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Macworld 2008: A paradise for photographers

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Every year, Mac faithfuls from all over the world flock on a pilgrimage to Moscone Center, and also to Apple’s Headquarters located at Cupertino, to participate in the Macworld event. It has been said that there are trade shows, and then there is Macworld. The energy, intensity and mood is quite different from all the other (even bigger) trade events of this nature.

People attend Macworld for many different reasons. Through the years, and because of Apple’s professional applications such as Aperture, Final Cut Pro, Logic, and also even because of iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband and the like, Macworld has grown to encompass wider creative and technical fields. Casting the net, the hip geeks, the creative types, and the business-minded mix and mingle to get a feel for the new Mac landscape, and to satisfy the need to be at the forefront of it all. It’s a vibrant mix where the order of the day is the exchange of information. Exhibitors and vendors talk to conference and exhibit attendees, hawking their goods and services.

An estimated 50,0000 people attended this year’s Macworld. Last year, there were about 35,000 attendees. The growth in the number of people showing up at Macworld has been primarily driven by new Mac users who wants to experience first-hand what the whole thing is all about.

If you are into photography, or audio or video, there certainly are a whole bunch of things that you’ll find interesting in Macworld beginning with the many different conference tracks conducted by world-reknowned professionals and industry experts on various subjects to the product and service exhibits by all sorts of companies on the show floors.

While the biggest star of this year’s Macworld is definitely the new MacBook Air that Steve Jobs officially announced in his much-anticipated keynote, and while much of the excitement was focused on it, a thousand and one things were going on all at the same time such that it’s easy to get caught up in the dizzying vortex of the entire Mac experience. The secret is to keep focused on key areas of interest.

THE KEYNOTE

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the MacBook Air. What, if any, does it have anything to do with photographers? As the biggest product announcement of the year, this deserves a look. MacBook Air is the 3rd in the family of the Macbook product line. It sits between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. In form and factor, it is definitely different from its 2 sibling models.

Professional photographers tend to use the MacBook Pro. Hobbyists tend to go for the MacBook. That?s how it has always worked.

The question now is, where do we fit in the new MacBook Air? The profile and the specs of this new machine is quite unique to the other two. There are a couple of things that makes the MacBook Air appealing for photographers on the go. First, at 3.0 pounds, is that it is the lightest laptop ever. And second, with a height of .16 to .76 of an inch, and a width of 12.8 inches and depth of 8.94 inches, it’s the thinnest ever. The new form factor is definitely attractive to photographers who are always on the go and who are always saddled with an assortment of heavy gear. Having a laptop that small (but not tiny) and light (but not lightweight), is an attractive option and provides a small measure of relief from all the heavy weight that one has to trudge along. Not that the MacBook and MacBook Pro are heavy bricks, and not that the new MacBook Air will be able to compete in terms of performance and price, but there is something appealing about the new MacBook Air?s form factor.

The specs of the new MacBook Air makes the most out of the best technology that is available right now. It is cutting-edge. It runs on an Intel Core 2 Duo processor at a standard 1.6 GHZ with 2 GB RAM, and contains an 80GB standard storage space with option to expand. It has a 13.3 inch widescreen TFT LED display, a full-size back-lit keyboard, a built-in iSight camera, and a large multi-touch trackpad. This makes it incomparably portable without the usual compromises. These allows for ergonomic comfort and better computing paradigm where you can really do almost anything you want to do on a laptop.

For hard-wired connectivity, there’s one USB 2.0 port that supports a transfer rate of up to 480 Mbps, an audio out and a Micro-DVI connector. But the real essence of this machine is in its wireless nature. That’s where it’s supposed to shine. It has both a built-in Airport Extreme WiFi wireless networking based on IEEE 802.11n that is backward compatible, and it has an enhanced Bluetooth connectivity based on the 2.1 plus EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) specifications.

More or less, that’s about what photographers will get. With good support for graphics and video, this is a very capable portable machine. And now, for the question that comes to mind: Is the MacBook Air good for photographers?

A lot has already pointed out the glaring absence of a built-in slot for optical media, and there has been one-too-many voices raising concerns over storage space, and about its other specs. To design a machine in the dimension of a MacBook Air, there are bound to be limitations. But such limitations are actually negligible, and understandable, compared to the compromises of other sub-notebooks manufactured by other brands. The MacBook Air can be considered the best in its class. It is a new standard in mobile computing, even for professional photographers.

What makes the MacBook Air really compelling is that it is designed ultimately for wireless computing. With the Remote Disc Software, you can plug optical media into other nearby Macs, and even PCs, that the MacBook Air can wirelessly read. But if you have to, with an optional USB-connected SuperDrive, you can directly hook up to all sorts of optical media. With its 5-hour battery life, you don’t need to plug-in soon.

MacBook Air, at its current configuration and price, is a desirable portable machine that will appeal to a wide range of laptop users including a wide spectrum of photographers. While the specs are quite different, and may even be not deemed currently comparable to either the MacBook or the MacBook Pro, it is ultimately a serviceable machine that can get the job done.

THE SHOW

Two huge halls of Moscone Center, the West and the South, were filled to the brim with exhibitors. A total of 486 exhibitors participated, which is up by more than a hundred compared to last year. And, unlike last year which was dominated by iPod accessory vendors, this year provided a great diverse mix.

The biggest photography vendors were in full force at the show floors. Most of the familiar brands filled the South hall. While not entirely a photography and digital imaging show, there’s more than enough photography-related exhibitors present to showcase and demonstrate their latest and greatest products and services. If you are a Mac user, it’s a good way to round up what works best with your machines.

Vying for the attention of photographers are the pavilions and booths of Nikon, Canon, Adobe, Samsung, HP, Epson, Quark, Casio, Fujitsu, Ricoh, and others. At all hours, product demonstrations, sampling and mini-sessions were being held at some of the booths.

Also notable are several innovative photography vendors showcasing their products and software. Among them include: Lensbabies (selective focus lenses), O’Reilly Media (photo software books), Lynda.com (photo software training DVDs), Lacie (external storage devices), Anthro (computer appliances, tables and chairs), Booq (carrying bags and cases), among others.

Other big exhibitors whom photographers want to check out were also present such as AOL, IBM, Google, and Microsoft.

Of particular interest to those who are into photography is the B&H and the Best Buy booths. Good deals were offered on photographic equipment from cameras to studio lights, and a myriad accessories from trusted photography brands. Attendees can even buy all sorts of products, from cameras and lenses to accessories and cases, at discounted prices right off the show floor.

THE CONFERENCE

One of the main attractions of Macworld 2008 is the conference proper. The conference, concurrent with the exhibition, was where up-to-the-minute Mac-centric knowledge is disseminated. The many different sessions spanning days or hours offered insights into products and services, notably that of new gadgets and software, and provided extensive sharing, training on various fields of interests particularly on photography and digital imaging.

The conference, like all previous Macworld events also held at Moscone Center, “officially” began with the keynote address of Apple CEO, Steve Jobs. This keynote sets the tone for the entire event. From there, and throughout the 5-day event, it panned to various themes of interest or of major concern to attendees.

The conference programs, attended by more than 5,000 delegates, was segmented into several categories. Each conference program addressed covered a gamut of grounds. There were the Feature Presentations, the Educator Academy Series, the Market Symposiums, the Power Tool Conferences, Specialty Programs, Hands-on MacLabs, Birds-of-a-Feather Meets, Users Conference, and MacIT Conference.

For photographers or anyone who’s into digital imaging, from shooting to post-production, several sessions are of interest. There are a number of extensive Aperture and iPhoto lectures, as well as Photoshop and Lightroom classes. The Power Tools Conferences, for example, offered 2-day seminars on Aperture by Derrick Story and Ben Long, From iPhoto to Aperture by Joe Schorr, Lightroom by Mikkel Aaland, Adobe Creative Suite by Sandee Cohen, Photoshop by Micheal Ninness, Advanced Digital Photography by Steve Simon, Beginner Digital Photography by Lesa King, among others.

Likewise, on the show floor itself, and almost round-the-clock, a series of short talks covering software, products and various services also feature photography topics. A huge Digital Photo Experience pavilion was devoted entirely to learning about photography and digital imaging. Professional photographers and imaging experts took their turn, hour by the hour, to talk nothing but photography. Likewise, pavilions and booths of Apple and Adobe conducted never-ending seminars.

Because of how the conference was setup, one impressive benefit to the attendees is that it provided a venue for serious interaction among participants that facilitated business and social networking.

THE SOFTWARE

Aperture is Apple’s all-Mac post-production software specially designed and built with the professional photographers in mind. From shoot to output, Aperture provides today’s working professional photographer with the platform and framework where they can quickly and easily prepare and submit their works in various final formats on time. Although there were a lot of Aperture-related exhibit and conference activities going on during Macworld, it wasn’t until about a month after that the new version of Aperture, now at 2.0, was publicly introduced.

Apple touts Aperture 2.0 as “the better way to better images.” It delivers over 100 dramatic new features including advanced image processing, a streamlined interface, faster performance, and unprecedented Mac integration. Long-time Aperture users will welcome the seemingly long-overdue update with open arms, and those who are new to Aperture will have an easier and faster time adapting the workflow and its incredible features. All the best features of previous versions of Aperture, plus the new ones designed into the current 2.0 version, will serve the demanding needs of today’s busy digital professional photographers.

THE MOTHERSHIP

The Macworld experience is never really complete without a “pilgrimage” to the “mothership”? And by “mothership,” it means the “mecca” — the Apple Headquarters at 1 Infinte Loop in Cupertino. This is about an hour-and-a-half drive South of San Francisco.

Not all Macworld attendees can go to Cupertino. But every year, delegates from various Asian countries gets the chance to visit the famous headquarters. Several Filipinos, from retailers and suppliers to the members of the media and Mac enthusiasts, usually join in this tour.

The Apple Headquarters is where all the Mac products are born; and this is where Steve Jobs holds office.

One of the highlights of this tour is a visit to the famous Company Store. In this store, aside from the usual Apple merchandise you see in Apple stores all over the world, one can pick up several exclusive officially-branded Apple merchandise that cannot be found nowhere else. Items such as caps, hats, shirts, jackets, mugs, notebooks, pens, and the like, all bearing the famous Apple logo, are all here. And, if lucky, these can be had for a good discount as well.

Not to be missed in this tour is the cafeteria. They serve excellent food at all hours.

A MAC-CENTRIC PHOTOGRAPHY & DIGITAL IMAGING EXPERIENCE

Apple have the reputation of being the preferred platform of people dealing with or working in the creative field. Macworld 2008 reaffirmed that stature to the members of the creative community. This year, because of the presence of major photography vendors and the digital imaging contents of the conference, also saw a fortified focus that appealed and delighted photographers.

The next Macworld, which will be held in January 5 to 9, 2008 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, is expected to provide a more interesting environment for photographers and all those in the field of creative profession. This is something to look forward to.

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Written by dominiquejames

March 18, 2008 at 5:15 PM

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