Macs - why I prefer them

Just as ‘seeing’ a picture is what really counts, not the equipment you choose to in order to accomplish its capture, so the use of computers and Photoshop, for example, depends on your skills with the software, not so much with the hardware.

However, if you are serious about reducing your workload and increasing your efficiency, the choice and specification of a computer and its associated software will have a vital bearing on your results.

Once I used to be a dedicated Windows user. Despite knowing next to nothing about Apple Macintosh computers, as they were then called, I was outspoken in my condemnation of them. Too expensive, too exclusive, too complicated and with not enough software or hardware available; these were just a few of the moans that I heard on the Windows-led grapevine. Eventually, when I had a chance to work on a Mac, I realised just how wrong I was.

At the heart of digital imaging are large numbers of big files. As cameras and scanners improve, so the bigger the files become. Then you have to buy larger hard drives to store the files and everything else has to be upgraded as well; more RAM, faster processors, bigger monitors, new graphics cards and upgraded software are just a few areas where getting it wrong with your basic computer setup can be very costly later.

After years of struggling to keep up with the demands, I carefully researched the alternatives. There had to be a very good reason why professionals used Macs. Eventually, in 1999 I undertook a job for the British Army that enabled me to purchase two complete Blue & White PowerMac G3 systems, coincidentally just at the time when Apple were replacing their boring beige boxes with a revolutionary new range of computers, starting with the iconic iMac.

It only took a couple of weeks to discover what a fool I had been, putting up with Windows for so long. The Macs were so user friendly, as well as so elegant, that I found that my productivity increased by 200%. Crashes on the Macs were relatively unusual in those days; now they are such a rarity that I am hard pressed to remember one.

Bangs for bucks, Macs are really no more expensive that Windows PCs and last much longer, spreading the cost further - what is referred to as the TCO - Total Cost of Ownership. Today, my very first PowerMac G3 now with 1Gb of RAM, bought new in February 1999, is still in everyday use alongside the latest offerings from Apple. As a host for ancient, but specialist software, it still runs perfectly using OS X 10.4 Tiger, whilst the latest Macs run macOS Sonoma, have upwards of 64Gb of RAM and blazingly fast processors that deal easily with the power hungry imaging tasks.

There is still a place for older Macs as they run legacy software or hook up to specialist items of kit that can no longer be replaced. I have a PowerMac G5/1.6 running OS X 10.5.8 Leopard that is the last OS that Nikon Scan 4 is able to run on, linked to my large format Nikon Coolscan LS8000. I bought the latest version of SilverFast scanning software which is brilliant (and expensive), but I find that it's too slow and fiddly, so I've reverted to Nikon Scan.

Similarly I have a 20 year-old PowerBook G4/867 12 inch running Mac OS X and Mac OS9 that I use solely to be able to convert old PageMaker and early InDesign files, as well as being able to marvel at the clunkiness that I happily accepted as 'state-of-the-art' in 2003. I doubt that there are many Windows users who get such longevity and good value from their machines.

All my studio work is now produced on a brilliant, albeit slightly aging, 2020 27" iMac with a 4Gb graphics card, 64Gb of RAM and a 5K Retina screen that allows me to appreciate the subtle nuances of shots that I was never able to see on the lower resolution screens of only a few years ago, allied with the grunt to get all the tedious outputting and conversion jobs done without a second thought. For location work I have a space grey MacBook Pro 15 inch with a 4Gb graphics card and 16Gb of RAM that makes light work of everything I throw at it. I have heard that a new iMac with a 30 inch screen is rumoured to be in the pipeline for 2024, so I may hangfire on the purchase of a Mac Mini M2 for a while.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming a Mac evangelist when you find that others cannot see why they ought to make the change. However it’s a free world and there is one compelling reason why people who would like to change don’t - the initial expenditure. A basic iMac, MacPro or MacBook Pro is still an expensive item to fund. Despite the fact that the Mac will still be working perfectly in three or more years time, long after most PCs have given up the ghost or their owners have lost patience and are on their second or even third cheap PC, the low initial outlay for a PC is undoubtedly what attracts users. And who can blame them? However, if you approach the change sensibly, as many clients and friends have done, and spread the cost over a few years you'll wonder why you didn't make the change much earlier. The hardware used in both PCs and Macs is very similar today; the way the Macs are assembled and the bomb-proof operating system is what makes them so much better.