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My Sprinter Photography Adventure Van Project: Which Mac? Experience Report / Proving it Out? MacBook Pro = Not so good for big jobs

Mercedes Sprinter cargo van,
before modifications

See also:

Update 2017-08-06: the van delivered, I am reconsidering my decision on the computer. It’s just that stow/unstow is so trivially easy with a laptop, and I can use the laptop with having to unpack the NEC PA302W.

...

I now have simulated (though not in a van just yet) field experience as to what will work/not work in my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van. By “work” I mean replicate my work efficiency at my home office.

On my recent trip to the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, I took along the NEC PA302W and my 2015 MacBook Pro, to test the setup at a friend’s house in the Eastern Sierra.

There was an open question as to whether a MacBook Pro would be viable for my work. I have been considering three options:

NEC PA302W 30-inch wide-gamut display 2560 X 1600
  • 2015 MacBook Pro with 16GB memory, top end model (already own).
  • 2015 iMac 5K with 64GB, top-end model (already own).
  • 2017 iMac 5K with 64GB top-end model, would have to purchase. Makes no sense with iMac Pro coming in 4 months. Also Thunderbolt 3 generally creates headaches, thus requiring adapters or more hardware like the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock just to hook up the 2nd display. Soas much as I like its outstanding performance, I’ve rejected the 2017 iMac 5K out of hand for cost and hassle reasons.
  • 2013 Mac Pro with 64GB, would have to buy one (don't want to risk my primary workhorse at home).

Having hauled the NEC PA302W in my SUV to a friend’s house in the Eastern Sierra along with the 2015 MacBook Pro, I worked intensively on processing images I had shot while over there, just like at home.

See Reasons To Like the NEC PA302W Wide Gamut Professional Display.

It worked, but a MacBook Pro with 16GB is not a setup I would want to rely on for my work, whether it be home or field. In particular, I wrote a lengthy new article for Zeiss Lenspire, as well as processing and publishing these Fujifilm GFX images, all with photographs shot over a few days on that trip.

  • The 2015 MacBook Pro (or 2016/2017) is unacceptable because with only 16GB memory it is constantly interfering with my work as it pages to disk from too-low memory. Plus it has only 2 USB ports. Even Zerene Stacker by itself take 11GB of memory for a simple 2 or 3 frame stack, making it problematic with anything else running and frequent rainbow beachball problems. Ditto for Photoshop. Apple’s failure to build a pretty-boy laptop and then call it 'Pro' machine remains ridiculous.
  • The 2013 Mac Pro could work, but I’d want dual screens, and I want one of them to be 5K (which it supports vi dual cables and Multi Stream Transport, but messy and not reliable in my past experience), and even if I settled for 4K, my NEC PA322UHD is too large. So I’d have to buy some other 2nd screen and then fit the Mac Pro somewhere too. That's a mess and too many cables s well.
  • The iMac 5K as shown below is just perfect: 64GB, fast CPU and GPU, 5K display as secondary, primary workhorse display the NEC PA302W.
  • The 2017 iMac 5K is a nuisance: special adapters and/or Thunderbolt 3 Dock for connectivity. Still, if one were donated or availble at a very deep discount, I’d prefer it for its significantly faster speed.

So the answer is clear: the 2015 iMac 5K with 64GB with the NEC PA302W is what is going into the Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van. Case closed. Maybe late this year if the iMac Pro has some demonstrable value then it would replace the 2015 iMac 5K.

Other items I’d want along:

  • At least one OWC Envoy Pro EX 1TB SSD for backups (2TB would be better, but 1TB is max as of summer 2017). The elegance of this device is that I can put it in my daypack when hiking all day as a safeguard against losing all my work disappear, should the van be broken into and computer gear stolen.
  • OWC Viper for big storage (preferably 4TB so I can carry a bunch of other stuff from home that can be used on the road also). But that presumes a Thunderbolt 3 Mac, so that means an 2017 iMac 5K or an iMac Pro (since the MacBook Pro is unacceptable for my work).
  • BatPower USB charger for iPhone and iPad and other stuff. And for MacBook Pro, which I’d take along as a backup/spare computer.
  • Fast camera card reader for both SDXC and Compact Flash.
  • External drive for Time Machine backup while I work, like the OWC Elite Pro Dual Mini 2TB. Assuming a Thunderbolt 3 Mac, the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini USB-C would be a rocking fast choice.

Shown under the 2017 iMac 5K is the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock (highly recommended), but one more piece of power-drawing hardware that on the road I’d rather avoid.

Lloyd Chambers' simulated photography working table for Sprinter photographic adventure van
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