If you ask me, we’re in the midst of the golden age of technology when it comes to photography.
Cameras have never been better, with ever-expanding capabilities that help photographers like you and me capture improved pictures.
Post-processing tools are also more robust than ever, with a wider and more powerful selection of software to help us make our vision for our photos come to life.
Innovations have found their way into the hardware we use as well, namely the machines on which we view and edit our photos.
I know a lot of photographers that have used Microsoft Surface Pros for years now, and extol their capabilities for post-processing.
But now, Microsoft has a new player in the market - the Surface Book - which takes innovation for photographers to yet another level.
Let’s explore a few reasons why the Surface Book is such a great tool for photographers.
What’s not to like about the hybrid build of the Surface Book?
It’s a powerful laptop, but detach the screen and you’ve got a powerful tablet as well. That means no more lugging around two devices because you get the best of both worlds with the Surface Book.
Use it as a laptop to handle daily tasks like photo editing or bookkeeping or detach the screen and use it in what’s called “Clipboard” mode. Hold it in vertical aspect, much like you would a clipboard, and you’ve got an Intel-powered tablet on your hands.
There’s a third option, too. Called “Draw” mode, the screen faces outward, with the keyboard assembly behind it. In this orientation (shown above), you can more easily use the touchscreen or pen to make precise edits to your photos. With the angle of the hinge, the screen tilts forward slightly, making it a comfortable angle of view to do your work.
Unlike other hybrid machines on the market, the Surface Book is a breeze to connect and disconnect. The dynamic fulcrum hinge feels robust, and locks the two components together effortlessly. And, where most laptop hinges don’t move, the Surface Book’s hinge rolls out as the laptop is opened and rolls back in when it’s shut.
Have a look at how easily the Surface Book transitions from one configuration to the next in the video below:
The Pen is a Superb Editing Tool
What makes the Surface Book a truly epic photographer’s tool is the included pen.
Gone are the days of trying to make selections or pinpoint edits by using a trackpad, mouse, or expensive add-on stylus. With the Surface Book, you get excellent control over inputs by using a device that more naturally aligns with how we use our fingers and wrists.
Like the other components of the Surface Book, the pen is built well and feels nice in your hand, much like a high-quality ink pen. Gripping the pen is comfortable, so you can set out to tackle a few hours worth of editing without worry that your fingers will hurt because of gripping the pen.
Behind the scenes, the pen benefits from improved performance that allows you to make precise adjustments, whether that’s making a selection, painting on effects, or something in between. Part of that performance is due to the more natural-like friction that the pen has against the Surface Book’s screen.
That is, unlike many screens that pose no friction to the pen at all - which makes it more difficult to make tiny adjustments - the Surface Book feels like you’re writing with a pencil on a piece of paper. That familiarity is hard to capture, but Microsoft did it well, and that’s a supreme advantage for photographers that need pinpoint control.
As we all know, running programs like Photoshop or Lightroom on a slow machine is not a pleasant experience.
Fortunately, the Surface Book doesn't just perform well in terms of transferring photos from the card reader to the machine, but also gives quick, crisp responses when editing photos. This is the case even with models with 8GB of RAM, so you can imagine how the models with 16GB of RAM perform.
The performance of the Surface Book is aided by 6th-generation Intel® Core™ i5 or i7 processors, which make the new Surface Book the most powerful one yet. Switching between tasks and programs is lighting fast, so you can move from editing photos to taking care of invoicing clients to updating your website or social media channels without waiting around for the machine to do what you want.
That means it’s not just a great solution for getting your work done, it’s also a great solution that will save you time so you can focus more on actually taking photos.
It’s Built Well
As photographers, we can lead rough and tumble professional lives, and our gear needs to be able to be put through the paces.
The Surface Book certainly belongs in any photographer’s camera bag because it is built well.
The keyboard feels robust against your fingers without any give that’s indicative of a lower quality build. In fact, the keyboard is one of the best out there because it has keys with excellent depth.
This is due in part to the way the Surface Book is manufactured - the screen doesn’t close all the way, leaving a slight gap between the screen and the keys. That means that the keys don’t have to recess, giving your fingers a much more solid surface on which to type.
And, because many of the machine’s internal components are housed in the screen, the keyboard remains quite thin despite feeling very firm.
The keyboard includes a very nice trackpad as well. It’s nice and large so you can take care of switching between tasks easily, and its responsivity is worth noting too. Like the keys on the keyboard, the trackpad feels well built and nice to the touch.
Though other hybrids have problems connecting the keyboard and display, that is not an issue with the aforementioned excellent hinge. It’s robust, so you don’t feel like it will suddenly detach, but it’s not difficult to detach when need be. Just push a button and you’re ready to be in tablet mode.
The Screen is for Photographers
I don’t actually know if the screen was designed with photographers in mind, but even if it wasn’t it’s a prime viewing surface for photos.
Unlike many laptops, the Surface Book doesn’t employ a 16:9 ratio. Instead, it uses a 2:3 ratio which very closely matches the size of a standard photo.
Since the screen is a little taller, you have a better view of your images as you review them or work on them in Photoshop, Lightroom, or another post-processing program.
In the video below, watch Terry White use a Surface Book with Photoshop CC to view and edit a few photos:
Great Battery Life
We’ve all had those experiences of being out in the field longer than expected and face the realization that our laptop doesn’t have enough juice to last.
In the past, that meant being wary of the tasks you perform on your laptop or carry around portable power devices when the laptop inevitably dies.
That’s not the case with the Surface Book.
With any machine, the configuration and usage of its components will impact the battery. That’s just a fact of life.
But where other hybrid laptop/tablet outfits lack good battery life, the Surface Book excels.
There is a wonderful balance between powering the machine’s components with conserving battery power. That means that if you’re not doing anything too intensive, you can get up to 16 hours of life out of the Surface Book’s battery.
More intensive use will certainly drain the battery faster, but even with steady usage with a number of programs open, you can bet on at least 7-8 hours of work time, which is nothing to be upset about at all.
The tablet can work on its own for about four hours, but the better news is that it recharges lighting fast - from totally drained to full charge in about two hours.
There’s Tons of Add-On Accessories
The problem with some lightweight hybrid computers is that they just aren’t that expandable to meet future needs.
Not so with the Surface Book.
You can easily turn it into your desktop computer with accessories like a dock that allows you to attach an external monitor, a mouse, and other needed items to give your Surface Book even greater functionality.
There is also a collection of tips for the Surface Pen, giving you greater freedom to make the pixel-level adjustments you need to your photos.
Add to the mix various mice and trackpads, docks, and adapters, and the Surface Book becomes something you can hook up to a huge TV to show clients their photos, tether to your camera for in-studio shooting, and just about anything in between.
That means the Surface Book can be your desktop, laptop, and tablet, all in one gorgeous and easy-to-use package.
So, with that said, the Surface Book represents the next-generation of computing tools for the modern photographer. It’s light, yet well built. It’s versatile, yet powerful in just about every regard. That’s precisely what you need whether you’re in the studio, in the field, or at home.