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Why I Will Not Be Taking the MacBook Pro Retina Traveling With Me — Yet

I’m heading for the high Sierra soon, for most of a week of photography and acclimatization prior to the Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge.

I’ll be working on new images for my Guide to Zeiss ZF / ZE Lenses, as well as testing another sample of the Nikon 28mm f/1.8G (28/1.G is in stock at B&H as I write this).

MacBook Pro Retina issues

The 17" MacBook Pro that I’ve used for a year or so has a Firewire 800 port built in; that FW800 port is proven reliable and also pretty fast. The MacBook Pro Retina has no FW800 port. There is a Thunderbolt to Firewire 800 adapter coming from Apple, but that time frame is July. The lack of a FW800 port creates all sorts of headaches in my travel kit. And the MBP Retina doesn’t solve any issues, at present it just creates a variety of headaches.

So instead of the new 15" MacBook Pro Retina, I will be taking my older 17" MacBook Pro for a number of issues with the MBP Retina:

  • No fast or easy way to download from CompactFlash cards — the Thunderbolt to FW800 adapter is not yet available.
  • The Nikon D800 to computer connection requires Nikon software to download photos (the camera will not mount as a volume, very annoying), and this also drains the camera battery while downloading. I want to recharge the battery a 10pm at night, not drain it!
  • I can’t load the Nikon software because the MBP Retina has no optical drive to install it (yes there are workarounds, but I’m packing for my trip).
  • My existing FW800 backup drive is exceptionally slow connected via USB 2.0. And it’s not clear that the USB 2 cable will properly power the drive. So backing up becomes a problem.
  • Unproven— I cannot afford to drive 300 miles, then discover a problem with the MBP Retina setup, downloading or backup procedures. Or whether internet works properly over the iPhone 4Gs personal hot spot. Just not worth the risk of taking an unproven system.
  • Photoshop and the Retina display have their issues.

In short, until the Thunderbolt to Firewire 800 adapter appears, the MBP Retina is just not ready for prime time for my field use. The right parts have to be there, and I have to see it all working at home first, and I just do not have time to get that done prior.

A USB 3.0 Compact Flash reader would solve part of the issue (the MBP Retina is the first Mac with USB 3, hence I don't even know what exists in that regard). But a card reader does not solve the backup drive issue.

Ruediger K writes:

I got mine on monday. It's a great piece of hardware but I will never take it with me as a photographer because it lacks the Kensington Lock and I can't secure it in a press room or anywhere else. I missed that point badly in you blog because it makes the MacBook Pro Retina useless as a mobile computer. So I'm sorry about that but I have to return it to Apple.

DIGLLOYD: I never thought of that! I suppose that will be the trend of the future with sleek new products. Apple is happy to sell you another one though.

All laptops are extremely vulnerable to theft, so carry your backup separately (in a pocket or separate bag/case apart from the laptop itself).

I wonder if anyone looking to steal can simply carry the appropriate hardened steel cutting tool to clip the retaining cable. But I suppose the lock is mainly for casual walk-away theft.


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