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Photographer needs help buying a PC system for photoshop


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#1
Triggers

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Hi

I'm a pro photographer looking to invest in a powerful desktop PC but whereas I might know a thing or two about shutter speeds I'm rather in the dark when it comes to PC configuration! My productivity in post processing/retouching is absolutely key so I'm prepared to invest around £1500 if that improves my workrate. However, I'm reluctant to just buy something off the shelf from say PC World as I don't think they'll understand the specialist needs of a photographer. So if anyone can give me some suggestions on what configuration I need I'd be very grateful.

I've outlined below some of the main requirements I've picked up from research and gaps where I don't know the answer:

  • Fast processor, ideally with a multiple processor chip so I can do simultaneous tasks - but how fast do I need? What do I ask for?
  • Intel or AMD? No idea what's best for image editing or are they much of a muchness?
  • Lots of RAM: Minimum 3GB but what's optimum? I tend to work with 15 - 50MB multilayered files
  • Powerful video card - no idea what's powerful and what's not, so not really sure what to look for.
  • OS - I'll probably go for Vista but confused about 32 or 64 bit. Which is best for photoshop CS3? This will be my only PC so I will need to run other programmes on it so don't want any incompatibility issues. Other programmes include microsoft Works, database, Accounting software, itunes, Lightroom and possibly Steinberg Cubase
  • Hard disk space - how much GB do I need to run CS3 and a few other programmes without going overboard as I'll have separate external drives for storage. I also need this partitioned so that I can separate scratch disk. I've also read a little bit about RAID 0 and RAID 1 and leaning towards RAID 1 as I think it automatically backs things up and doesn't lose everything if one of the harddrives packs up. Is that right?
    What is SATA - is that something I need to consider?
  • separate WD external drives (500GB each) - one for working on images and another for backing up.
  • High quality monitor - but not sure what's a good or bad one.
  • Anything else I've missed?
  • Is my budget realistic for the above or too much?
I was also wondering whether this is something I should get a PC specialist to custom build from scratch or can I easily buy this off the shelf? Can anyone recommend a UK retailer who might know what photographers need? My concern is to go down the custom build route when I don't know enough and could end up forgetting to tell them something important, like what kind of motherboard I should have?

So quite a lot of question marks! Don't feel you have to answer all my questions here otherwise you'll be hear all night but if you can answer any of these it will help me considerably and may prevent me from making an expensive mistake!

Many thanks for your help.

Richard
Triggers Photography

Edited by Triggers, 01 September 2008 - 04:54 PM.

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#2
charge06

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try to post this in this froum http://www.eggxpert..../ShowForum.aspx . you should get alot more help from them then you would here. Mainly cause eggzpert has more traffic.
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#3
Triggers

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Thanks for the tip Charge06. I've followed your advice and posted it there too but don't let that stop anyone chipping in here. All advice is welcome, wherever it comes from!
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#4
sari

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try to post this in this froum http://www.eggxpert..../ShowForum.aspx . you should get alot more help from them then you would here. Mainly cause eggzpert has more traffic.


Charge06,

Please do not refer people to other sites. This is against the TOU you agreed to when you joined. Continuing to do so could be considered spam.
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#5
Troy

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Hi there,

I'll be more than happy to help you here, but I'm not going to bother wasting my time if you're going to be getting help from elsewhere. Please let me know if you are receiving help at other forums, or if you want help here.

Cheers

Troy
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#6
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Troy

It's a fair point you make but I'd be interested to hear your advice if you have any. If I find this gets resolved elsewhere I'll say so in this thread so that I don't waste anyone's time. At this stage in the game I need all the advice I can get!

Thanks
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#7
charge06

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Hi there,

I'll be more than happy to help you here, but I'm not going to bother wasting my time if you're going to be getting help from elsewhere. Please let me know if you are receiving help at other forums, or if you want help here.

Cheers

Troy



wow, i guess another reason i dont like this forum, anymore. When i have a problem i post in several other forums , more people seeing it the better. was just trying to help em out, maybe next time ill send him a PM, instead of in forum
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#8
sari

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Troy is very knowledgeable about system building and takes it very seriously. I know he would put a lot of time and effort into helping in this thread, and as a volunteer, that's personal time that could be spent with his family or helping someone else. Why would you direct someone somewhere else before anyone else has even had a chance to answer this thread?
Please re-read our Terms of Service you agreed to when you joined this site - you can find the link at the top of the forums. They specifically state you may not direct people elsewhere, unless the site is to provide additional suppport, such as a Microsoft download page. We also do not permit help via PM.
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#9
sari

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Triggers, the problem with posting at multiple forums is that not only would Troy be putting time and effort into helping you, but he would be doing so without knowing what advice you'd be getting elsewhere. All of his recommended components would be compatible with each other. However, he can't guarantee they'd be compatible with anything recommended elsewhere - you really don't want to build a piecemeal system. If you stay in one place, you'll probably still get recommendations from multiple people, but they'll be familiar with all of the discussion.
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#10
james_8970

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Hello Triggers and welcome to geekstogo,
As a fellow photographer I know where you are coming from in terms of needs of applying filters and the such in CS3, lightroom, photomatrix and so on. I'll try to help you the best I can :)

Fast processor, ideally with a multiple processor chip so I can do simultaneous tasks - but how fast do I need? What do I ask for?

There are numerous processors out there at the moment, all of which a better at different purposes. There are processors that use different manufacturing processes which will determine a variety of things such as the energy efficiency of your processor. While there are newer processors out (45nm), I think a 65nm processor will be ideal for you. Something like the quad core Q6600 would be ideal for your needs, but if you want to spend a little more money on a Q9400, that'd be fine as well. The Q6600 has the best performance for your dollar.

Intel or AMD? No idea what's best for image editing or are they much of a muchness?

At the moment, Intel is on top and I'll suggest you go with them.

Lots of RAM: Minimum 3GB but what's optimum? I tend to work with 15 - 50MB multilayered files

To be honest, I've had 20MB of multilayered files in CS3, but never 50MB, if you want I can get multiple images loaded (50MB worth) and see how my 4GB of RAM reacts to it, so that you have a better idea of whether or not 8GB would benefit you. That being said, 4GB should be sufficient, but I suggest you purchase a 64bit OS, this'll allow you greater flexibility and allow you to use up to 8GB of RAM on current Intel desktop motherboards. You can also purchase the 32bit version of the OS, but you'll be limited to using approximately 3.5GB of RAM.

Powerful video card - no idea what's powerful and what's not, so not really sure what to look for.

To be honest, when it comes to photography, all you need is something that'll put accurate color reproduction on your screen, essentially anything on the market will do. I'd suggest something with two DVI ports, to give you the flexibility of using multiple monitors. I have a dual setup of 22" monitors and couldn't imagine doing photography work without two monitors.

OS - I'll probably go for Vista but confused about 32 or 64 bit. Which is best for photoshop CS3? This will be my only PC so I will need to run other programmes on it so don't want any incompatibility issues. Other programmes include microsoft Works, database, Accounting software, itunes, Lightroom and possibly Steinberg Cubase

I briefly mentioned this above, with the positives, but the negatives are often forgotten. It'll be up to you to verify whether or not all your hardware (e.g. webcames, fax machines, scanners, printers etc.) have 64bit drivers, otherwise you'll have serious issues, if you need help doing this, I'd be glade to do so, but you'll need to provide model numbers for the devices in question. As far as programs go, most are backwards compatible within the 64bit environment, therefore you shouldn't encounter any issues. I encourage you to take the 64bit route as photography programs are going to take advantage of the newer 64bit OS in the near future. Such advantages will include faster loading times and more efficient uses of resources.

Hard disk space - how much GB do I need to run CS3 and a few other programmes without going overboard as I'll have separate external drives for storage. I also need this partitioned so that I can separate scratch disk. I've also read a little bit about RAID 0 and RAID 1 and leaning towards RAID 1 as I think it automatically backs things up and doesn't lose everything if one of the harddrives packs up. Is that right?

This is where it gets iffy, I'm actually going the expensive route and building a 6-8TB server to store all my information on a RAID5 array as I've been having downright terrible luck with hardware recently (turned my PC on yesterday to have the powersupply short and then my hard drive died at the beginning of the month for a few example lately). You are going to have to make some personal decisions here that I cannot really help you with. A RAID0 array is the way to go if you want something that'll be more responsive due to it's quicker access time, that being said it's very unreliable and I do not recommend it if you wish to store information on the drives as it becomes more and more risky as you add more and more drives to the array. You need to remember that if one drive fails, you lose everything and data recovery isn't cheap. RAID1 is a good option, but you also lose a significant amount of your overall capacity. So it's a bit of a toss up, the hard drives I'd recommend are the Western Digital 640GB drives. Lastly, doing a RAID array does add a level of complexity to the build, so you need to familiarize yourself with it. As far as external drives go, I recommend building your own if you want assurance that you are getting quality parts.

What is SATA - is that something I need to consider?

This is the most recent connection type and if you purchase a hard drive that is relatively new to the market, chances are that it'll be SATA exclusive and you will not have a choice of getting IDE (the older format) over it. Either way, SATA is better then IDE.

separate WD external drives (500GB each) - one for working on images and another for backing up.

Again, I recommend you build your own external drives, it's cheaper this way and you'll be getting better parts. All you need to buy is a hard drive enclosure and a hard drive.

High quality monitor - but not sure what's a good or bad one.

You are going to want to devote a larger chunk of money towards your monitor, unless you already have a CRT. While you can purchase a cheap LCD, they have poor color reproduction and chances are your prints will look different then what you see on your monitor. Do you have a specific size in mind? If so, it'll help me decide on what model to suggest to you.

I'm being a bit vague at the moment, but I want you to get a better understanding of what you are getting yourself into. Lastly, do you have a specific retailer in mind? I'm not familiar with anyone in Europe.

I was also wondering whether this is something I should get a PC specialist to custom build from scratch or can I easily buy this off the shelf?

This should definatly be custom built, you will not be satisfied with anything you buy of the shelf. I can give you a full list of products later on if you wish, therefore you won't forget a thing and if you need help building it, I as well as others can help you step by step if required.
James

Edited by james_8970, 04 September 2008 - 01:51 PM.

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#11
charge06

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Troy is very knowledgeable about system building and takes it very seriously. I know he would put a lot of time and effort into helping in this thread, and as a volunteer, that's personal time that could be spent with his family or helping someone else. Why would you direct someone somewhere else before anyone else has even had a chance to answer this thread?
Please re-read our Terms of Service you agreed to when you joined this site - you can find the link at the top of the forums. They specifically state you may not direct people elsewhere, unless the site is to provide additional suppport, such as a Microsoft download page. We also do not permit help via PM.


Sari and troy, i want to say im sorry that I didnt stay within the terms of service. I wont let it happen again
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#12
Triggers

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Hi James - first of all, thank you so much for spending the time to answer all my questions. This is the first time I've joined an IT forum like this and I'm delighted there are knowledgeable and helpful people out there like yourself who are happy to share their wisdom! You've given me plenty to think about.

It looks like I'm probably going for the following set up:
  • Quad core Q6600 or Q9400 Intel processor
  • Vista 64bit
  • 4GB RAM (Thanks for the offer of testing my files but to be honest the majority of files I work with are 15-20MB so 4MB sounds sufficient. I may well end up working with larger files as I update my camera kit over time but I presume I can easily upgrade to 8GB at a later stage if need be anyway?).
  • Standard graphics card
  • 22" monitor with 2 DVI ports (in case I decide to get extra monitor - sounds like I should!)
  • 2 x 250 GB hard disks for OS/Programmes and the other for scratch disks. (I'm probably going to pass on RAID arrays as it sounds a bit too complicated for me! I'm used to backing up my files on DVD anyway even though it's a painin the bum. i might look into online back up anyway which might be easier).
  • 1 x 750 or 1TB harddisk for storing files (should I consider the same again for back up?)
  • SATA connections
In terms of 64 bit compatibility, the hardware I use at the moment include the following:
  • HP Photosmart 9180
  • Wester Digital external hardrives
  • JOBO Giga one ultra portable harddrive
  • Netgear 54 Mbps wireless ADSL router DG834G v3
  • Lexar USB 2.0 Multicard Reader
  • D-link DUB-H7 USB port
Do you foresee any compatibility problems with any of the above?

You are going to want to devote a larger chunk of money towards your monitor, unless you already have a CRT. While you can purchase a cheap LCD, they have poor color reproduction and chances are your prints will look different then what you see on your monitor. Do you have a specific size in mind? If so, it'll help me decide on what model to suggest to you.


I imagine a 20" or 22" would be rather nice. Good colour represetation and calibration is important so quality is what I'm after. I've heard Samsung monitors are quite good - what do you think?

This should definatly be custom built, you will not be satisfied with anything you buy of the shelf. I can give you a full list of products later on if you wish, therefore you won't forget a thing and if you need help building it, I as well as others can help you step by step if required.
James


Thanks for the offer of helping me pull this together. My main concern for going down the custom build route is making mistakes and the lack of technical support if things go wrong. Have we covered the main areas to think about here or other there other considerations to explore?

Thanks again for all your help.
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#13
james_8970

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I imagine a 20" or 22" would be rather nice. Good colour represetation and calibration is important so quality is what I'm after. I've heard Samsung monitors are quite good - what do you think?

Right now I'm in my break period between two of my jobs, so I can't answer anything in detail due to lack of time, but if I have time tonight, I'll give you further advice. I'm just curious as to how much you are willing to spend on a monitor. To me, the monitor is single handily the most important piece of hardware when using a digital tools such as photoshop. You can have fast hardware to process the filters and adjustments quickly, but if the colors aren't right, then your digital tools are essentially useless.
As far as dual monitors go, I strongly recommend you consider it, but if I were you I'd purchase a good monitor now and buy a second one later, when you have the money. There is no sense in buying two monitors that you will not be happy with. CRT monitors are your best bet in terms of color reproduction, but if you want the conveniences of a LCD with great color reproduction, you'll need to spend a fair amount of money. As far as Samsung goes i own the monitor department, I personally like and own two of their 22" monitors, but find LG to be equally as good. What is your budget? I'll try and find the best monitor that suits your needs.

My main concern for going down the custom build route is making mistakes and the lack of technical support if things go wrong.

You can do whatever you feel comfortable with, but ultimately I think you'll be much happier with your investment if it's custom built. If you do build your own computer, just remember that if in doubt ask, as you are always better to be safe then sorry. We'll always be here to answer your questions, should any arise :)
James

Edited by james_8970, 07 September 2008 - 09:01 AM.

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#14
Triggers

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I'm just curious as to how much you are willing to spend on a monitor. To me, the monitor is single handily the most important piece of hardware when using a digital tools such as photoshop. You can have fast hardware to process the filters and adjustments quickly, but if the colors aren't right, then your digital tools are essentially useless.
As far as dual monitors go, I strongly recommend you consider it, but if I were you I'd purchase a good monitor now and buy a second one later, when you have the money. There is no sense in buying two monitors that you will not be happy with. CRT monitors are your best bet in terms of color reproduction, but if you want the conviences of a LCD with great color reproduction, you'll need to spend a fair amount of money. As far as Samsung goes ion the monitor department, I personally like and own two of their 22" monitors, but find LG to be equally as good. What is your budget? I'll try and find the best monitor that suits your needs.


I haven't got a specific budget for monitors as I don't know the costs of the individual components such as RAM, harddisk space etc. However, I'm prepared to invest approx £1500 in this project so assume there should be enough left to get a fairly decent monitor even if it's not top of the range. I agree with you, it's definitely worth investing in a good monitor but productivity is just as important to me so I need to find a balance. I'm not so keen on the cosmetic design of CRT monitors - they look a bit too industrial and take up too much space for my liking - so may be a good 20" LCD is the way to go for me if I can afford it.
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#15
james_8970

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I apologize for the delay.

I may well end up working with larger files as I update my camera kit over time but I presume I can easily upgrade to 8GB at a later stage if need be anyway

Yes, if you go 64bit, just snap in the extra RAM and go. An addition note on the RAM. You don't need memory speeds faster then PC2-6400, so don't spend extra money on it. The only time you'd see addidtional benefits from the higher frequency RAM would be in the event of you wanting to overclock. Something I doubt you want to do.

In terms of 64 bit compatibility, the hardware I use at the moment include the following:

* HP Photosmart 9180
* Wester Digital external hardrives
* JOBO Giga one ultra portable harddrive
* Netgear 54 Mbps wireless ADSL router DG834G v3
* Lexar USB 2.0 Multicard Reader
* D-link DUB-H7 USB port

HP Photosmart Pro B9180 Photo Printer -> will work fine, there are 64bit drivers
Wester Digital external hardrives -> I'm assuming you mean Western, but all external hard drives and portable devices will work fine
Netgear 54 Mbps wireless ADSL router DG834G v3 -> Routers will work fine
Lexar USB 2.0 Multicard Reader -> should have no issues
D-link DUB-H7 USB port ->should have no issues

# 2 x 250 GB hard disks for OS/Programmes and the other for scratch disks. (I'm probably going to pass on RAID arrays as it sounds a bit too complicated for me! I'm used to backing up my files on DVD anyway even though it's a painin the bum. i might look into online back up anyway which might be easier).
# 1 x 750 or 1TB harddisk for storing files (should I consider the same again for back up?)

I'd just have two hard drives, I don't see any need for you to purchase three. I'd recommend you purchase two 500GB or two 750GB hard drives. The reason why I suggest two is so that you have the option to back up critical files on both drives.

Since I don't know what monitors are available in where ever you reside (UK?), I cannot really say which monitor I'd recommend. Can you provide a link to the place you wish to buy from? Your list is missing components as well, but again, I can't suggest a part without information on where you wish to purchase these parts.
James

Edited by james_8970, 09 September 2008 - 10:37 PM.

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