Personally, I don't use Macs so I don't have direct experience, but the most important thing for running LR on an up to date computer is to have enough RAM; this is more important than processor speed. You need at least 8 GB if you want it to generate and display pictures.
I do use an 11" MacbookAir with LR when traveling.
Correct, it does not have an SD-slot, so I use a card reader.
The biggest disadvantage is my fairly small internal SSD (256GB) for me, so I use an external SSD for LR catalog and previews + smart previews, plugged in via Thunderbolt connection. This is nicely quick.
You might use another external HDD for actual images, in case you shoot many GB of RAW images and might get into disk space problems with the internal SSD. USB3.0 is also nicely responsive for that. I reckon with 120GB of new images per vacation trip, shot by two photographers.
And yes, 8 GB of RAM are essential.
11" screen is quite ok, if I use the develop module in mono mode, i.e. only one section open at a time.
Thanks John and Cornelia, your replies are very helpful.
I have read that Macbook Air is configurable to 512GB, will it help or better to stay with 215GB + ext SSD ? Or you would recommend a 512GB + ext SSD for the longer term?
Also if 11-inch doesn't come with the SD card slot, but the 13-inch does, would it be worthy to consider 13-inch to run LR when I am on the move (like bike touring) so to carry one thing less (card reader)? Sure the 13-inch is 270g heavier and bigger, but apart from that, does it make much difference in term of viewing LR ?
Hi Chuen Man,
Sizing of the MacbookAir definitely depends a lot on your specific data needs:
size of your raw image files, expected volume per trip, size of the LR catalog and its previews + potentially smart previews.
I use camera Fuji X-T1 , whose RAF raw format is huge, despite only only 16MP, because it is a non-Bayer-sensor. So one RAF-file has 33-35MB size. Later on, after much rating and development, I convert most of them to lossy DNGs, but that is so late in my workflow that my MacbookAir needs to be able to cater for these initial file sizes. 120GB of new raw images per trip, which I want in 3 copies as soon as possible even while still traveling. No need to mention that any cloud storage is not feasible given current upload speeds.
Then I do use only 1 LR-catalog with ca. 150'000 images, hence the catalog file is 2.1GB, and I have 140 GB of previews and again as much in smart previews. So my external catalog-SSD is 512GB in size. Catalog backups I do not store on this external SSD, but on internal MacbookAir SSD.
If you do not plan to work with smart previews, or you have a considerable smaller catalog with a lot less previews or start a new travel catalog for each trip (to be merged with a master catalog on another comp once home), an internal 512GB-SSD might last you sufficiently.
Should you want to use your MacbookAir for more than just LR, this might still be too tight.
What I like from the 13" Air is its 2nd Thunderbolt port (or was this only with the MacbookPro?) e.g. to plug an external monitor or second external SSD, plus the SD-card-slot. But I would consider it only if you want to use this as your main laptop. An USB-stick with an SD-slot is not bulky, neither USB3.0sticks with 64 or even 128GB of storage volume, which I use for the extra safety backups of my images while traveling (think theft...they look cheap compared to an external HDD or even SSD and I keep them separate from the other equipment).
Extra screen real estate is an advantage for LR. But again, how much time do you spend while traveling, apart from copying your images from the camera cards / import into LR?
I should mention that I use this external catalog-SSD to plug it into 2 different comps: my travel 11" MacbookAir and my Win7-laptop at home. Read-write speed is much more important than chip speed: I do not gain any performance increase from the intel i7 on my windows machine with an internal HDD. But it can handle my external monitor and is much faster accessing my NAS. My MacbookAir still has an i5.
So good luck estimating your data needs,
Really, Chuen Man, 8 GB is the minimum for RAM, and if you are opening big RAW files like Cornelia regularly does, then 16 or 32 GB wouldn't be too much.
On both my comps I have 8 GB RAM.
I have never tried LR with more so far, but would probably go for more when my next comp investment will be due - which might last until LR7 if I am lucky ;-)
No idea if this would be sufficient if you have roughly the same file size per image, but stemming e.g. from a 36MP compressed NEF raw file of a Nikon D800 / D810.
A good idea might be to consider your personal roadmap regarding camera equipment as well, when you plan for laptop invest.
Thanks so much Cornelia,
Your sharing does help me to have a better idea to get the right hardware to run LR when I'm on the move. I'm using Nikon D600, 24MP. I definitely will go for 8GB RAM, for flash storage, I'm thinking to have separate catalogues in the long run, not necessarily for each trip, maybe per year; so everytime after a trip, will merge it to the master catalogue for that year; if I mainly use my Macbook Air to run LR for a single trip (i.e. it will not be my main computer to use, I have my desktop at home), I wonder will even 256GB be enough? I can't be too sure my data need when I'm on the move at this stage, of course it won't go wrong with 512GB except in terms of money. Have a USB stick for extra safety is a good idea too.
Thanks John for your tips, I appreciate that.
Here's a few things to consider.
AS for the 11" model, you might find the screen resolution tight for LR at 1366x768. The 13" provides 1440x900. Every pixel helps for viewing images and to reduce the scrolling on sidebars. Compare for sure before you buy.
I've had my 13" MBA since 2011 for travel. While it maxed out at the time at 4GB - it's workable but yes, 8GB would be better. When I updated my spouse to a MBA last year we went with 8GB/512 and it runs LR very nicely. It has an SDHC slot and coupled with higher speed cards, can read them at roughly 70MB/sec. Important for higher resolution cameras.
Now as to storage - there are several solutions. But start by considering a 256GB model and using an external drive you may already have for image storage and keeping JUST the LR Smart Previews on the system drive. 256GB will provide you plenty of space configured this way if you haven't loaded up a lot of other data.
If you really like this route and need to get a new external drive, consider an SSD (no moving parts and better reliability for travelling). Either USB3 or Thunderbolt - although the Thunderbolt option will be pricier and, in the field likely not much of a speed advantage although some.
An alternative is to augment the system drive space with one of the SD slot drives available from TrendNet and others that mount a micro SD card flush with the case and provides you with up to another 128GB of storage ... and you could have two or more for additional storage. However, those are not that easy to back up to one another as you only have one slot, and once you've taken up the slot it's not available for your camera card so you'd need to tote around a USB3 card reader. So, while this is an alternative, there are perhaps more cons than pros to it in practical terms.
Finally, cost out the solution then go back and review what the storage upgrade from 256 to 512 is and see which is more cost effective or convenient.
In the end, you still need some form of backup. Don't over-write your cards, maintain a copy on the system drive (or primary external drive), and then one other copy on something like USB thumb drives, flush-mount SD drives, etc. That's 3!
When being used as a travel machine being lightweight is pretty much the trump concern (esp if on small planes); having no mechanical hard drives is important for reliability; finally as it's a travel machine backup is really important owing to the number of ways you can lose your images such as theft, loss, mech failure, water/sand.
Leave the culling till you get home (e.g. don't erase); but have fun using the 13" screen for LR.
Lastly, I am looking to upgrade mine this year - but I am going to wait just a little while longer to see what the implications of LR's next release will be and what Apple may have as a replacement for the existing MacAir line. Two big unknowns with lots of promise.
As for catalogs - you have a couple of options. You can travel with a bare bones catalog just for the trip and then import all of that back into your home-based catalog when you get home using the Import from Catalog file option. I don't recommend maintaining a lot of independent catalogs because you lose so many of LR's benefits when doing that - unless you have a really specific reason for maintaining separate catalogs (e.g. your a wedding photographer and you keep each client in a separate one for obvious reasons).