I’ve finally found a solution to a problem many people never knew they had. Traveling fashion and commercial photographers, like myself, have been taking both a laptop and an iPad on every shoot. We take a laptop to retouch with and an iPad to tether a CamRanger to or to simply show off our portfolios. I killed two birds with one stone using the Surface Pro 3..
The Surface Pro 3 is a fully functional computer and/or tablet. This device is an absolute powerhouse and I don’t generally say this freely. I am a computer geek at heart, using a custom built PC running dual graphics cards and a quad monitor setup in my office.
In the past, I found it difficult to leave my laptop at home when I went on shoots. I used it to tether my camera and to retouch images on flights and trains. Eventually, when the CamRanger came around, the idea of having my clients hold an iPad to wirelessly see every image I take was very fascinating. Between that and being able to show my digital portfolio to people I meet in public, I found myself adding an iPad to my arsenal. My backpack was heavy enough as it is. Lugging around 2 device, my Intuos tablet and all my camera gear was really getting to me. I was, simply put, annoyed. The new Surface Pro 3 Series changed that for me.
After a lot of consideration, I jumped on Microsofts most powerful model and I couldn’t be happier. I used it with a CamRanger on my last shoot and retouched about half a dozen images on it. Here’s my take on the device as both a photographer and retoucher.
When it comes to technical specs, I personally feel like I need ultimate power when it comes to my computers. I went with the i7 Intel core processor, 8GB RAM and a 256 GB harddrive. The device also has a Micro SD slot in case additional space is needed. This is appealing becasue it means that I can throw in my GoPro Micro SD card and download the footage quickly. All versions come with a 12″ 2160×1440 display (that’s higher resolution than the monitors I have at home. Unlike my Macbook Pro Retina, this screen is NOT overly bright and full of contrast. Straight out of the box, I am getting more accurate final results than I get when I retouch images on my Macbook. It has one USB 3.0 port, Bluetooth 4.0 and of course, the lates WiFi A/C. I really like that the Surface has a builtin Display port mini, which I can add a second monitor to and perhaps connect a projector to it for my future workshops. In addition, it has a 5MP camera in front and back, along with a mic and a surprisingly good speaker. The battery can last for up to 9 hours, but with my heavy retouching, I was only able to get 2 1/2. I still think that’s a pretty decent battery life. The integrated Intel HD Graphics 5000 card was pretty sweet – I found all the flick and zooming motions of Photoshop to work flawlessly. And lastly, since the device is made by Microsoft, it goes without saying that the machine runs on a Windows 8.1 system. And I’m a huge fan of all things Windows.
A few questions to consider:
Can this replace a laptop? Absolutely. I didn’t experience and lag whatsoever while retouching RAW files from a D800. Given the size of the files, that was a nice surprise. One thing to consider is that the screen is obviously smaller than a laptops, but that is the beauty of having such a portable device.
Can it replace my iPad or tablet? It sure can! The Surface weighs 1.76 lbs as opposed to the weight of an iPad which generally weighs 1.8 lbs. Further, because of its fully functioning Windows 8.1 OS the Surface Pro is far more useful than any tablet or iPad on the market.
The only negative things I have to say about the device is that it lacks a USB ports and it heats up easily under heavy use. The lack of USB ports is easily fixed with a splitter, but it can get annoying to remember to bring along extra accessories. However, given the portability of the device, these things did not come as a shock.
When I handed the Surface Pro 3 to my client, I used the Otterbox Latch II, Otterbox Latch II, which I was previously using on my iPad. The slightly larger screen was definitely welcome and they loved that the were able to see and rate the images instantly.
When it came to retouching, there were endless options. I tried using the optional key board for all my shortcuts and without it by customizing all my tablet button shortcuts. I even retouched an image without using a Wacom tablet all together and used the pen the Surface Pro came with. I have yet to map the shortcut buttons on the pen it came with, but I can tell you that pen is exceptionally precise. As soon as I brought my hand near the screen holding the pen, the touch deactivates disabling you from mistakenly hitting things with your hand and fingers.
The Surface Pro 3 comes with 5 different options with technical specs allowing you to choose your own processor type and hard drives The prices range from $799-$1949. This makes it easy for people looking to invest within their price range.
It goes without say that the Surface Pro 3 shouldn’t be the first choice for photographers or retouchers looking to invest in a computer. It is important to remember that the device wasn’t made for that. It is the perfect hybrid of a computer and tablet for anyone on the go. I know I will love using the Surface Pro 3 on all my shoots and travels.