Tech Post – Macbook Upgrade

chris crisman photographer tech post laptop upgrade

When it comes to upgrading a core piece of technology for the studio, we have two essential criteria we need to think about. First, we shoot a helluva lot of photos. Second, we’re on the road most of the year. With these key factors in mind, we need a laptop that can handle whatever we throw at it. Our macbooks need to be both processing powerhouses and jam packed with as much storage as we can fit.

Monday we might be shooting tethered in studio in NYC and Tuesday we’ll be out in the deserts of New Mexico – we never really know what shoot scenarios to expect so we have to plan for anything. Our newest piece of technology looks like a standard Macbook Pro on the outside, but under the hood is where things get a bit different. Keep reading for the breakdown of our new, ridiculously fast laptop…

chris crisman photographer tech post laptop upgrade

Alright, let’s start with the basic numbers, the cold hard facts – here are the specs of this monster laptop once we’re finished with all of the modifications:

– 2.7GHz Quad-core i7
– 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 Expercom SDRAM
– 960GB Solid State Expercom Drive
– 1.0TB additional Hard Drive
– MacBook Pro 15-inch Hi-Res Antiglare Widescreen Display

Based on the criteria listed above, we need a super-fast processor paired with as much RAM as we can realistically cram inside the laptop. In addition to that we need to max out the storage in every possible way and we can’t forget the fact that we need a matte screen. The newest generation Macbooks may have retina displays and all that fanciness, but you try to use a glossy screen in the middle of the desert and let us know what you think.

Now, I should explain that our laptop didn’t arrive stock with all of these crazy specs. It came into the studio with a ton of RAM and a fast processor, but we worked a little bit of magic to maximize the hard drive space.

chris crisman photographer tech post laptop upgrade

How did we do it? Well, we can never quite leave things alone when we get new pieces of equipment – hence the Frankenstein modifications. The process isn’t exactly rocket science, but you have to be careful to remember which wires get removed where to plug them all back in again.

It also helps when you have guys like Jared or I in the studio who jump at any opportunity to void a warranty. The first step after we take the aluminum underside off is to (very) carefully remove the optical drive and set it aside in the event we’ll ever need to take the Macbook in for service.

chris crisman photographer tech post laptop upgrade

After we remove the optical drive, the space is filled with a 1 terabyte storage drive mounted in an OWC Data Doubler bracket. The bracket acts as SATA bridge between the additional drive and the existing SATA ports intended for the Superdrive we previously removed.

A few screws later and the bottom aluminum panel is replaced and the dual-drive monster is ready to go. A quick format through disk utility and we have a screaming fast 1TB SSD operating system drive paired with an additional 1TB of storage.

How does this all factor into our workflow? It’s simple. When we’re on the road, we shoot tethered and download or CF cards to the 1tb storage drive. We also keep an identical external backup just in case something unfortunate were to happen.

chris crisman photographer tech post laptop upgrade

There you have it – the real deal of facts about what makes our newest laptop screaming fast. Whether it’s a nonstop day of tethered shooting, a massive run batch processing, or even some on-set retouching, there’s nothing this new Macbook can’t handle.

Any questions? Did we miss any details? Make sure to let us know in the comments or @crismanphoto. Oh and please do us a favor and just don’t tell Apple about our little modifications…

6 replies to “Tech Post – Macbook Upgrade”

  1. Amazing, loved the “opportunity to void a warranty”. I’m planning to do the same with a 15″ non-retina (it looks most photographers don’t enjoy these ones because of welded stuff), but with lower ssd capacity, 1 tb is too much and a heeell expensive lol
    Do you guys use the 2ndary HD for storage only or also as scratch disk?
    And… I’d request a post, if you and Chris think it’s ok, about what is the studio backup workflow both on the road and on studio, when arriving etc… I’ve been tuned on photographers posting about this and it’s nice to get another point of view.

  2. Hey Leo, thanks for the question. We use the second HDD primarily for storage.

    Also! Your comment inspired me to draft up a blog post on our shoot/storage/archive process… keep an eye out in the future and keep the requests coming.

  3. Amazing, got the rss feed on my Feedly list, your writing style is nice and I like knowing about the stuffs in the studio…

    Btw I recommend you Feedly if you don’t know it yet, as Google Reader will abandon us all lol. Nice week for y’all guys!

  4. where do you see the speed improvements of the solid state hard drive? Does it help the tethered images come in faster and render quicker in lightroom/capture one? Or does it just bulk process the images quicker.

Comments are closed.