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Thread: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

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    Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    Hello,

    I am seeking the advice on choosing a system configuration for a computer I am planning to build for myself. I have done this before but this is only the fourth time in six years I am doing this, so I pretty much know the very basics of construction and assembly but that's it. (that seems to be the easy part)

    I have a rough idea of what I want - a high performance computer maximizing value for money, but should last at least 4 years maintaining its performance (with constant software updates/upgrades). I am not a heavy gamer, more casual. The important requirement is for my photography - I always shoot in RAW and need to process lots of 20+MB files using Lightroom/GIMP (yeah, can't afford Photoshop)

    Anyway, I was looking at choosing between a Core i7-based config or a Phenom II 955BE-based config, based of recommendations from Anandtech guides, however those being aimed at the US don't really give an accurate picture of the vlaue proposition in the UK.

    I would probably save overclocking for the future (as a 'free speed boost' in a year or two )

    My options would be like this:

    Common parts:
    GeForce GTX260 Core 216 (looking at the cheapest XFX card in Scan)
    1TB HDD (WD/Seagate)
    Optiarc DVD-DL writier
    Corsair 750TX
    Antec 300

    Intel CPU/Mobo:
    Core i7 920 D0
    6GB 8-8-8-24 DDR3
    Gigabyte UDP3 X58-based ATX board
    Noctua cooler

    AMD CPU/Mobo:
    Phenom II 955 BE
    4GB 8-8-8-24 DDR3
    One of the 790FX boards
    (need recommendation for suitable cooler)

    I have a pretty good monitor (Dell 2007WFP SIPS panel) and speakers so I don't need to buy those.

    The Core i7 route costs about £100 more. Both are within my budget, but does the i7 deliver enough extra performance to be worth it?

    Also, any suggestions on improving the overall configuration? I welcome all input/opinions
    Last edited by fiish; 08-08-2009 at 07:44 AM. Reason: Make title more specific

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    Quote Originally Posted by fiish View Post
    Hello,

    I am seeking the advice on choosing a system configuration for a computer I am planning to build for myself. I have done this before but this is only the fourth time in six years I am doing this, so I pretty much know the very basics of construction and assembly but that's it. (that seems to be the easy part)

    I have a rough idea of what I want - a high performance computer maximizing value for money, but should last at least 4 years maintaining its performance (with constant software updates/upgrades). I am not a heavy gamer, more casual. The important requirement is for my photography - I always shoot in RAW and need to process lots of 20+MB files using Lightroom/GIMP (yeah, can't afford Photoshop)

    Anyway, I was looking at choosing between a Core i7-based config or a Phenom II 955BE-based config, based of recommendations from Anandtech guides, however those being aimed at the US don't really give an accurate picture of the vlaue proposition in the UK.

    I would probably save overclocking for the future (as a 'free speed boost' in a year or two )

    My options would be like this:

    Common parts:
    GeForce GTX260 Core 216 (looking at the cheapest XFX card in Scan)
    1TB HDD (WD/Seagate)
    Optiarc DVD-DL writier
    Corsair 750TX
    Antec 300

    Intel CPU/Mobo:
    Core i7 920 D0
    6GB 8-8-8-24 DDR3
    Gigabyte UDP3 X58-based ATX board
    Noctua cooler

    AMD CPU/Mobo:
    Phenom II 955 BE
    4GB 8-8-8-24 DDR3
    One of the 790FX boards
    (need recommendation for suitable cooler)

    I have a pretty good monitor (Dell 2007WFP SIPS panel) and speakers so I don't need to buy those.

    The Core i7 route costs about £100 more. Both are within my budget, but does the i7 deliver enough extra performance to be worth it?

    Also, any suggestions on improving the overall configuration? I welcome all input/opinions

    An important thing to remember is that having a fast hard disk or even an SSD will of use to you although other people on this forum are more up to date than me in this area to give the latest recommendations. An SSD will definitely speed things up and I would look at trying to get one:

    http://techreport.com/articles.x/17269

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/...ce,2365-2.html

    I currently use a mildly overclocked Q6600 and 4gb of RAM and it usually flies though RAW conversion and images of 100mb+ size after I finished tinkering with them. I also do 10MP 35mm film scans using a dedicated negative scanner occasionally and the system is definitely fast enough for this and the TIFFs are 100mb+ too. I use GIMP,PSP X2 and a few other RAW conversion programmes too(not Lightroom ATM though).

    Also do remember that the Core i5 is being launched next month AFAIK.


    A review from techgage is the only one which compares the X4 955 and Core i7 920 together which I can find.



    http://techgage.com/article/amd_phen...lack_edition/5


    Unless you intend to go crossfire get a 770 based motherboard like the Gigabyte GA-MA770T-UD3P for around £70 or a Gigabyte GA-MA770T-UD3P:

    http://www.gigabyte.bz/Products/Moth...ProductID=3096

    It has the same overclocking potential as the more expensive 790 series motherboards:

    http://www.legitreviews.com/article/985/1/

    http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.ph...=347&Itemid=69

    http://www.guru3d.com/article/gigaby...rboard-review/

    The 785G also seems to be good for overclocking too and a Asus M4A785TD-V EVO will do the job too.

    If you want to get an AMD based system this is what I would get:

    AMD Phenom II X4 955 ~ £146

    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/164047

    Gigabyte GA-MA770T-UD3P ~£70

    http://www.tekheads.co.uk/s/product?product=610600

    OR

    Asus M4A785TD-V EVO ~ £73

    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/169532

    4GB PC3-10600 Ballistix DDR3 RAM ~ £43

    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/166996

    It has 6-6-6-20 latencies.

    Noctua NH-U12P ~£46

    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/147097

    Get this GTX260:

    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/896MB...-DL-DVI-I-HDTV

    Make sure you look at the CUDA acceleration and whether this is implemented in Photoshop. TBH,even a GTS250 will do the job and is cheaper especially if you are not into gaming that much.

    Also the PSU you have specced is way OTT for the build you are assembling and is a waste of money.

    Get a decent 500w modular as it will do the job fine and make your build a bit easier and less cluttered.

    One of these of these will do the job:

    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/520W-...-year-warranty

    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/525W-...uard-SafeGuard

    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/500W-...PeakPower-550W
    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 08-08-2009 at 10:38 AM.


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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    High end SSDs are great when you run out of system RAM, they are just perfect for paging!

    It really does depend on your budget thou if it can stretch!
    throw new ArgumentException (String, String, Exception)

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    I've always thought the Noctua heat sink was too expensive, it's good, but not good enough to demand the extra price tag
    I'd look at the Scythe Mugen 2 or Ninja 2
    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/158603
    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/148075

    Graphics card, unless you use Adobe Photoshop CS2 and a 9series or later nVidia card, then the graphics card does nothing and has not effect on image editing.
    However you mention gameing, which does need one.
    When looking at nvidia cards, I'd seriously consider the BFG and EVGA makes, simply for the 10year warranties and exellent customer service record.
    However in the £100-150 card range Ati are currently best.

    Ether 4850 or 4870 would be good, the new Sapphire Vapor-X cards are said to be very good and quiet.
    vapor-x 4850 512mb is good value at £85
    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/161309
    the vapor-x 4870 1gb is not so good value at £132
    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/161307

    Powercolor 4870 512mb for £92 is better value on a 4870 and the 1gb version is £108
    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/167332
    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/164557

    One important note, you really want to get a 64bit OS, ether Vista 64bit or wait for windows7 64bit, when you're working on thoes large a files you'll want to be able to actually use that ram.

    EDIT: with the new intel i5 cpu's on the way and windows7 on the horizon, it may be best to hold off for a couple of months, if you can.

    EDIT2: Scan have the 4870 1gb Vapor-X for slightly cheaper £129.70
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/1GB-S...DMI-D-Sub-HDCP

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    I have decided to hold off until the end of October when my pre-ordered Windows 7 arrives. Your input has been most useful especially regarding the power supplies and motherboard choices. Those would be moot if Core i5 comes out and is priced competitively with the current options (I expect it to perform roughly as well as the Phenom II).

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    I know everyone else has posted with regards to the finer points of the machines 'core', however, I would personal look at other optical drives, the Pioneers are strong performers, that's all I've had apart from a few OEM drives before I started building!

    I can't really comment on the Optiarc's as I've never used them.

    I'm sure other's will have recommendations!
    Last edited by UseItNow; 09-08-2009 at 09:24 PM.

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    I've got a pioneer, it's decent, but I've never really had any issues with my own optical drives.
    Must say it's not the quietest of drives though, I prefer the LG dvd drives.

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    how many RAW photos are you converting at any one time? 1, 10, 100???

    if you're only doing the "odd" RAW conversion is it worth spending a lot of money on a high-end computer?

    i shoot a lot of event photography; tens of thousands of photos per year. if you're a volume shooter then the speed of your archive hard drives will be paramount.

    also, consider back-up of the photo archive, and i don't mean RAID.

    does LR2 off-load to the GPU? (i see to recall PS4 does) if not, there is little point in a high-end GFX card

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    Quote Originally Posted by asposium View Post
    how many RAW photos are you converting at any one time? 1, 10, 100???

    if you're only doing the "odd" RAW conversion is it worth spending a lot of money on a high-end computer?

    i shoot a lot of event photography; tens of thousands of photos per year. if you're a volume shooter then the speed of your archive hard drives will be paramount.

    also, consider back-up of the photo archive, and i don't mean RAID.

    does LR2 off-load to the GPU? (i see to recall PS4 does) if not, there is little point in a high-end GFX card
    Very good advice here and is worth noting.


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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    Quote Originally Posted by asposium View Post
    also, consider back-up of the photo archive, and i don't mean RAID.
    In terms of off-site, how does Carbonite/Mozy work out when you're adding multi-gig blocks of photos? Last time I looked into this there really wasn't any off-site backup for home users that was price-competitive with my current strategy of dumping it onto an eSATA drive and taking that into work.

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    I agree with most things that have been said here... however worth considering is the following:

    If you get an i7 920 D0 now, before it reaches EOL and the price jumps, you will be able to upgrade it to an i9 Hex or Oct in 2011 as they will be using the same socket and suppor the same chipset, and the first revisions are coming out Q2/3 2010. (not sure on specific dates yet, all we know is some prototype chips have been released)

    The i7 920 D0 is also very easy to overclock, and if you consider that the benchmarks mentioned above are for the i7 at stock...

    Finally, if you get the Windows 7 RC1 then as I understand it you can do an "upgrade install" (as in start the install within Windows) and it will preserve all your settings, etc.... however this has a slight disadvantage in that you may lose a bit of disk space (the orignal RC1 install will be remain on your system and will probably cause the system to be unstable if removed), and will probably want to (as I do) do a complete format anyway. (Oh that'll be a fun day.... copying my non-backed up [i.e. able to lose without the sky falling] data from my RAID0 array to my RAID5 array, then reinstalling and setting up Windows 7 RTM).
    Last edited by nightkhaos; 10-08-2009 at 02:01 PM.
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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    You can't do an in place install of 7 RTM over 7 RC.

    You can use migwiz.exe (Windows Easy Transfer in Win 7) to transfer documents and other user files though.

    From my own experience, CPU power and RAM will be more important than hard drive speed. Capacity is my only concern for photos - the only time hard drive speed comes into effect in my photo workflow is when I'm backing up my photos to another hard drive. Other than that it's just transferring files from the memory card (where USB performance limits speed far more than the hard drive), opening files themselves (hard drive speed doesn't make any notable difference there) and generating the thumbnails when opening a folder for the first time in Bridge or when importing to Lightroom - but that's only a 1-off wait... just go and grab a cuppa while it does it.

    Personally I'd take CPU speed, RAM and hard drive capacity into consideration way before capacity.

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    I think balancing a PC configuration with photo editing in mind is always a bit of a balancing act. It's easy with an unlimited budget, but trickier is you need value for money.

    Anyway, my view is ....

    - given casual gaming, cut down on the graphics card. Most high-end cards (excluding wordstation cards like FireGL etc) are about gaming, and if gaming isn't a priority, then well under £100 ought to do a photo editing PC well. The exception might be if you're after hardware acceleration fromthe GPU under Photoshop CS4, but it isn't an issue in this case.

    - a decent CPU, but keep an eye on the budget.

    - of working with large-ish files, lots of RAM. Go for 8GB, and more if possible. Of course, that implies a 64-bit OS is necessary. That's more important, IMHO, than extra money on the CPU and will make more difference in most tasks.

    - at least one scratch disk, that isn't used for Windows paging files, and make that one as fast as possible. WD Caviar Blue is a good starting point, WD Black might be better and if the cost can be justified, hardware RAID 0.


    I use Photoshop, so my opinion comes from that. But I'd put at least 4GB of RAM as essential, and if you're using large files and/or lots of layers, more. Next, I'd want to be sure the machine had at least two HDs, and preferably three, as per above. Only then would I spend spare budge on extra CPU power .... and I'd be thinking hard about getting a faster dual-core as opposed to a slower Quad (for the same money), because even Photoshop only uses multiple cores in a limited set of functions, the nature of many editing tasks simply not lending themselves to non-sequential processing of data.



    Caveat - its all personal opinion, and this is an area where whatever you recommend, you'll inevitably get people that don't agree. That's how I'd do it ... and how I did it, except that I went for a fast Intel Quad because I had an opportunity to do so.

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    Quote Originally Posted by asposium View Post
    how many RAW photos are you converting at any one time? 1, 10, 100???

    if you're only doing the "odd" RAW conversion is it worth spending a lot of money on a high-end computer?

    i shoot a lot of event photography; tens of thousands of photos per year. if you're a volume shooter then the speed of your archive hard drives will be paramount.

    also, consider back-up of the photo archive, and i don't mean RAID.

    does LR2 off-load to the GPU? (i see to recall PS4 does) if not, there is little point in a high-end GFX card
    I shoot somewhere in the region of a few hundred pictures a year, going into the thousands if I have a big holiday trip that year. All my photos are shot in RAW.

    At present I am using a 2 year old laptop as my main computer (C2D T7200, 2GB RAM, ATI X1700), and it's not doing too badly at the RAW conversions, except that when I am doing the conversions it chews up so much CPU time that the MP3s I have playing in the background start to jitter. I have this feeling that should I move to a quad core desktop this situation would still continue, just that it wouldn't take as long to finish

    Another reason for considering a desktop is that if I went for another laptop for my next upgrade, something like a Macbook Pro would be nearly twice as expensive as a Core i7 box.

    Agree that storage is very important. I would probably amend my configuration - am also keeping an eye on SSD prices (thinking of running the OS, swap file and apps off the SSD and have a big HDD for everything else).

    The graphics card is more for my (rather occasional these days) gaming needs than anything else.

    Something else that has entered my thoughts recently is power consumption.... my laptop draws 90W under full load and switching to a desktop is going to have a marked effect on my leccy bills :-/

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    Quote Originally Posted by b0ned0me View Post
    In terms of off-site, how does Carbonite/Mozy work out when you're adding multi-gig blocks of photos? Last time I looked into this there really wasn't any off-site backup for home users that was price-competitive with my current strategy of dumping it onto an eSATA drive and taking that into work.
    i use my dreamhost account for off-site on-line storage.

    nowt wrong with taking a hard drive to work. i also keep an eSATA drive in my work desk draw, taking it home every now and again for a refresh.

    not much of my work is THAT commercially important that it's loss would be a disaster. the off-site back-up is mainly MY personal stuff .... my wedding photos being a very good example. loosing them is not an option.

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    Re: Photographer's PC Build - Seeking Opinions/Input

    Quote Originally Posted by fiish View Post
    I shoot somewhere in the region of a few hundred pictures a year, going into the thousands if I have a big holiday trip that year. All my photos are shot in RAW.

    At present I am using a 2 year old laptop as my main computer (C2D T7200, 2GB RAM, ATI X1700), and it's not doing too badly at the RAW conversions, except that when I am doing the conversions it chews up so much CPU time that the MP3s I have playing in the background start to jitter. I have this feeling that should I move to a quad core desktop this situation would still continue, just that it wouldn't take as long to finish

    Another reason for considering a desktop is that if I went for another laptop for my next upgrade, something like a Macbook Pro would be nearly twice as expensive as a Core i7 box.

    Agree that storage is very important. I would probably amend my configuration - am also keeping an eye on SSD prices (thinking of running the OS, swap file and apps off the SSD and have a big HDD for everything else).

    The graphics card is more for my (rather occasional these days) gaming needs than anything else.

    Something else that has entered my thoughts recently is power consumption.... my laptop draws 90W under full load and switching to a desktop is going to have a marked effect on my leccy bills :-/
    if you're only shooting a few hundred plus RAWs a year you don't NEED a photo centered computer. some will disagree.

    don't run the OS and swap on the same disk, well that used to be the advice for rotating disks.

    whilst it may not be what you want to hear, for the volume of RAWs you're shooting there is little need to upgrade. though seriously consider off-line photo back-up.

    (((0)))

    unless leaving it on 24/7 a desktop will have minimal affect on the lecky bills. for example...

    my main computer: dual core 3.1GHz, an asus gfx card, asus p5e64 ws mobo, 2 x seagate 320gig, 2 x seagate 1TB. wall plug draw ~ 130W

    my server: intel atom mobo, 1 x seagate 320gig, 4 x seagate 1TB, 1 x seagate 2TB (*). wall plug draw ~75w (*) server also has two external USB hard drives not included in the power measurement.

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