up: the TourBox Elite. This compact Bluetooth controller is designed to provide better control over editing tasks than can be done with a keyboard alone.

The TourBox Elite is a dual-channel Bluetooth controller that features a pinpoint, lag-free, control algorithm, customizable user interface, and macro commands to give editors more control over software without needing to move their hands from a single position.

TourBox says that the Elite controller is a cross-platform and pre-configured tool made to support image editing applications like Photoshop, Lightroom, or Capture One, but also can be configured to support a host of other applications like Illustrator, Final Cut Pro, Premiere, After Effects, and DaVinci Resolve. It can be operated by itself or in tandem with a mouse or drawing tablet and its main goal is to streamline workflow.

TourBox Elite is a Hyper-Customizable Bluetooth Editing Controller 1

TourBox says that the Elite is the first Bluetooth editing controller in the industry designed for digital creators and it plans to create what it describes as an unprecedented and compelling protocol for Bluetooth editing.

“This Bluetooth LE 5.1 technology provides seamless, instant connection to your devices with perfectly consistent and strong pairing ability,” the company says. “As a dual-channel Bluetooth controller, featuring presets auto switch, TourBox Elite allows you to switch seamlessly among various devices and programs. That means you can literally handle multiple programs, projects, and professions all well at the same time.”

TourBox Elite is a Hyper-Customizable Bluetooth Editing Controller 2

The company touts the TourBox Elite as able to completely replace a keyboard when editing and removes what it describes as “unnatural” movements. Instead of clunky keyboard commands, the TourBox uses a series of scroll wheels, dials, and buttons to activate various commands within editing applications. The TourBox Elite allows editors to make adjustments with a single hand.

“You can just focus on the images, hit the buttons, turn the knob and get the work done,” the company says. “No more searching in the parameter bar.”

culling example with tourbox elite

For culling, TourBox shows how the Elite controller can be used to pan through photos, select them, and rate them quickly and easily. It can also be used to adjust settings like exposure, contrast, and shadows and highlights with the turn of the knob. The knobs can even be calibrated for different speeds based on an editor’s needs and personal workflow.

All the functions of the TourBox Elite can be customized to do different tasks depending on the program in use, and that level of control extends to every button and dial on the device.

TourBox Elite is a Hyper-Customizable Bluetooth Editing Controller 3

Since there are no physical scale marks on the rotary buttons on the TourBox Elite (and they can be fine-tuned to specific users), feedback is instead provided by an internal vibration motor with haptic feedback. It can be switched off or configured to an individual user’s level of choice as well.

tourbox elite haptic feedback

“TourBox Elite incorporates the first wide-band motor in the industry, bringing a simulated touch that is immersive and subtle,” the company claims. “Traditional motors feature a low damp, high elasticity and slow response. By contrast, the innovative wide-band vibration motor is characterized by rapid start and stop with accurate and timely response, making it perfect to simulate the haptic touch.”

The TourBox Elite is currently available to back on Kickstarter and at the time of publication had already reached its goal. Backing options start as low as $196 and the company expects to ship completed TourBox Elite controllers by February of 2022.


Disclaimer: Make sure you do your own research into any crowdfunding project you’re considering backing. While we aim to only share legitimate and trustworthy campaigns, there’s always a real chance that you can lose your money when backing any crowdfunded project.

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A 7-Step Guide to Editing Black and White Portraits in Lightroom

A 7-Step Guide to Editing Black and White Portraits in Lightroom

Creating a compelling black and white portrait is about a lot more than simply removing the color from an image; it is an art in itself. If you would like to learn how to create such images in Lightroom, check out this fantastic video tutorial that features an experienced photographer guiding you through a seven-step process for creating compelling results. 

Coming to you from our friend, Pye Jirsa, with Adorama TV, this awesome video tutorial will show you how to edit compelling black and white portraits using Lightroom. Some of the best advice I ever heard regarding choosing whether to edit a photo in color or black and white is to go with color when you want to convey information and black and white when you want to convey emotion. As such, black and white can be a natural choice for a portrait, especially for drawing the focus back to the emotion of the scene. Remember that in Lightroom, you can always create virtual copies of photos if you want to try out a black and white edit along with a color one or deliver multiple options to clients. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Jirsa. 

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A Beginner’s Guide to Editing in Lightroom

A Beginner's Guide to Editing in Lightroom

While every new photographer has to master working with a camera, that is only half of making a compelling image, as it takes good editing skills to finish things off. If you are new to editing your photos, this helpful video tutorial will show you a range of techniques and methods for post-processing a portrait using Lightroom. 

Coming to you from Sawyer Hartman, this great video tutorial will show you some methods for editing a portrait in Lightroom, including things like using the Tone Curve, HSL section, and more. Most newer photographers think of Photoshop as the place for serious editing, and while it is true that you can do more advanced things there, you will be surprised by just how much you can accomplish in Lightroom, plus it is a bit friendlier to beginners. An important point to remember is that when it comes to editing, less is often more. One thing that can help you develop your eye is to step away from your computer for a few minutes when you are done with an edit, then return to evaluate things one more time before you export. This can help you to break any tunnel vision you might have developed during the process. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Hartman. 

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PortraitPro 22 Software Announced With New Tools For Editing Portraits

PortraitPro 22 Software Announced With New Tools For Editing Portraits

PortraitPro 22 is now available with new features such as body lighting controls, hairline correction and more.

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Software

Portrait Pro

 

Anthropics Technology has announced the launch of PortraitPro 22, a photo imaging software that’s powered by AI, and with it comes new features that make editing portraits easier than ever. 

PortraitPro 22 brings several new tools which include options for slimming neck and shoulders, the ability to add chin shadows for creating structure, body lighting controls, hairline correction and neck wrinkle removal. Plus, there are additional lipstick colours and improvements have been made to the lighting brush as well as the neck lengthening and eye-widening tools. 

The software is available in 3 versions: Standard, Studio and Max with prices starting at £39.95. 

  • PortraitPro Standard: Standalone software for photographers working with JPG or 24-bit TIFF files.
  • PortraitPro Studio: For photographers who work directly with RAW files or want the higher quality of 48-bit colour files, supports conversion between different colour spaces and provides JPEG/TIFF embedded colour profile support. Offers Batch dialogue.  
  • PortraitPro Studio Max: For professional photographers or those working with lots of images. Full Batch mode to speed workflow greatly.

A trial version of PortraitPro 22 is available to download for free from the Anthropics website

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The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 4

Seasoned photographers know that the search for the right laptop comes down to far more than a list of individually impressive specs. The perfect laptop for photo editing will not always be the one with the most bells and whistles, because perfection here is about so much more: usability, ease, intuition — all the things that combine to create not just powerful imagery, but a powerful workflow as well.

With this total experience in mind, we have created a list of the best laptops for photo editing in 2021.

Update 11/9/2021 by Jaron Schneider and Matt Williams: Added the Apple MacBook Pro with M1 Max as the best overall laptop, and adjusted our recommendation for best budget laptop to the Macbook Air M1.

What We’re Looking For:

A photographer has many competing needs when selecting a laptop, so we have attempted to cover the most common areas for this list. We have considered price, functionality, performance, and durability to come to the following selections.


The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 5

CPU: M1 Max 10-Core (8 high-performance and 2 high-efficiency cores)
GPU: M1 32-Core integrated
RAM: 64GB unified RAM
Storage: 1TB Integrated PCle 4.0 SSD
Display: 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR (3,456 x 2,234 pixels)
Size: 14.01 x 9.77 x 0.66-inches
Weight: 4.8 pounds
Price: Starting at $3,899

If your core focus is having access to the best possible hardware available, then look no further than the new MacBook Pro powered by the M1 Max. This laptop combines an incredible display and the return of the HDMI port and SD card reader with an outstanding keyboard and insane performance.

Read PetaPixel’s Apple MacBook Pro with M1 Max Review

Looking at the performance metrics in our testing, the new MacBook Pro is without a doubt the best and most powerful laptop money can buy. It smokes the competition across nearly every one of our tests and has an insane battery life and near-silent operation. From a pure performance standpoint, this is the most impressive laptop we at PetaPixel have ever tested. I feel like we just said that when the M1 originally launched, and yet Apple one-upped themselves again.

That said, this machine is likely too much power for the average photographer, and only those with a true hybrid workflow of photo and video will really find themselves needing all that the M1 Max chip is capable of. It’s also a very expensive machine. For that reason, it’s not our pick for the best Mac that photographers should buy (that still goes to the MacBook Pro with M1) but we have to tip our cap to Apple: the company has made a seriously impressive machine that isn’t beat by anyone. If you need power and the most you can possibly find, this is it.


The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 6CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H (11th Gen)

CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H (11th Gen)
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 4GB GDDR6
RAM: 32GB DDR4
Storage: 512GB M.2 PCle NVMe SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 3.5K OLED (3456×2160)
Size: 13.57 x 9.06 x 0.71-inch
Weight: 3.99lb
Price: Starting at $2,008.99

The key to any pick for “Best PC” on a list like this is not that it does a few things flawlessly or that it’s loaded to the brim with features that are frankly excessive for 99% of photographers, but that it does everything “well.” No laptop on this list fits that bill better than Dell’s XPS 15 (9510): it just flat-out works.

No matter your need, skill, or financial situation, there is a configuration of the XPS 15 that is going to make you happy, and, most importantly, get the job done. The massive configuration and options that are available are a big part of what makes this our top pick. Every spec is user-selectable without changing the entire system. For example, if you don’t care about the 3.5K OLED screen, you can downgrade to the 15.6-inch FHD+ InfinityEdge and knock about $200 off, for example. That said, we think that an extra $200 is more than worth the extra expense given how much of an improvement you get.

We have picked what we view as the optimal combination for processing power, storage, screen quality, and price and it will run you around $2,000. Its 15.6-inch 3.5K (3456×2160) Anti-Glare Screen is incredibly impressive, with 400-nits brightness and razor-thin Infinity Edge bezels on all four sides. In terms of processing power, you will get the 11th Generation Intel Core i7, a whopping 32GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD, which is plenty suitable for most — particularly since many photographers work off external storage.

Design across all configurations is sleek and comfortable, with the already-pleasant keycaps and touchpad getting a size increase over prior models. In keeping with the “Do everything pretty well” vibe of an all-arounder, port selection is mostly fine, offering three USB-C ports for charging and connecting to peripherals. Two of these are Thunderbolt 4, which is extremely welcome and something that not many PCs boast. There’s also a full-sized SD card reader.

For those who want more spring in their step, you can increase your investment by moving to the Core i9 CPU, double your RAM to 64GB, and enhance your storage capacity all the way up to 8TB, and even boost your graphics to NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. You also have the option to upgrade to the UHD+ 3740×2400 500-nit brightness screen. All of these upgrades are overkill for almost all photographers, but those whose work entails a hybrid of both photo and video may find the increased CPU, RAM, storage, and graphics power to be well worth the extra cash.

Conversely, the base level model is available starting at $1,273.99 — if you’re willing to drop to a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, integrated Intel UHD graphics, and a basic FHD+ (1920×1200) display. But, as mentioned, you can adjust many of these specs to suit your needs (and budget). And perhaps best of all, both the RAM and SSD are user-upgradeable (nothing soldered here), making the jump from the base model to 16GB or even 32GB of RAM fairly easy and affordable after purchase. The integrated graphics of the base model are a demerit, but casual photographers will have no complaints as most photo editing applications rely largely on CPU processing.

No matter which configuration you choose for the XPS 15, you are going to find yourself steadily working without fuss, without issue, and with a good bit of enjoyment. The only downside to this machine is that it is so popular you might have a little more trouble locating one in stock. If all else fails, they are always available directly from Dell, and the website offers a price-match guarantee.

If you’re not a fan of Dell, a solid alternative option would be the Razer Blade 14 QHD thanks to its excellent build quality, AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU, NVIDIA RTX 3070 GPU, large 1TB SSD, and impressive port selection. In our review, we noted it was made for gamers, but is great for creators. The Razer Blade 14 was made for gamers, but photographers have no choice but to love it, too. Razer makes higher-end options (noted further down), but the Blade 14 gives photographers pretty much all they need, and then some.


The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 7

CPU: M1 8-Core (4 high-performance and 4 high-efficiency cores)
GPU: M1 8-Core Integrated
RAM: 8GB Embedded DRAM
Storage: 256GB Integrated PCle SSD
Display: 13.3-inch, Retina Display (2560 x 1600)
Size: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61-inch
Weight: 3 pounds
Price: Starting at $1,199

The 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch was, and remains, one of the most impressive laptops in the industry. So why focus on the MacBook Pro with M1? Predictably, it all goes back to that M1 chip, which we described as “a revolution” in our review of the M1 MacBook Pro. It may seem like an exaggeration if you have not used this device, but the M1 makes for a legitimately transformational experience. This thing moves at the speed of your whims.

It is possible to bog the M1 down, but you have to sweat to do it by opening an insane number of windows and programs before the hint of a stutter appears. When it comes to Photoshop, this machine flat-out smokes much of the competition, especially those in the same price tier. Factor in the battery life and the M1 starts to feel unbeatable.

From a design perspective, it is exactly what you would expect from a MacBook, complete with all the benefits and drawbacks one expects. The 13-inch screen, while boasting that beautiful Retina display (with 100% DCI-P3 coverage), still suffers from the annoyingly thick bezels. That said, it is far brighter than you expect, surpassing numerous competitors (even popular members of the MacBook line), and delivers quality color information. The Magic Keyboard may not be suited to everyone, but those who love it will really, really love it. Overall weight is still an issue, but manageable.

The maximum 16GB of RAM is one sacrifice here, though it should be noted that the M1’s RAM goes much further than those with Intel or AMD-based processors — the 16GB model will serve those who edit very high-resolution photos and/or video, while the 8GB model is a great option for the everyday photographer on a budget. The other niggle is its mere two Thunderbolt 4 ports, but this is easily expanded with excellent products like the OWC Thunderbolt 4 Hub or Thunderbolt 4 Dock.

While the M1 MacBook Pro isn’t Apple’s top-of-the-line offering, it is likely the best value. Even though the M1 Max-powered 16-inch MacBook Pro might be tempting, only those who really demand the most performance are going to want to shell out the big bucks to pick one up. For the rest of us, the original M1 is plenty powerful.


Best Budget Laptop for Photographers: MacBook Air M1

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 8

CPU: M1 8-Core
GPU: M1 7-Core
RAM: 8GB DDR4
Storage: 256GB PCle SSD
Display: 13.3-inch (2,560 x 1,600)
Size: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63-inch
Weight: 2.8 pounds
Price: Starting at $949

Like the MacBook Pro M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max models, the M1 Air is part of Apple’s foray into ARM-based SoC (system on a chip) technology. The MacBook Air M1 represents the lowest tier of the MacBooks armed with Apple silicon, but don’t be fooled — this is a powerful piece of technology that punches far above its price class.

With an eight-core CPU (four high efficiency and four energy efficiency cores) and a seven-core GPU, along with either 8GB or 16GB of integrated RAM, the Air is capable of incredibly demanding tasks — it will take just about any photo editing you can throw at it and can cut through 4K (and higher) video footage like butter for all but the most intense editing or graphics work. It can do that all while boasting one of the longest — if not the longest — battery life of any laptop you can buy (rated at 17 hours of wireless web browsing by Apple and tests show that is not far off).

Maybe best of all, the MacBook Air M1 loses very little to the MacBook Pro M1 — both have the same M1 CPU, RAM options of either 8GB or 16GB, SSD up to 2TB, and the same 13.3” 2560×1600 100% DCI-P3 Retina display. Essentially, the only difference is the size and weight, the lack of the Touch Bar on the MacBook Air, and a seven-core GPU versus eight-core GPU. For the first time in a Mac, or any computer, you lose practically nothing in performance between the base model, the Pro laptop, and even the Mac Mini and iMac M1.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the limitation of only two Thunderbolt 4 ports, but, at least for me, this is easily solved using a Thunderbolt dock or a smaller Thunderbolt hub — the OWC Thunderbolt 4 Hub is the best out there, and gives you two additional Thunderbolt 4 ports. The OWC Thunderbolt 4 Dock gives you the same, along with three USB-A 3.0, one USB 2.0, an SD card slot, headphone jack, and ethernet port.

For the price, portability, and versatility, the MacBook Air M1 simply cannot be beaten. However, if you’re not a fan of Apple, the Asus Vivobook S15 S533 is the most complete laptop you’re likely to find for those pinching pennies.


Best Detachable 2-In-1 Laptop for Photographers: Microsoft Surface Pro 8

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 9

CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7 Quad-Core
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 8GB LPDDR4x
Storage: 128GB SSD
Display: 13-inch, PixelSense Flow 10-Point Touchscreen (2880 x 1920)
Size: 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37-inch
Weight: 1.96lb
Price: Starting at $1,099.99

Every company makes them at this point, but Microsoft remains king of the hill when it comes to tablet-style “2-in-1” PC. The company’s Surface line remains a juggernaut in an ever-expanding market, and the Surface Pro 8 is the latest example of that dominance. Combining the performance increases of the 7 with the modern design of the X, then improving on both, the Surface Pro 8 is the best the line has ever offered.

One look at the screen and the leap forward becomes clear — literally. Gone are the chunkier bezels of the past, making room for a larger 13-inch PixelSense display. Size isn’t the only upgrade; resolution has been boosted to a welcome 2880 x 1920. If you are in the market for a detachable 2-in-1, you are already aware your screen will not compete directly with a dedicated laptop, but this sharper display goes a long way toward making you forget. Add in the surprising new 120Hz refresh rate and PixelSense’s stellar track record with color and brightness, and you have one gorgeous display. Your eyes are not alone in their excitement, though. Your fingers get their due as well. That increased refresh rate means every touch practically glides across the display at the speed of thought. There is no usage for the touchscreen not improved by this upgrade, and you will notice.

What you may not notice, however, is that the weight and thickness of the Surface Pro 8 have expanded with the revamp — and this is a good thing. The Surface Pro has always been compact and light, an obvious positive in the 2-in-1 space. This provided Microsoft the space to bulk up for the right reasons without becoming cumbersome. So what does the extra size mean for you? Increased thermal space, and thus increased performance. Using the Puget Systems’ PugetBench for the Photoshop test, Surface Pro 8 shows itself to be near the top of the pack amongst peers for the tasks most crucial for a photographer.

The trouble, of course, is that to really feel the upgrade the Surface Pro 8 represents, one needs to commit to the $1599 model featuring the 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7. At this point, cost-benefit has to come into play, especially considering Microsoft refuses to include a keyboard out of the box. The good news is, both the keyboard cover and Slim Pen are wonderful to use. The bad news is, you are looking at nearly $300 more for the pleasure (or the necessity, as it were). Of course, if you are in the market for a Surface, you have likely made peace with these realities already, and the heading here is “Best Detachable 2-in-1”, not “Best Budget 2-in-1.” The Surface Pro 8 is a truly beautiful device, and the best on offer from the leader in the field.

It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the best option outside of the newest Surface Pro is… Microsoft’s next-to-newest” the Microsoft Surface Pro 7. With the introduction of the 8, the Pro 7 is due for a discount.


Best Overall Workstation-Class Laptop for Photographers: HP ZBook Studio G8

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 10

CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H 8-Core
GPU: NVIDIA Quadro T1200 4GB GDDR6 VRAM
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Storage: 512 GB PCle M.2 SSD
Display: 15.6-inch Anti-Glare IPS (1920 x 1080)
Size: 13.94 x 9.24 x 0.7-inch
Weight: 3.95lb
Price: Starting at $2,349

As we noted in our recent review, the ZBook line has always vied for attention in the mobile workstation segment but has continually gone under the radar. With the ZBook Studio G8, we think that should change. In some ways, it should come as no surprise that a line seemingly arguing with itself over whether it wants to pump out business laptops or gaming rigs would eventually split the difference and stumble on a machine ideal for photo editing.

The price may raise eyebrows, but the ZBook Studio G8 positions itself in direct competition with premium machines available from the likes of Razer. Once expectations adjust, you will find the Studio G8 a more than worthy option in that space. The G8 is an all-in-one machine meant to facilitate any work, play, or viewing experience you throw at it.

The construction alone confirms the dual focus on luxury and strength. The magnesium and aluminum alloy build is as rugged as it is refined. The design is sharp, sleek, but its durability is never in question. We touch on how extensive the testing is on these machines in our review but suffice to say: you can be confident the G8 can handle whatever you throw at it. Literally.

The keyboard action is pleasing and precise, and the glass-topped trackpad, while smaller than you may expect, is quite responsive and provides a very satisfying, tactile click. The 15.6-inch 4K OLED touchscreen is brilliant and one of the most satisfying screens on this list. Playing back into that marriage of polish and durability, it is also covered in Gorilla Glass 6.

Under the hood, there is quite a lot to cheer for. The marriage of the 8-core Intel Core i9-11950H, 16GB of RAM, and the Nvidia Quadro T1200 4GB GDDR6 graphics card makes this a fantastic fit for any photographer. The 512GB M.2 SSD is plenty for those who work off external SSDs or hard drives as well.

But the ZBook Studio G8 can take the leap from being a very good photo editing machine to an absolute monster for photo, video, and graphics editing — or pretty much anything else you can throw at it. Maxed out with an Intel Core i9-11950H processor, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB M.2 SSD, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080, and a 120hz 3840 x 2160 DreamColor IPS Display, it can handle just about anything you throw at it — all while remaining as sleek and user-friendly as any mid-sized laptop should be. It will cost you an eye-watering $5,198.95, however.

The one deficit — and it seems a rather noticeable one given the goals of the device — is the dearth of available ports. The two Thunderbolt 4 USB4 Type-C are certainly welcome, but they are accompanied only by a single USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, one 3.5 mm headphone/mic combo audio jack, one HDMI 2.1, and one Mini DisplayPort. It is a survivable amount, but for the price HP is asking, we would hope and expect a bit more. Predictably, for a desk-rider like this, battery life is only middling — Five hours is simply frustrating at this level.

Still, this is one of the more beautiful, more powerful laptops on the market, and, despite its price, will likely be under-considered by those who could most appreciate it. Reliability and performance are the keys to high volume, consistent work against a deadline. On this front, the Studio G8 is a marvel. In the end, it may be most exciting for what it portends. If this is a signal to the direction the ZBook line is moving, the future is incredibly exciting.

Alternatively, we think the Razer Blade 15 Advanced is a solid pick. While not necessarily a “workstation” like the Studio G8 is, we reviewed the Razer Blade 15 Advanced and found it to be an excellent, powerful option. Slimmer and sleeker than you would expect for the power it contains, it is one of the most usable, enjoyable laptops on the market. Its half-inch thick frame holds an 11th-Gen Intel Core i7 with 32 GB of RAM and an NVIDIA RTX 3080 graphics card that will rip through whatever creative multitasking you throw its way.


Best Value Workstation-Class Laptop for Photographers: Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XD

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 11

CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 8GB GDDR6
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 17.3-inch 4K UHD HDR OLED (3840 x 2160)
Size: 15.6 x 10.6 x 0.85-inch
Weight: 5.5lb
Price: Starting at $2,149

The Gigabyte Aero 17 successfully goes beyond “best laptop” into “best workstation” territory in a way few rivals can claim. The raw power of the Aero 17 is impressive, even more so once one considers its very reasonable price.

The first thing that catches my attention about the Aero is its GPU. One of the first laptops released in 2021, it boasts the latest in NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs. Whether you opt for the 8GB GDD6 3070 or 16GB GDDR6 3080, the graphics processing force of this machine places it ahead of the pack. These may not be the desktop versions of these much-hyped (and impossible to find for anywhere near a reasonable price) cards, but they will still knock your socks off.

Whether it’s Adobe Premiere or Da Vinci Resolve or something else, the Aero is built to easily handle 8K footage, ray tracing, virtual reality, 3D modeling and animation, and visual effects work. NVIDIA DLSS utilizes the Tensor Cores for a boost in AI rendering, while the AI-powered Dynamic Boost 2.0 manages power on a per-frame basis, allowing the computer’s AI to constantly optimize the CPU, GPU, and GPU memory for the maximum performance boost. These features are entirely overkill for those who solely engage in photo work, but I imagine 3D artists and video editors read these specs and immediately break into a sweat, nodding and cheering. This makes it the ultimate choice for those of us who edit photos as well as video, or any other graphics-intensive work.

The build quality here is exceptional. While certainly not a slim device, it is far less bulky than one would anticipate given its robust performance. The Gigabyte Fusion RGB Per-Key Backlit Keyboard may aggravate some who value cleaner and sleeker aesthetics, but this is part and parcel with a rig that screams “game on.” Unlike some other laptops on the list, you are practically spoiled with ports on the Aero 17, which features three USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, one Thunderbolt 4, an HDMI 2.1 port (which supports 4K up to 120Hz), a Mini DisplayPort 1.4, a UHS-II SD Card Reader, as well as headphone out and mic in ports. As far as sound, the Aero sports DTS: X Ultra speakers which enable virtual 7.1 surround sound, and Two-Way AI Noise Cancelation for class-leading incoming and outgoing audio.

If there is a disappointment to be found with the Aero, it comes in battery life. This tracks, given how much processing power is packed into this thing, but for those on the go, planning out a charging strategy will be a must. It also tends to run somewhat hot and a little noisier than some may prefer; just tell yourself these are the prices you pay for power. To its benefit, however, the Aero sports Microsoft Azure AI, which Gigabyte touts as “the world’s first AI laptop.” As you use the laptop and various applications, the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning platform gathers data and then optimizes the CPU and GPU usage for both processing speed and to limit wattage consumption, thus enhancing battery life.

All this, and we failed to touch on the 17.3-inch 4K UHD OLED Anti-glare screen with 100% Adobe RGB coverage all surrounded by “the world’s first” ultra-thin 3mm three-sided bezel. Oh, and every individual unit is factory X-Rite calibrated with a Pantone Validated certification. Want accurate colors right out of the box? Yes, I think I do, thank you.

Upgrade to the Aero 17 HDR YD and you bump the specs up to a Core i9-11980HK, 32GB RAM, a GeForce RTX 3080 GPU with 16GB GDDR6, and a 512GB PCIe Gen4 SSD as well as a second 1TB Gen3 hard drive for additional storage.

If you want a suggestion beyond Gigabyte, the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 1 is a solid alternative. It is blazing fast, has a phenomenal screen, and sports a generous port selection which makes the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 one of the best mobile workstations for creatives out there. With Gen 2 just around the corner, Gen 1 is already seeing massive discounts online. Not just a great value selection, this one is a steal.

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Can the iPad Pro Alone Be Everything You Need for Photo Editing in Lightroom?

Can the iPad Pro Alone Be Everything You Need for Photo Editing in Lightroom?

It’s a simple question with a (not so) simple answer: can Adobe Lightroom on the iPad give you everything you need to edit your photos? 

Before I dive in, trying to answer this question for you, I’ll share what my experience has been like so far. For the first time since COVID-19 hit, I was planning to travel out of the area where I live, and I wanted to be able to back up my photos from my memory card while also being able to cull through them and, if the opportunity arose in my travels, edit some of the photos as well. I considered bringing my 16” Macbook Pro since I didn’t already have an iPad, and I worried that learning an entirely new Lightroom setup would mean that I could not lean on my established and (what I would consider) efficient workflow. At the end of the day, however, I decided against lugging around the heaviest laptop Apple makes in favor of a much lighter and much more portable substitute. Before diving into the specifics, I am very happy with my purchase, and even though I’ve been home for a couple of weeks, I have not once used my laptop to edit photos – opting instead for my 11″ iPad Pro

Can the iPad Pro Alone Be Everything You Need for Photo Editing in Lightroom? 12

Apple iPad Pro and Adobe Lightroom

The answer to the standing question, is quite simply: “it depends.” For every photo I took on my trip, editing on the iPad met every need I had. Sure, there are things that Lightroom on the iPad cannot do that can be done on a laptop or desktop. Those limitations just did not affect any of my photos on this particular occasion. So, let’s start with what the iPad version of Lightroom (i.e., mobile version of Lightroom) can do. To start, let me just say that almost everything you can do with Lightroom Classic can be done with the mobile version of Lightroom. There are a few things that Lightroom Mobile cannot do, though those few things can be quite important for many photographers. 

Can the iPad Pro Alone Be Everything You Need for Photo Editing in Lightroom? 13

Editing Tools in Both

  • White balance (temperature and tint)
  • Light (exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks)
  • Tone curve (overall and red, green, and blue channels)
  • Color (vibrance, saturation)
  • Texture and clarity
  • Hue, saturation, and color
  • Color grading
  • Texture, clarity, dehaze, and vignette
  • Sharpening and noise reduction
  • Healing brush
  • Selective editing (radial filter, linear filters, and selective brush)

Editing Tools Not Available in Lightroom Mobile

  • Luminosity masks
  • HDR photo merging
  • Panoramic photo merging

Can the iPad Pro Alone Be Everything You Need for Photo Editing in Lightroom? 14

Will Lightroom on the iPad Be All You Need?

If you are the kind of photographer who very regularly needs or wants to use luminosity masks, then using only an iPad just will not work for you. The same thing goes if you regularly merge photographs. I suspect that this shortcoming disproportionally affects landscape photographers, where these techniques are quite common. Should these techniques not be a make-it or break-it for you, I would suspect that you would find a lot of enjoyment in editing with the iPad. Before I picked up the iPad, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the editing process as much as I do on the computer because I was worried that the raw files from my Sony a7R II would be too much for the iPad and I would experience some lag in the editing process or that Lightroom mobile would be too different from what I know. I also worried that I would dislike drawing on the photo itself when using the selective brush. 

Long story short, I had nothing to worry about. Lightroom reacts very fast to all edits, perhaps even faster than my MacBook Pro. Being able to engage with the photo more via the touchscreen was great and helped to make me feel more connected to the process. Further, though Lightroom Mobile is a good bit different from Lightroom Classic, it is much more alike than it is different, so it was not at all difficult to switch between the two. Lastly, one thing that made the experience better was the fact that the Lightroom profiles I so regularly use on my computer were also available to use on Lightroom mobile. 

Can the iPad Pro Alone Be Everything You Need for Photo Editing in Lightroom? 15

Other Benefits Not Related to Photography

With all of this talk about Lightroom, one might think that it is the only reason that you may like and appreciate getting an iPad, but that is not true. If you find yourself on planes often enough, being able to download movies and shows for offline viewing can come in clutch. Just about every streaming service (if not all of them) allow you to do this with most or all of their content. When you travel enough, you’re bound to have frustratingly long delays here or there, and being able to have viewing content to stave off the frustration and boredom is quite nice. 

In addition, should you have a subscription to Adobe Photography subscription, you also may have Adobe Fresco, which is a blast. If you’re more talented at drawing and painting than I am, you may be able to make some wonderfully creative work. If you’re more like me and prefer to “draw” on tracing paper rather than from scratch, you can load in a photo and draw over the photo, turning the layers on and off like you would in Photoshop. The result is a great, creative way to spend time that gives you another outlet to appreciate some of your photographs.

Conclusion

I can highly recommend an iPad equipped with Adobe Lightroom for your photo editing needs. That said, it would likely be better to supplement a laptop or desktop as there are a few limitations that may hold you back in select instances – this is particularly true if you are a landscape photographer and regularly merge photographs or utilize luminosity masks. For me, it is much better option for traveling option compared with my 16” Macbook Pro because of the size and weight. In the future, once I try other apps for editing photos, I suspect that I may like it even more. 

What about you? Have you used an iPad for photo editing? How do you think it compares with using a laptop or desktop?

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Intel’s New 12-Gen Alder Lake CPUs Promise 36% Faster Photo Editing

Intel's New 12-Gen Alder Lake CPUs Promise 36% Faster Photo Editing

Intel's New 12-Gen Alder Lake CPUs Promise 36% Faster Photo Editing 16

Intel has announced its first products in the 12th-generation Intel Core lineup, which includes the new Intel Core i9-12900K. It features a new hybrid architecture for leaps in multi-threaded performance, and up to two times faster content creation.

The full list of processors included in the 12-generation of Core CPUs includes 60 processors which Intel says are set to power more than 500 designs from its range of partners. This includes the new XPS Desktop that Dell just revealed earlier this morning.

Intel says that the new performance hybrid architecture, the first built on Intel 7 process, delivers scalable performance from 9 to 125 watts so that they are compatible with every PC segment, from ultra-thin laptops to high-end desktops.

Intel's New 12-Gen Alder Lake CPUs Promise 36% Faster Photo Editing 17

Of those 60 processors, six are unlocked desktop processors that are the first based on Intel’s performance hybrid architecture featuring a combination of Performance-cores (P-cores), the highest performing CPU core Intel has built, and Efficient-cores (E-cores), designed for scalable multi-threaded workload performance.

Intel Thread Director enables the two new core microarchitectures to work seamlessly together by guiding the operating system (OS) to place the right thread on the right core at the right time. Intel has worked with the ecosystem on extensive testing to optimize performance and compatibility, and as part of the company’s reinforced investments in the developer community, has published white papers for developers with guidance on how independent software vendors can optimize applications for performance hybrid platforms.

The result is what Intel is claiming to be the world’s best gaming processor, avaialble with up to 16 cores and 24 threads. Gaming aside, photographers and filmmakers haven’t been forgotten as Intel promises some substantial performance gains in the creative space.

Intel says that its advancements in multi-threaded performance along with the responsive performance of the P-cores, and the ability to move data at incredible speeds with DDR5 means up to 36% faster photo editing performance, up to 32% faster video editing performance, up to 37% faster 3D modeling performance, and up to 100% faster multi-frame rendering. These numbers were measured by PugetBench Lightroom Classic benchmark, Premiere Pro benchmark, Revit 2021-model creation benchmark, and Adobe After Effects Pulse benchmark.

Intel's New 12-Gen Alder Lake CPUs Promise 36% Faster Photo Editing 18

Alongside the 12th Gen Intel Core desktop processors, Intel is launching the new Intel 600 Series Chipset with advanced features for increased reliability and performance. New PCIe Gen 4.0 lanes make for 28 total lanes off the chipset, integrated USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 provides up to double the bandwidth, DMI Gen 4.0 increases the chipset to CPU throughput for fast access to peripheral devices and networking.

The new unlocked 12th-gen Intel Core desktop processors are available for pre-order now and will have broad availabilty starting on November 4. Pricing starts at $264 to $589.


Image credits: All photos courtesy of Intel.

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Best Photo Editing Software – Subscription-free!

Pixlr E Advanced Photo Editing - Free

October 27, 2021

Tired of paying an Adobe subscription? Here are the best subscription-free photo editors.

Image editing is an inevitable part of the photographer’s process, but it needn’t necessarily require an expensive monthly subscription. The Lightroom/Photoshop axis has long been considered the best choice for pros and amateurs, but at £10 a month for the photography plan, it may be an unnecessary outlay, particularly when there are plenty of other excellent options out there that cost a fraction of the price, and some that cost nothing at all.

We’ll round up some of the best photo editing software options, as well as some free options.

But before you make your choice, it’s worth considering what you really need out of your photo editor. If your priority is for raw processing and basic tonal enhancements, then you may not necessarily need an editor with more advanced functions such as layers and selections. In fact, you might be able to get by with the free software bundled with your camera. But if you want to add custom effects, blend exposures, create HDRs and panoramas, then you’ll certainly need a more involved editor. Let’s take a look at some of the best non-subscription options out there.

Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo screenshot

Affinity Photo £47.99

For our money – or in fact for £48 of yours – Affinity Photo is the best Photoshop alternative. It’s based heavily on the Photoshop mould, which is no bad thing considering that Photoshop is still the gold standard in image-editing. Anybody who is familiar with Photoshop will feel at home in moments, so those ex-Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers who are looking for a subscription-free alternative can jump straight in.

Affinity Photo borrows heavily from Photoshop. Features such as Layers, Adjustment Layers, Masks and Filters are all here. What’s more, some features arguably surpass their Photoshop forebears, such as the powerful Brush tool that gives you a preview of your strokes, or the dedicated Frequency Separation tool for retouching portraits, or the HDR tone-mapping tools.

Affinity Photo’s real strength is in more involved photo edits, like compositing, making cutouts, adding effects or exposure blending – the sort of things that a while back could only have been done in Photoshop. There’s impressive depth to the feature set, so for under £50 it offers astonishing value for money.

Skylum Luminar 4

Skylum Luminar

Skylum Luminar 4 £59

As well as being one of the simplest photo editors, Luminar 4 is also one of the most fun. There’s an emphasis on presets and beginner-friendly, one-click ‘looks’ that take seconds to apply. But with customisable panels, tons of tonal tools, selective edits and layer functionality, there’s still a good level of depth for those who want a finer degree of control over their images. The headline feature is the AI sky replacement tool, which lets you automatically drop in a different sky.

However you feel about the morals of such an image-altering edit, it’s an impressive feature that works well. It’s all presented in a slick package with a gentle learning curve. If you want an editor that you can be up-and-running with in no time, but still has plenty of scope for those who want to explore further, then Luminar 4 is an excellent choice.

DxO PhotoLab 5

DxO Photolab 5 Noise Reduction Options

DxO Photolab 5 Noise Reduction Options

DxO PhotoLab 5 (from £99)

DxO’s strength has long been in its raw processing controls. These kick in before you even begin editing, with images automatically corrected for optical imperfections and lens flaws such as chromatic aberration, vignetting and corner sharpness. In doing so, DxO draws on its unparalleled database of lens/camera combinations to give you a beautiful raw photo before you have to lift a finger. The editor offers an impressive array of tonal sliders, sharpening features and local adjustment tools that are similar to those on offer in Lightroom.

One of the most impressive features that DxO has to offer is Deep Prime noise reduction. This automatically analyses your image and applies an astonishingly effective level of noise reduction, cutting out the graininess but retaining the fine detail. If you often shoot in low-light, high-ISO scenarios such as weddings or events then the noise reduction controls are worth the price alone.

Like Lightroom, PhotoLab also gives you an array of image-organising tools within the PhotoLibrary. You can add keywords, apply ratings and search through your image library, making it easier to find the photos you need. It’s also compatible with keywords and can sync with Lightroom. If raw editing is your main priority and you want maximum image quality from both your camera and lenses, then this software is really good value, with outstanding noise-reduction tools. The latest version also adds support for Fujifilm X-Trans raw files, with some impressive results.

Capture One

Capture One Screenshot

Capture One (£299 or monthly plan)

At £299 for a standalone licence this is the priciest option, but it’s also the closest to Lightroom that you’ll get without signing up for the monthly subscription. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it produces wonderful raw files.

You might think that a raw file would look the same no matter which editor it’s viewed in, but there can be marked changes in quality depending on the way the raw data is processed. Capture One gives you a level of detail and quality that often can’t be matched.

The workflow and tethering features are unsurpassed and it also offers advanced tonal tools that let you finesse your photos to a fine degree, with specialised tools for contrast and colour control, and layers-based local adjustments. While the interface has recently been updated to make it more beginner-friendly, Capture One can still seem daunting. The learning curve and cost are steeper than most (for the cost of a licence you could get a Photoshop/Lightroom subscription for two and a half years).

But there’s a reason why many pros prefer Capture One. It’s a slick, high-end package that many consider the best you can buy both for its raw editing and workflow tools.

Photoshop on the web (beta)

Photoshop on the web editor

Photoshop on the web – editing

Photoshop on the Web (beta)

Photoshop on the web has been introduced in Adobe’s October 2021 update, and gives you a number of editing options, replacing Photoshop Express (web). Accessing it isn’t as straightforward as you might expect, as you need to have files in your “Cloud documents” before you can access it, and it currently only supports Edge and Chrome browsers. We’d recommend having a look at the Photoshop on the web FAQ to find out more. As it is currently in beta status, we expect it to improve with future updates.

Pixlr Desktop app – Free

Pixlr E Advanced Photo Editing - Free

Elsewhere there’s the impressive Pixlr app, which comes in two versions, the beginner-friendly Pixlr X and the more advanced Pixlr E. The software is free, and the advanced version has support for layers, and there are a range of good looking effects available.

Fotor – Free

Another good option is Fotor, a beginner-friendly app which offers a useful array of tonal sliders, and even an HDR merge feature. Fotor is a free online photo editing package, so may not be suitable for those looking for more advanced options.

GIMP – Free

Best Photo Editing Software - Subscription-free! 19

Gimp (Free)

With features such as Layers, Masks, retouching tools and advanced brushes, the ‘GNU Image Manipulation Program’ can be used for all kinds of amazing edits and effects, and all for nothing. But Gimp is not just a free Photoshop alternative, it also represents the work of a wide community of generous coders and developers, who’ve honed it over the years from its beginnings as a simplistic image editor into the slick package available today, one that can hold its own against any of the other choices mentioned here.

It’s not the easiest image editor to grasp, but the same could be said of Photoshop and Affinity Photo. What’s more, there’s a vast array of presets, helpful tutorials and plug-ins out there that will help you get up and running. Feature-rich, customisable and completely free, Gimp is unique.

Further reading
New version of Skylum Luminar puts AI first
DxO vs Lightroom – which is best for noise reduction?

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The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 20

Seasoned photographers know that the search for the right laptop comes down to far more than a list of individually impressive specs. The perfect laptop for photo editing will not always be the one with the most bells and whistles, because perfection here is about so much more: usability, ease, intuition — all the things that combine to create not just powerful imagery, but a powerful workflow as well.

With this total experience in mind, we have created a list of the best laptops for photo editing in 2021.

What We’re Looking For:

A photographer has many competing needs when selecting a laptop, so we have attempted to cover the most common areas for this list. We have considered price, functionality, performance, and durability to come to the following selections.


The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 21CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H (11th Gen)

CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H (11th Gen)
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 4GB GDDR6
RAM: 32GB DDR4
Storage: 512GB M.2 PCle NVMe SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 3.5K OLED (3456×2160)
Size: 13.57 x 9.06 x 0.71-inch
Weight: 3.99lb
Price: Starting at $2,008.99

The key to any pick for “Best PC” on a list like this is not that it does a few things flawlessly or that it’s loaded to the brim with features that are frankly excessive for 99% of photographers, but that it does everything “well.” No laptop on this list fits that bill better than Dell’s XPS 15 (9510): it just flat-out works.

No matter your need, skill, or financial situation, there is a configuration of the XPS 15 that is going to make you happy, and, most importantly, get the job done. The massive configuration and options that are available are a big part of what makes this our top pick. Every spec is user-selectable without changing the entire system. For example, if you don’t care about the 3.5K OLED screen, you can downgrade to the 15.6-inch FHD+ InfinityEdge and knock about $200 off, for example. That said, we think that an extra $200 is more than worth the extra expense given how much of an improvement you get.

We have picked what we view as the optimal combination for processing power, storage, screen quality, and price and it will run you around $2,000. Its 15.6-inch 3.5K (3456×2160) Anti-Glare Screen is incredibly impressive, with 400-nits brightness and razor-thin Infinity Edge bezels on all four sides. In terms of processing power, you will get the 11th Generation Intel Core i7, a whopping 32GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD, which is plenty suitable for most — particularly since many photographers work off external storage.

Design across all configurations is sleek and comfortable, with the already-pleasant keycaps and touchpad getting a size increase over prior models. In keeping with the “Do everything pretty well” vibe of an all-arounder, port selection is mostly fine, offering three USB-C ports for charging and connecting to peripherals. Two of these are Thunderbolt 4, which is extremely welcome and something that not many PCs boast. There’s also a full-sized SD card reader.

For those who want more spring in their step, you can increase your investment by moving to the Core i9 CPU, double your RAM to 64GB, and enhance your storage capacity all the way up to 8TB, and even boost your graphics to NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. You also have the option to upgrade to the UHD+ 3740×2400 500-nit brightness screen. All of these upgrades are overkill for almost all photographers, but those whose work entails a hybrid of both photo and video may find the increased CPU, RAM, storage, and graphics power to be well worth the extra cash.

Conversely, the base level model is available starting at $1,273.99 — if you’re willing to drop to a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, integrated Intel UHD graphics, and a basic FHD+ (1920×1200) display. But, as mentioned, you can adjust many of these specs to suit your needs (and budget). And perhaps best of all, both the RAM and SSD are user-upgradeable (nothing soldered here), making the jump from the base model to 16GB or even 32GB of RAM fairly easy and affordable after purchase. The integrated graphics of the base model are a demerit, but casual photographers will have no complaints as most photo editing applications rely largely on CPU processing.

No matter which configuration you choose for the XPS 15, you are going to find yourself steadily working without fuss, without issue, and with a good bit of enjoyment. The only downside to this machine is that it is so popular you might have a little more trouble locating one in stock. If all else fails, they are always available directly from Dell, and the website offers a price-match guarantee.

If you’re not a fan of Dell, a solid alternative option would be the Razer Blade 14 QHD thanks to its excellent build quality, AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU, NVIDIA RTX 3070 GPU, large 1TB SSD, and impressive port selection. In our review, we noted it was made for gamers, but is great for creators. The Razer Blade 14 was made for gamers, but photographers have no choice but to love it, too. Razer makes higher-end options (noted further down), but the Blade 14 gives photographers pretty much all they need, and then some.


The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 22

CPU: M1 8-Core (4 high-performance and 4 high-efficiency cores)
GPU: M1 8-Core Integrated
RAM: 8GB Embedded DRAM
Storage: 256GB Integrated PCle SSD
Display: 13.3-inch, Retina Display (2560 x 1600)
Size: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61-inch
Weight: 3 pounds
Price: Starting at $1,199

The 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch was, and remains, one of the most impressive laptops in the industry. So why focus on the MacBook Pro with M1? Predictably, it all goes back to that M1 chip, which we described as “a revolution” in our review of the M1 MacBook Pro. It may seem like an exaggeration if you have not used this device, but the M1 makes for a legitimately transformational experience. This thing moves at the speed of your whims.

It is possible to bog the M1 down, but you have to sweat to do it by opening an insane number of windows and programs before the hint of a stutter appears. When it comes to Photoshop, this machine flat-out smokes much of the competition, especially those in the same price tier. Factor in the battery life and the M1 starts to feel unbeatable.

From a design perspective, it is exactly what you would expect from a MacBook, complete with all the benefits and drawbacks one expects. The 13-inch screen, while boasting that beautiful Retina display (with 100% DCI-P3 coverage), still suffers from the annoyingly thick bezels. That said, it is far brighter than you expect, surpassing numerous competitors (even popular members of the MacBook line), and delivers quality color information. The Magic Keyboard may not be suited to everyone, but those who love it will really, really love it. Overall weight is still an issue, but manageable.

The maximum 16GB of RAM is one sacrifice here, though it should be noted that the M1’s RAM goes much further than those with Intel or AMD-based processors — the 16GB model will serve those who edit very high-resolution photos and/or video, while the 8GB model is a great option for the everyday photographer on a budget. The other niggle is its mere two Thunderbolt 4 ports, but this is easily expanded with excellent products like the OWC Thunderbolt 4 Hub or Thunderbolt 4 Dock.

It is also important to mention here that the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros that Apple just announced, which feature your option of the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, appear to be a thunderous step forward not only in the MacBook line itself but computing in general. This could inform your decision to hold off a purchase in two ways — either preorder one of the newer, more powerful models or wait for the price to drop on the 13.3-inch M1 version. We are confident saying you will not be disappointed either way.

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 23

The most affordable model — the MacBook Pro 14″ with M1 Pro chip — starts at $1,999. You gain a minimum of 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD (versus 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD for the M1), the 10-bit True Tone 100% DCI-P3 Liquid Retina XDR with HDR mode and ProMotion (up to 120hz), and a sustained 1,000 nit brightness (1,600 nit peak), three Thunderbolt 4 ports (versus two), the return of Magsafe power, an SDXC card slot and HDMI port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Oh, and of course you get the new M1 Pro chip, with an 8-core CPU (six performance, two high-efficiency cores), 14-core GPU, and a 16-core Neural Engine. So, yeah, I’d say it’s worth the extra $800.

One note: supply is currently an issue across the entire tech landscape, so getting your hands on the newest Macbook Pros might be difficult.

If you need a computer immediately, the best alternative is the slightly more affordable MacBook Air 13.3-inch M1 that comes in at $949. It loses very little when compared to its bigger brother: seven GPU cores versus eight, the screen brightness drops from 500 nits to 400, and you lose the touch bar (which may actually be a positive for many).


The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 24

CPU: GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 8GB DDR4
Storage: 512GB PCle SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, Full HD (1920 x 1080)
Size: 14.2 x 9.2 x 0.63-inch
Weight: 3.97lb
Price: Starting at $729.99

The Vivobook S15 S533 is not the most powerful computer on this list. It does not have the most beautiful display. It does not have the graphics or CPU power of the top of the line. What it does have, however, is a price that will make you feel like you have gotten away with something. For just over $700, this is the most complete laptop a photographer counting their pennies will find.

Make no mistake, despite its budget-level price you will feel no shame pulling your Vivobook S15 out to get to work in any location. The look and feel are strictly professional, thanks in no small part to the large 15.6-inch full HD (1080p) display. The build is slim too, which means it will easily into your bag. The weight is solid, but not overbearing. The processing power here won’t blow your hair back, but the Intel Core i5 is no slouch, and for an extra $270, you can upgrade to the VivoBook S15 S532EQ a Core i7-1165G7, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, and a dedicated NVIDIA MX350 graphics card.

For the average user, the 512GB SSD is adequate. Anyone beyond that level will already be investing in additional external storage, so the base model Vivobook S15 poses no significant downside for average, budget-conscious users. Again, did we mention the price? The VivoBook S15 punches above well above its price class and is a pleasant surprise and the best option for those on a budget. Oh, and it comes in your choice of black, gray, red, green, and white.

As an alternative, the Lenovo 15.6-inch IdeaPad 5 is a solid option. This machine exists at the perfect sweet spot between processing, affordability, and reliability. With an 11th Gen Intel Core processor and a generous 16GB of DDR4 RAM booting and running your photo editing software will be no problem. The screen is fine at full HD, but the IdeaPad also provides you with an unexpected amount of storage (512GB) for the price. It is definitely worth considering.


Best Detachable 2-In-1 Laptop for Photographers: Microsoft Surface Pro 8

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 25

CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7 Quad-Core
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 8GB LPDDR4x
Storage: 128GB SSD
Display: 13-inch, PixelSense Flow 10-Point Touchscreen (2880 x 1920)
Size: 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37-inch
Weight: 1.96lb
Price: Starting at $1,099.99

Every company makes them at this point, but Microsoft remains king of the hill when it comes to tablet-style “2-in-1” PC. The company’s Surface line remains a juggernaut in an ever-expanding market, and the Surface Pro 8 is the latest example of that dominance. Combining the performance increases of the 7 with the modern design of the X, then improving on both, the Surface Pro 8 is the best the line has ever offered.

One look at the screen and the leap forward becomes clear — literally. Gone are the chunkier bezels of the past, making room for a larger 13-inch PixelSense display. Size isn’t the only upgrade; resolution has been boosted to a welcome 2880 x 1920. If you are in the market for a detachable 2-in-1, you are already aware your screen will not compete directly with a dedicated laptop, but this sharper display goes a long way toward making you forget. Add in the surprising new 120Hz refresh rate and PixelSense’s stellar track record with color and brightness, and you have one gorgeous display. Your eyes are not alone in their excitement, though. Your fingers get their due as well. That increased refresh rate means every touch practically glides across the display at the speed of thought. There is no usage for the touchscreen not improved by this upgrade, and you will notice.

What you may not notice, however, is that the weight and thickness of the Surface Pro 8 have expanded with the revamp — and this is a good thing. The Surface Pro has always been compact and light, an obvious positive in the 2-in-1 space. This provided Microsoft the space to bulk up for the right reasons without becoming cumbersome. So what does the extra size mean for you? Increased thermal space, and thus increased performance. Using the Puget Systems’ PugetBench for the Photoshop test, Surface Pro 8 shows itself to be near the top of the pack amongst peers for the tasks most crucial for a photographer.

The trouble, of course, is that to really feel the upgrade the Surface Pro 8 represents, one needs to commit to the $1599 model featuring the 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7. At this point, cost-benefit has to come into play, especially considering Microsoft refuses to include a keyboard out of the box. The good news is, both the keyboard cover and Slim Pen are wonderful to use. The bad news is, you are looking at nearly $300 more for the pleasure (or the necessity, as it were). Of course, if you are in the market for a Surface, you have likely made peace with these realities already, and the heading here is “Best Detachable 2-in-1”, not “Best Budget 2-in-1.” The Surface Pro 8 is a truly beautiful device, and the best on offer from the leader in the field.

It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the best option outside of the newest Surface Pro is… Microsoft’s next-to-newest” the Microsoft Surface Pro 7. With the introduction of the 8, the Pro 7 is due for a discount.


Best Overall Workstation-Class Laptop for Photographers: HP ZBook Studio G8

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 26

CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H 8-Core
GPU: NVIDIA Quadro T1200 4GB GDDR6 VRAM
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Storage: 512 GB PCle M.2 SSD
Display: 15.6-inch Anti-Glare IPS (1920 x 1080)
Size: 13.94 x 9.24 x 0.7-inch
Weight: 3.95lb
Price: Starting at $2,349

As we noted in our recent review, the ZBook line has always vied for attention in the mobile workstation segment but has continually gone under the radar. With the ZBook Studio G8, we think that should change. In some ways, it should come as no surprise that a line seemingly arguing with itself over whether it wants to pump out business laptops or gaming rigs would eventually split the difference and stumble on a machine ideal for photo editing.

The price may raise eyebrows, but the ZBook Studio G8 positions itself in direct competition with premium machines available from the likes of Razer. Once expectations adjust, you will find the Studio G8 a more than worthy option in that space. The G8 is an all-in-one machine meant to facilitate any work, play, or viewing experience you throw at it.

The construction alone confirms the dual focus on luxury and strength. The magnesium and aluminum alloy build is as rugged as it is refined. The design is sharp, sleek, but its durability is never in question. We touch on how extensive the testing is on these machines in our review but suffice to say: you can be confident the G8 can handle whatever you throw at it. Literally.

The keyboard action is pleasing and precise, and the glass-topped trackpad, while smaller than you may expect, is quite responsive and provides a very satisfying, tactile click. The 15.6-inch 4K OLED touchscreen is brilliant and one of the most satisfying screens on this list. Playing back into that marriage of polish and durability, it is also covered in Gorilla Glass 6.

Under the hood, there is quite a lot to cheer for. The marriage of the 8-core Intel Core i9-11950H, 16GB of RAM, and the Nvidia Quadro T1200 4GB GDDR6 graphics card makes this a fantastic fit for any photographer. The 512GB M.2 SSD is plenty for those who work off external SSDs or hard drives as well.

But the ZBook Studio G8 can take the leap from being a very good photo editing machine to an absolute monster for photo, video, and graphics editing — or pretty much anything else you can throw at it. Maxed out with an Intel Core i9-11950H processor, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB M.2 SSD, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080, and a 120hz 3840 x 2160 DreamColor IPS Display, it can handle just about anything you throw at it — all while remaining as sleek and user-friendly as any mid-sized laptop should be. It will cost you an eye-watering $5,198.95, however.

The one deficit — and it seems a rather noticeable one given the goals of the device — is the dearth of available ports. The two Thunderbolt 4 USB4 Type-C are certainly welcome, but they are accompanied only by a single USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, one 3.5 mm headphone/mic combo audio jack, one HDMI 2.1, and one Mini DisplayPort. It is a survivable amount, but for the price HP is asking, we would hope and expect a bit more. Predictably, for a desk-rider like this, battery life is only middling — Five hours is simply frustrating at this level.

Still, this is one of the more beautiful, more powerful laptops on the market, and, despite its price, will likely be under-considered by those who could most appreciate it. Reliability and performance are the keys to high volume, consistent work against a deadline. On this front, the Studio G8 is a marvel. In the end, it may be most exciting for what it portends. If this is a signal to the direction the ZBook line is moving, the future is incredibly exciting.

Alternatively, we think the Razer Blade 15 Advanced is a solid pick. While not necessarily a “workstation” like the Studio G8 is, we reviewed the Razer Blade 15 Advanced and found it to be an excellent, powerful option. Slimmer and sleeker than you would expect for the power it contains, it is one of the most usable, enjoyable laptops on the market. Its half-inch thick frame holds an 11th-Gen Intel Core i7 with 32 GB of RAM and an NVIDIA RTX 3080 graphics card that will rip through whatever creative multitasking you throw its way.


Best Value Workstation-Class Laptop for Photographers: Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XD

The Best Laptops for Photographers and Photo Editing in 2021 27

CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 8GB GDDR6
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 17.3-inch 4K UHD HDR OLED (3840 x 2160)
Size: 15.6 x 10.6 x 0.85-inch
Weight: 5.5lb
Price: Starting at $2,149

The Gigabyte Aero 17 successfully goes beyond “best laptop” into “best workstation” territory in a way few rivals can claim. The raw power of the Aero 17 is impressive, even more so once one considers its very reasonable price.

The first thing that catches my attention about the Aero is its GPU. One of the first laptops released in 2021, it boasts the latest in NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs. Whether you opt for the 8GB GDD6 3070 or 16GB GDDR6 3080, the graphics processing force of this machine places it ahead of the pack. These may not be the desktop versions of these much-hyped (and impossible to find for anywhere near a reasonable price) cards, but they will still knock your socks off.

Whether it’s Adobe Premiere or Da Vinci Resolve or something else, the Aero is built to easily handle 8K footage, ray tracing, virtual reality, 3D modeling and animation, and visual effects work. NVIDIA DLSS utilizes the Tensor Cores for a boost in AI rendering, while the AI-powered Dynamic Boost 2.0 manages power on a per-frame basis, allowing the computer’s AI to constantly optimize the CPU, GPU, and GPU memory for the maximum performance boost. These features are entirely overkill for those who solely engage in photo work, but I imagine 3D artists and video editors read these specs and immediately break into a sweat, nodding and cheering. This makes it the ultimate choice for those of us who edit photos as well as video, or any other graphics-intensive work.

The build quality here is exceptional. While certainly not a slim device, it is far less bulky than one would anticipate given its robust performance. The Gigabyte Fusion RGB Per-Key Backlit Keyboard may aggravate some who value cleaner and sleeker aesthetics, but this is part and parcel with a rig that screams “game on.” Unlike some other laptops on the list, you are practically spoiled with ports on the Aero 17, which features three USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, one Thunderbolt 4, an HDMI 2.1 port (which supports 4K up to 120Hz), a Mini DisplayPort 1.4, a UHS-II SD Card Reader, as well as headphone out and mic in ports. As far as sound, the Aero sports DTS: X Ultra speakers which enable virtual 7.1 surround sound, and Two-Way AI Noise Cancelation for class-leading incoming and outgoing audio.

If there is a disappointment to be found with the Aero, it comes in battery life. This tracks, given how much processing power is packed into this thing, but for those on the go, planning out a charging strategy will be a must. It also tends to run somewhat hot and a little noisier than some may prefer; just tell yourself these are the prices you pay for power. To its benefit, however, the Aero sports Microsoft Azure AI, which Gigabyte touts as “the world’s first AI laptop.” As you use the laptop and various applications, the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning platform gathers data and then optimizes the CPU and GPU usage for both processing speed and to limit wattage consumption, thus enhancing battery life.

All this, and we failed to touch on the 17.3-inch 4K UHD OLED Anti-glare screen with 100% Adobe RGB coverage all surrounded by “the world’s first” ultra-thin 3mm three-sided bezel. Oh, and every individual unit is factory X-Rite calibrated with a Pantone Validated certification. Want accurate colors right out of the box? Yes, I think I do, thank you.

Upgrade to the Aero 17 HDR YD and you bump the specs up to a Core i9-11980HK, 32GB RAM, a GeForce RTX 3080 GPU with 16GB GDDR6, and a 512GB PCIe Gen4 SSD as well as a second 1TB Gen3 hard drive for additional storage.

If you want a suggestion beyond Gigabyte, the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 1 is a solid alternative. It is blazing fast, has a phenomenal screen, and sports a generous port selection which makes the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 one of the best mobile workstations for creatives out there. With Gen 2 just around the corner, Gen 1 is already seeing massive discounts online. Not just a great value selection, this one is a steal.

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DxO PureRAW 1.5 Update Adds More Control & Editing Options

DxO PureRAW 1.5 Update Adds More Control & Editing Options

DxO PureRAW 1.5 offers new options for controlling sharpness, distortion, and export configuration. Eight cameras and 18 lenses have been added to the database, too.

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DxO PureRAW 1.5 Update Adds More Control & Editing Options

 

DxO PureRAW has had an update so version 1.5 can correct two lens defects, namely lack of sharpness and distortion. With this improvement, users can process photos taken with fish-eye lenses or even scenes that require moderate sharpness.

“Following the successful launch of DxO PureRAW, customers sometimes wanted to be able to ‘disengage’ some of the automatic edits,” explains Jean-Marc Alexia, VP Marketing and Strategy. “With this new version, we are offering them this flexibility.”

DxO PureRAW 1.5 makes it easier to select export directories by automatically saving recent and favourite destinations. In addition, the preview window now includes a list of magnification factors so users can better judge the quality of their images. Finally, the software informs users of the volume of data generated and the processing time required depending on the number of images selected.

On top of this, support for eight additional cameras and 18 lenses has been added which includes the Pentax K-3 III, Panasonic GH5 II and the Nikon Z Fc. 

DxO PureRAW 1.5 for Windows and macOS is now available for download on the DxO website for £115 (a free, 30-day trial version is also available). This update is free for owners of DxO PureRAW 1.0, 1.1, and 1.2.


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