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Apple's new MacBook Pro is a step backward. As a photographer, I love it.

Commentary: Pro photographers rejoice -- the SD card reader is back.


With a slew of critical ports around the edge, no Touch Bar and the return of MagSafe charging, Apple's new 2021 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, announced at its October event Monday, have more in common with its 2015 MacBook Pro lineup than more recent laptops. But as a professional photographer, this is the step backward I've been hoping for.

For me, it's all about that SD card slot. It's finally returned after years of absence in which I've been forced to carry various dongles and adapters to quickly transfer my photos from my camera to my computer. It's a pain, it slows me down and I inevitably forget them, particularly when traveling, and end up having to find the nearest electronics store to buy the cheapest replacement I can find.

I know I shouldn't be so grateful for Apple bringing back something it should have never taken away in the first place. It's like inviting the carjacker out for dinner because they eventually brought your car back five years later. But Apple did bring it back and if it wants to pretend that it's a decision it came to all by itself, rather than as a result of creatives the world over screaming about it, then fine. I'm happy to play along like an over-excited circus seal, honking loudly as I'm tossed another fish.

The MacBook Pro Touch Bar can be good for exploring emoji you may not know even exist.

Goodbye, Touch Bar, I shall not miss you.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

And it's not just the SD card slot I'm jazzed about here. That OLED Touch Bar I never use? Gone. In its place, physical buttons for quickly changing audio and brightness (hello, old friends). And then there's the return of MagSafe charging, which I can trust to not send my laptop to the floor if I trip over the cable in my studio. (Yes, that happens and no, I won't learn my lesson about proper cable management.) 

Read more: The MacBook Pro's Touch Bar is gone after five years. Good riddance

You can still charge via its three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, as before, so I also won't need to get rid of the spare chargers I've already bought.

Yes, I'm also excited about the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips and the potential power upgrades I might see when editing photos and videos in Lightroom Classic, Capture One Pro and Adobe Premiere. Then there's the promised battery life improvements when working in those apps. But that's honestly a lesser excitement for me, particularly as the current MacBook Pro lineup handles those apps so comfortably already, and even my iPad Mini steamrolls through Lightroom Mobile. 

It might seem a bit much to be this happy about an SD card reader on a $3,000-plus laptop. Maybe it's something only photographers can truly understand. But, by finally (sort of) admitting it might have been wrong about ditching all those ports, Apple has produced a MacBook Pro that might actually be deserving of the Pro name.