First of all, what does a computer do? In our world today the word compute |kəmˈpyoōt| means to make a calculation, especially using a computer: modern circuitry can compute faster than any chess player. So is a photographic image made by a calculation of number values? Yes, to some extent with a digital camera. But graphics, an image on-screen was a side effect of computing, a part of the in and out communication with a computer. It was not what the computer did but how it communicated its answers after the question were typed into a computer with a keyboard. A monitor was just a convenient way to make a computer respond so its output could be read by human eyes.
In the 80’s when personal computers began to be common all they had was a keyboard and a monochrome display that reproduced text and numbers. During the same period Apple computers were used to begin the desktop publishing revolution, probably the first popular use of computers for graphic purposes. Today with computers reproducing all kinds of media and being used as a communications and entertainment device, a computer’s original function and an understanding of how they worked has been lost to all but the few who used computers over a generation ago. We all take them for granted. One of the earliest and most common uses of a PC was to run a cash register in a store.
Today when a photographer begins shopping for a computer there aren’t any that are designated as digital photography models. Nearly all personal computer today can deal with photographic images to some middling effect, and none are attributed with any special photographic abilities. Maybe that is just as well because a photographer shopping for a computer maybe should be looking for the one key part of a computer system that is “graphic”, and that is its display. LCD displays that are designed and made for graphics computing are few, rare and relatively expensive models.
So, a photographer looking for a computer to do digital photography should first select the best graphics LCD display that can be afforded, and it may cost more than you need to pay for the rest of the computer system. Then get a personal computer to run the display. It can be quite modest because digital photography processing and editing involves very little “computing” because photos are not the result of a calculation. The only factors in the computer that are important to photography are a good quality 2D video (card), and the addition of as much RAM as can be afforded.
This may sound like a radical idea from a computer geek’s perspective, but it works for me and many other photographers. What few people realize is that there are hundreds of millions of computers used in offices, institutions and now most homes have a computer or two. But the number of people who are serious digital photography users can be counted in the thousands. That is a radically small part of the computer market, too small to even be considered a niche market. There aren’t any computers made especially for digital photography, so do it yourself.
Which LCD displays should a photographer shop for. Well I have written about the few I can recommend in past articles in Shutterbug, as well as mentioned in my Digital Help column and this blog. But I am currently considering adding another make and model, but also dropping one model from my list. So keep tuned in, that update will appear soon.