My Surface Pro 3 and Me
I care about photography. Its pervasive in my life. The decisions I make concerning travel, vehicles, computers, phones etc are all influenced by my love for photography and the desire to continue to work towards becoming a professional photographer.
I drive a 4 door Toyota Tacoma 4wd so I can get where I need to get, and sleep inside when I get there. I bought a 27” iMac with 16gigs of ram in 2011 because it had the horsepower to edit large files built into a fantastic monitor. I use Nokia Lumia Windows Phones because they take imaging very seriously and I fell in love with the Lumia 1020’s 41MP sensor. Recently, I picked up a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 as my traveling photography computer and man is it impressive.
Let’s start by talking about what this thing is not. It’s not the cheapest or the best laptop. It’s not the cheapest or the best tablet. It won’t fit into your pocket, and it won’t replace your desktop computer. At 12.5” the screen would need to be bigger to serious day to day photo editing. With 8 gigs of ram, it’s going to take a little longer to stitch those panos. It’s also just a hair too big for those who are used to an iPad, especially those who love the iPad Mini. Put this thing directly up against your dream tablet, your dream laptop, or your dream desktop and it’s going to come in second.
So why bother? Here’s why: it’s everything you need. This thing is a great tablet. World class apps, super lightweight (not featherweight, lightweight), a beautiful 2160x1440 resolution screen, a built in kickstand, great battery life, and gorgeous styling. I use 3 iPads and 2 iPad minis at work for leadership and they seem like beautiful toys compared to the Surface. They seem…quaint. The Surface is a beast of a tablet. For anyone thinking there’s an app gap between Windows 8.1/10 and iOS, there’s a nice little bridge built into the surface. Full Windows OS. This thing is like a Prius that transforms into WRX STI. It can run any program that runs on a PC. In fact, with Bluestacks, it can also run any Android app. So you miss out on iOS apps, but you gain just about everything else. Including Steam and the ability to plug in an Xbox controller to play games, but I digress.
I use the Surface Daily. I take it to work so I can still be productive whenever I’m not in my classroom. I run Office 365 which syncs all my documents to the cloud, so I have everything I need wherever I’m at. A nice little perk of that is the unlimited OneDrive storage that comes free Office meaning I don’t have to pay for something like Carbonite to back up my many terabytes of images off site. I use it on the sofa in the evenings as a second screen while watching the Daily Show or the Tonight Show, or when my little guy takes over the tv with Care Bears. I use it to watch Hulu while I cook in the kitchen. I could go on, but this is supposed to be about photography right…
I traveled recently to Oregon for a quick 3 day trip that included some nice photo opportunities. Here’s how I used the Surface on that trip. Before I left, I downloaded Edge of Tomorrow to watch on the plane as I flew up to Portland. I used Lightroom once I got to the hotel to continue editing a wedding I had recently shot so that my client wouldn’t have to wait to see his wedding shots while I was on my mini vacation. Each subset of edits were pushed to a shared folder on my Onedrive automatically for the client to view. 1846 shots in all. On the first full day in Oregon I headed out to the Boardman Poplar Tree Farm in Central Oregon. The Surface rode along in my photo bag. Before I hit the highway back to Portland, my shots were transferring to the Surface. A quick stop for a beer with a photo buddy and then on to the hotel. I brought my stuff in, plugged in my camera batteries, and set to editing some shots.
The following morning I took some former student leaders sightseeing around Portland. We hit up Voodoo Donuts for breakfast, wandered around the Saturday market leisurely, and then headed up the hill to the Japanese Garden. I took shots of the kiddos and shots of some trees. Some with my Canons and some with my Lumia phone. Then it was off to watch some college sports for the remainder of the day. Back at the hotel, I set to editing once more. Because I use one drive, my phone shots for the day were already waiting on my Surface when I fired it up and I was able to post a mix of shots from the day on various social media sites and a couple real edits on Flickr, 500px etc.
The next day was back to the airport and the flight back home. I continued to work on my client portfolio while keeping my fantasy football app snapped to the side of the screen. I got home and synced my Oregon shots with my iMac for redundancy and to edit a few more shots. Lastly, I started writing this blog, …on my Surface.
I could have done all of these things on a laptop sure, and some of them on a tablet, but nothing does everything so well as this Surface all in one streamlined solution.
A couple notes on editing with the Surface and what really sets it apart for me. Microsoft has entered into a great relationship with Adobe and there are some great features, mostly touch friendly that Adobe has added exclusively for the Surface Pro 3. Being able to rotate an image or zoom in and out with touch becomes second nature for example. So much so that I quite frequently reach out to do it on my iMac and am disappointed when nothing happens. The Surface also comes with a GREAT stylus pen that works amazingly well in Photoshop. I don’t miss any part of my Bamboo editing tablet when I edit on this thing. Being able to “paint” right onto the image with edits feels very natural and the kickstand allows the Surface to rest in an almost perfect ever so slightly elevated position. Having use of a wireless mouse, a full keyboard, a trackpad, a touch interface and a stylus means that I can interact with my editing in any of several ways that feel natural and can adapt my process accordingly. In many ways editing on the Surface is more natural than editing on my iMac. Lastly, the screen is brilliant, and much like my iMac, what I see on my screen when I’m finished editing is what I see in a print. It’s far better than most monitors out there.
The one think holding me back from making this my permanent editing machine is screen size. 12.5” is just too small to work day in and day out, but I’ll tell you this, if they made a 30” version of this thing I would through my iMac straight in the trash. No joke.
For now, there is nothing that I have seen or heard about that could possibly be a better traveling companion for a photographer. It’s the business, plain and simple.
Thanks for the read and sound off in the comments if you have any questions.