PC specs for post processing?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by eric_guel, Nov 2, 2012.

  1. I need a good PC for post processing. A laptop would be nice for convenience. I'm thinking PC, but am open to a Mac (yeah yeah, I know a Mac is technically a PC :). I just keep getting the feeling that it's not worth it to spend the money on a Mac, but I'm open to be convinced.
    So what do you all suggest? Thanks in advance.
  2. what are you going to be post processing? How big, and many files. how much "work" will the system
    need to be able to handle? If it's just simple photoshop or LR and youre not pushing 1000's of shots or a
    ton of video, any PC or mid to upper end laptop in the 500-1000 range will work. If, on the other hand
    youre going to be pushing huge files, lots of video, and you need correct color, you'll need to get a faster
    system. As for specs, get a 64 bit system with 8 gb of Ram or more, the more the better of course. A
    hug HD is not all that critical as portable storage these days is cheep. I've run LR 4 on everything from a
    fastes pc's to the best mac down to 5 year old dell and it works. It really depends on how big your files
    are and how hard you want to work the system . . . If i were starting over, i'd go mac if you have the
    budget, over time I think you'd be happier with it. If youre a iphone user or you have a ipad, or ipod, go
    with mac and forget about it . . .
  3. I use a laptop (Toshiba Satellite with Core i3 processor) for all of my photo work - even working with RAW files - and have no complaints about speed or performance. When color is critical or I want a larger workspace for detail work I carry it into the computer room and hook it up to a Dell U2410 monitor. Mind you I'm just a hobbyist, but I'm happy with my setup.
  4. Tony, primarily wedding work and portraits. Wedding work would be 1,000 images or so. No video.
  5. plan a, if you want to stay windows you can use about anything in the 500-1000$ dont go less than 4 GB
    ram and you'll be fine . . . I like like dells, they seem to last forever, i still have three working dells and
    one's 10 years old!
  6. Note Tony's question as to whether you'll be working with huge files, and keep in mind that you'll want a computer that can handle your needs years into the future. If have or move to an FX body with 36 Mp and certainly if you move to medium format and a digital back with even higher resolution, your processing needs will be affected.
    For some time, many of us avoided laptops for photo editing, although now there are some with 1920x1080 resolution IPS screens which might be enough for you, but the amount of memory in a laptop may prove limiting if you use or begin to use higher resolution bodies. In a desktop, it will not be difficult to increase the amount of memory in the future. There is a good discussion of current Windows laptops for Photoshop here.
    My suggestion, as an amateur who occasionally shoots multi-day events professionally with 1000-3000 images and who may move from 16Mp bodies to 24 Mp, is a desktop with a minimum of 8 Mb but an easy path to 16 Mb or more. I have 16 now, and an i5 processor, and I'm happy with that.
    I see no compelling reason to move to Mac. The new Imacs are more stylish than the previous models, and are said to have screens with less glare, but I didn't see anything you can't get in a PC. The Mac Pro is very expensive. There was a recent photo.net thread from someone considering a Mac Mini, whose performance specs are improved, but you'll have to search for it if you want to look at it.
  7. Since you said "good" PC, I recently had a PC computer made (after much research) by a local PC shop.
    Intel i7-3770 3.5 GHz processor
    ASUS Sabertooth z77 motherboard
    16 GB ddr3 RAM
    3- 2TB Seagate 7200 RPM SATA (no raid- each drive independent)
    256 gb SSD (for Photoshop scratch disk)
    Antec Solo 2 Case
    (17.3" high)
    Antec 500 wt power supply
    ASUS Blue Ray SATA Writer
    2- USB 3 / 2- USB 2 / mic / headphone jacks
    (in front) 4- USB 3 (in back)
    EVGA GeForce GTX 550 1 gb/pcie Video card
    Windows 7 Pro 64 OS
    It may seem like a lot of computer but I recently got a 36 MP digital camera and with all the 24+ MP bodies being introduced, you need a lot more computer than if you plan to just shoot with a 12 or 16 MP camera. This configuration will run $2,000 plus but you can reduce a few items like the extra hard drives to reduce the price. My dual core, 4 GB, XP Pro computer is maxed out with the new high MP cameras.
  8. Be really, really sure that when you say "no video" you mean it.
  9. High end laptops are now good enough for photo editing but it is cheaper to buy an equivalent desktop. Since Photoshop and Lightroom runs on both PCs and Macs, there is no sense in paying more for a Mac. So the most bang for the money is a desktop PC.
    The specs for doing post processing are fairly simple. Get at least 8GB of main memory. Get at least a 3.0GHz quad processor. Get at least a 1TB HD. The only tricky part is getting a good monitor. What you want is a monitor with a wide viewing angle. Otherwise if your head is outside the viewing angle, black can look gray and red can look pink. As a result your results will be inconsistent. Unfortunately, viewing angle is a spec that is rarely given in the literature. I found the looking at display models or getting a specific recommendation is the only way to get a good monitor. Get a monitor calibration system such as Spyder or Colormunki.
    The above system should be around $1000. If that is too much money you can cut back on the processor speed but I would not go below 2.5GHz. I would also not go below 6GB of memory. Expect a 50% premium if you want an equivalent laptop.
    Hardware wise, any PC is the same as any other. However after market support is a different story. HP and Lenovo have the best support system after Apple. All 3 have worldwide repair facilities. So if the reason you want the laptop is take with you on trips, you are more likely to find a nearby repair depot by HP, Lenovo or Apple than the other makers away from home.
    Windows comes in various packages. For most people the Home Premium package will do quite well. The big advantage of the Professional packages is networking but unless you are running a real business network and not a simple home LAN network, the extra networking options may just make life more complicated with no benefit.
    Danny Low
  10. I would suggest a laptop with a 17" screen. Most that size that I encountered had pretty decent specs. It would give you something to take with you on the job. And when your budget permits get a quality monitor to hook up to it. I used to run a 2 monitor set up and miss it. It was nice to have the uncluttered big screen for the image I was working on and the smaller on for the tool bars.
  11. I recently picked up a 15 inch retina display Mac with a
    2.7 GHz Intel Core i7
    16 GB RAM
    Intel HD Graphic 4000 512 MB
    500 GB SSD
    and I added to this a 27 in Thunderbolt display.
    This give me portability and when I want/need a big display, I just plug it in. Very simply and fast
    I process 36 MP images (D800) and HD video without much difficulty.
    All working files are stored on Western Digital USB 3.0 drives.
    This solution gives you a fast machine, portability and a large display.
  12. I went through same process in 201. Bought a 64 bit Desktop PC: i7 Quad core 2.95 ghz 8GB Ram running Windows 7 and having USB3. The PC with Dell 2410 monitor worked well, but I was never satisfied with USB3. After I bought a late 2011 i7 quad core 15" Macbook Pro with FW 800. There was nothing in the high end PC Laptop market that was as good without costing as much and nothing with the build quality of the Mac. I was sold on the idea of Firewire 800 drives which outperformed the USB3 ones (it was maybe the brand that I used)
    I could not get the PC to work with Firewire and found that the Macbook performed marginally faster than the PC desktop when I upgraded to 8GB RAM, even though the clock speed is only 2.2Ghz. Running a MacBook with a large screen monitor is a very good arrangement as the 2nd screen is very useful. The MacBook can be used closed with and external keyboard and mouse. Of course you have a good Laptop for travel too which has good battery capacity (up to 7hrs light use 3-4 hrs for heavier use).
    The only downside to this was the the Macbook screen looked better than the Dell IMO and I could not get the same vibrancy of colour on the Dell. I sold the PC and recently bought a 27" Thunderbolt display. It colour matches the Macbook perfectly and the resolution is awesome. some say the Apple Displays do not have as good colour gamut as the Dell; but so far I have not seen any problem and I know a lot of pro photographers who use them.
    I have ordered a new Mac mini with 2.6Ghz i7 quad core Ivy Bridge chip with hyperthreading , 16GB RAM an 1.12 TB Fusion Drive. It will be interesting to see how this performs. Its not cheap but as Mac have not upgraded the Mac Pro to Thunderbolt spec. That is Looking seriously outdated and overpriced; I could buy 2-3 Mac minis for the same price of the Mac Pro.
    The main criticism I have about Macs are the proprietory nature of them and the cost compared to a PC based system. I can live with that as the build quality and reliability is more important to me.
  13. If you want a laptop, the Macbook Pro and Macbook Pro retina are excellent. On the retina you have to max the ram out when you buy because you can't add later. I suggest getting it with 16GB, on the regular MBP is flexible and you can add ram yourself later. You can also get a non-glare screen with MBP. You could also get either a mac monitor like or a NEC monitor or even a Dell Monitor for a larger screen though the Retina display is pretty awesome. However, if you are looking for a desktop PC I really like the quad core I7 iMacs. The screen is quite good and the computer rips and should last for several years. It also has four user accessible ram slots and comes stock with 8GBs. You can also check the Mac refurbished store, good deals on current models. With external storage, these computers are excellent for wedding work and can handle virtually any photographic load you give it provided it has sufficient ram.
  14. I have to say, I'm not overly fond of Mac brand displays for photo editing. They're great for photo viewing, but I find them a bit too contrasty for super accurate work. They're not bad ... but considering the fact that you can get a similarly-sized NEC monitor for just a few dollars more, I'd pass on the Mac screen. For that matter, I'd pass on ANY glossy screen, as that seems to be what causes the contrast issues.
    As far as Mac v. Windows, that's a giant can of worms right there. All I'll say is this: your average Mac is much better than your average Windows machine, and costs much more. But then again, if you spec out the machines similarly (it might require building a machine), they are often much more alike, both in price and performance.

    I get asked which to buy all the time. I always tell people that if it's only going to be used for editing (especially if it's not going to be Internet-enabled), then a Windows machine will get you much better performance for the same or less money. But as a general-purpose machine, I recommend going Mac, as most of the software it comes with is better, and they deal with things like wear and viruses better. Those things aren't much of an issue on a single-purpose machine though ... if you're not trying to run games on it or getting viruses, you're more probably going to be replacing it because it can't handle files from your newer cameras, and not because it got old.
    As far as specs, memory is the biggest thing with Adobe. Don't bother with anything that has more than 4 cores, and get a decent, but not amazing, video card. If you've spec'ed it out and have more money to spend, go to Newegg or Tiger Direct and buy more RAM. Photoshop and Lightroom only make full use of all processors for some functions, but they can use more memory all the time. The Adobe site implies (but does not outright state) that having a state-of-the-art graphics card, or even multiples, doesn't make much of a difference in Photoshop or Lightroom.
    The first thing I would do is check the specs on the motherboard. You want something that is expandable to at least 32GB of RAM, and ideally 64GB. You're not going to fill it now, but you will later. You also want to make sure that the motherboard supports more advanced processors than what is currently on it, for the same reason. Lastly, you'll want plenty of fans, and at least a 500 watt power supply. If it's in the budget, and you want to go Windows, I'd recommend looking into something with Intel's X79 processors, because they will run quad-core RAM; it means that each stick of RAM is essentially twice as powerful.
    Assuming you can take what Adobe says at face value, you'll be miles ahead by buying a quad-core machine and running 32GB of RAM than if you bought a 6 or 8 core machine and ran 8GB. But again, that's assuming.
    I should point out too that I'm not really a tech guy, so I don't know the science behind any of this stuff. It just so happens that I spent a LOT of time researching it lately so I could by my own machine, and this is what I came up with.
  15. The imac screens are IPS panels and are quite good. I've had no problem with color accuracy on them. Are they a NEC or an Eizo? Not quite, but close enough. I know several professional retouchers using the iMacs and love em.
  16. Once upon a time, there were real differences between Macs and PCs but that was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
    Today any laptop or desktop, whether it be PC or Mac, are made in a handful of factories in China using the same commodity components. The hardware is really all the same.
    It used to be that the Mac OS software was superior but that changed with Windows XP which was superior until OS X came out. Today the OS are the same in ability. For most people the key apps such as Word, Excel, Photoshop, etc. once were Mac apps first and the Windows version came out later. Today it is the reverse. The Windows version often comes out first. This is evident when multithreading first was implemented in Photoshop. The Windows version got it first. It took a year later for it to show up in the Mac version.
    The one big advantage of Windows software is it is often cheaper and you have more choices. There are photo editing programs besides Photoshop and Lightroom for Windows and all of them are much cheaper. They do not have everything of PS but for many photographers, they are more than what they need.
    Apple is still consistently the best company for support and service but Lenovo and HP are not far behind. This is especially true if you have a laptop and travel around. Anywhere you go in the world, you are likely to find an Apple, HP or Lenovo service shop nearby.
    The bottom line, is if you have a PC, stick with it. If you have a Mac, stick with it. There is no sense in switching. If you are buying for the first time, I would chose between Apple, HP or Lenovo for the after market service and support especially if you travel. The exception is if you find a really good local computer shop. The small computer shops, which are now all PC shops, often offer the best service you will ever get and their prices are competitive with the big box stores. Best of all, for the same price as the big box stores, they will build a PC customized to your specific needs.
    Danny Low
  17. Get a base-level 13" Macbook Pro or, if you can swing it, a base 15" MacBook Pro ($1800). Buy an opti-bay or equivalent; remove the DVD drive; put the standard internal hard drive in the the opti-bay and mount it in the DVD slot; and put a 256 GB SSD in the normal HD bay (about $200 – $300 total). Max out the RAM on your own dime.
    If you want to know why, search for "Why Should I get an SSD?" and you'll find a lot of technical and non-technical details. Given the choice between an SSD and any other upgrade, I'd take the SSD. Having two hard drives will also let you use one as a scratch / cache disk.
    Regardless of what you buy, the real advantage in modern computers is the SSD. Get one and you'll never go back. Use the larger drive to store your photos and/or as a scratch disk. If you buy a Windows laptop, do the same thing, though I don't know much about which is best or how to install the second drive in the DVD bay. For Macs, these kinds of guides are readily available on ifixit.com and elsewhere. I've always used Thinkpads, but they're not known for their graphics cards.
  18. I've had past computers custom built, not Macs, but my latest came from Costco. Costco has that extraordinary 90 day return policy so I make an effort to buy from them. I am using HP's both for my business and Photoshop. For under $2,000 I have a HP- H8 1060T that's a special order. I'm running 24 Gigs of RAM, a hexacore i7 processor, a pair of 1 T hard drives RAID 0 configured, and an incredible graphics card. It has both USB 3.0 and eSata ports that I run to external drives. All that from Costco! And, with 24G RAM, not much slows it down. I'm powering an old 30" Dell monitor running 2560 dpi.
    Laptops? My eyes just are not good enough, so an external monitor is essential.
    One more thing, the latest versions of Photoshop detect the graphics card in your computer. If you have a decent card it will allow use of PS tools that are very handy,like scrubby zoom, birds eye view, rotate view, oil paint, and adaptive wide angle just to name a few. I don't do video (yet) but I employ my graphics card often messing around in PS. Good luck with your choice. Aloha.

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