Shooting tethered: Mac or PC which is fastest?

I had been hearing a nasty rumor from my colleagues and photographer buddies that shooting tethered on a PC running Windows was faster than shooting tethered on a Mac. This was due largely in part to the native USB 2.0 drivers for each operating system. I shoot tethered into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 99% of the time when I’m in the studio. Having to wait 6-8 seconds for the image to pop up on the display doesn’t sound like a long time until you’re sitting there waiting. The advantage of shooting tethered is that you can see your results on a nice large display and make adjustments along the way.



So I put it to the test

Sorry guys I don’t have a tech lab with guys walking around in lab coats. It’s just me with a stop watch on my iPhone. So if you feel that I’m wrong, that’s ok. Just do your own tests then. My testing setup was simple: I have a MacBook Pro running the latest version of Mac OS X and Windows XP SP2 via Boot Camp. I shoot with a Nikon D300. I use Nikon’s Camera Control Pro 2 to automate the process of bringing the image in from the camera to a folder. Since Camera Control Pro 2 ships with both the Mac and the Windows version on the same disc, I didn’t have to buy anything else. Once the image is in the folder I have Lightroom (LR) setup to Auto Import and display the image in loupe view which means it has to build a preview on the fly as well. I didn’t have any other apps running in either environment. I did each test after a cold boot. I also ran multiple captures to make sure the timing was consistent. I shoot 99.9% of the time in RAW so I didn’t bother testing JPEG shooting. I’m sure the times would be much faster since JPEG files are much smaller. Since I don’t plan on switching to shooting in JPEG, the faster times would be irrelevant to me.


Here are my results, which surprised me!

First I just wanted to see which OS would import the Nikon D300’s 12 megapixel RAW (.NEF) images fastest? So I just ran Camera Control Pro 2 (CCP2) with nothing else open and fired off some exposures. The PC blew away the Mac! This wasn’t looking good at this point. The PC dumped the image into the folder in 3.2 seconds from pressing the shutter, while the Mac took 7.2 seconds. At this point I was starting to think that I’ll be shooting tethered in Windows under Boot Camp from now on. However, it dawned upon me that this is only half the story. The other half of the story is after the image is in the folder, how long it takes the image to get into LR and show on screen. So I continued my test by launching Lightroom 1.4.1 and setting up the auto import. I then ran tests of the complete process from the time I press the shutter until the image is on the screen in loupe view. The results surprised me! When it was all said and done, the PC was faster, but only by .7 seconds! It seems that either LR is either really efficient with Auto Import and building previews on the Mac or sucks really bad at it on the PC (glass half full or empty depending upon how you look at it).

  Windows Mac
CCP2 import 3.2 seconds 7.2 seconds
LR import (complete process) 8.2 seconds 8.9 seconds


The Bottom Line

If all you need to do is shoot tethered and get the images into a folder, then it would seem that Windows would be the way to go. However, if you shoot tethered into LR, then there isn’t enough of a speed advantage to switch from the Mac OS! Canon shooters, you mileage may vary as well. Since Canon provides an app to automatically bring the images from the camera into a folder, you may see different results depending upon how their software is optimized for each platform. Also if you use other apps to shoot tethered and display your images (such as the software by the camera manufacturer), your mileage my vary. I ran the only tests that mattered to my workflow which is Nikon D300 to CCP2 to LR.


11 Replies to “Shooting tethered: Mac or PC which is fastest?”

  1. Terry,

    I’m thinking the speed difference in importing via CCP2 is more Nikon’s MAC software coding prowess than it is a hardware issue.

    This got me to wondering if there are other software solutions out there that you might try? (like wandering over to the Lightroom section of Adobe and pushing them into incorporating something like CCP2 into Lightroom’s ‘Import’ dialog)


  2. Sean,
    As stated in the post. One computer (MacBook Pro) running Boot Camp with Windows XP SP2.

  3. Have you tried Aperture, I know there is no PC version however tethered shooting is built right in and have never had speeds that slow using D300 on Macbook Pro with Leopard.

  4. question… slightly off topic but….who makes the laptop stand/base thats connected to the tripod in the above piccy?

  5. Greetings Mr. White,

    A long time blog reader with a first time question. As Simon inquired, may I ask where you got the pieces for your camera / laptop setup? I recognize the tripod as a Bogen (055MF3 ?) but the center column looks different. Do you know of any companies that would build a custom setup?

    Thank You Very Much!


  6. Dear Mr. White,

    Thank You so much for the reply! Now, having been to Mr. Kelby’s power tour in Hartford last month – when are you going to pay us an InDesign tour visit?


    Thank You!


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