Computers for the photo booth
While you may conduct your experiments with a computer you already own, eventually you’ll need computers dedicated only to booth operation. If you become a photo booth professional you’ll want to have back-up units that are identical or similar to your primary computer, so in the event of a failure at an event you can immediately swap it out.
The Mac v. PC war isn’t over, but if you want to use Mac you’re very limited in your choice of cameras and software. Breeze Systems makes Mac software to operate the Canon DSLR cameras but no others. Mac computers generally cost a lot more.
Desktop computers can be used. Since they use AC power, if there is a momentary interruption in power the computer has to reboot. Sometimes venues don’t have reliable power. The disadvantage of most desktops is that they’re relatively big and heavy.
Another option is the Lenovo Q190, touted as the world’s smallest desktop. I have never used one but really want to give it a try. They’re only 6.1″ x 7.6″ x 0.87″ – about the size of a paper back book. They’ve got lots of ports: 2x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, HDMI, 6-in-1 card reader. Hook this up to an HDMI touch screen monitor – yes, they exist – and you’d have a great combination for a photo booth. They run on Windows 8.1.
My personal preference: small laptops with decent processors, 4 GB of RAM or more, at least 3 USB ports and a VGA or HDMI output for a second monitor. Since they all have batteries, they’ll carry you through short power outages without having to reboot when the power comes back on.
Netbooks and Ultrabooks are much smaller than most lap tops. They have a screen that’s about 10-11 inches. Because they don’t have optical drives (CD or DVD drives) they are lighter than full lap tops and often have much longer battery lives.
The distinction between netbooks and ultrabooks is usually the speed of the processor and the price tag. Most netbooks have an Atom processor, which is not as powerful as others and can slow down operations. Either is up to the task of running a photo booth, but avoid ones with less RAM than 4 GB.
The Chromebook is a Google creation designed to use cloud-based software. They are not suitable for photo booths because our software of choice won’t run on them, and they are completely dependent upon a reliable internet connection.
An all in one computer with touch screen fits the bill well, in that all the components are built into one big piece. However, because they are big and heavy, you’re putting all your eggs into one basket. If anything at all goes wrong you have to remove and possibly replace the entire unit.
Tablet computers seem ideal in many respects at first glance. They’re light, reasonably priced, have touch screens. Very important: Unless your tablet uses a full Windows 7 or 8 operating system you won’t be able to use commercial photo booth software. Windows RT and Android operating systems are not suitable. Few tablets have more than one USB port.
Sony makes a computer called the Tap 21 (not “tab” but “tap”) that’s a great unit. It’s either a tablet on steroids, or a big lap top with detachable keyboard, or an all-in-one that’s more suitable for a photo booth than most. With a 21” touch-screen and its own battery it is almost perfect. Lenovo makes similar systems.
Lenovo’s line of Yoga and Flex computers offer an interesting choice. The screen can be rotated 270 degrees so the monitor faces the guests, and it’s a touch screen.
This is the first in a series of really basic tips by Chris Lydle, and it’s his first stab at using Word Press for blog publishing. Feedback is truly welcome and solicited!