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Thread: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

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    Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    I think I'm finally ready for a new PC. It's going to be a basic home PC, no fancy demands, not especially a gaming machine. But .... I will be doing a fair bit of photographic work on it. Just home, hobby grade, not commercial or professional. File sizes? Moderate, probably around 20MP camera (though final camera upgrade not decided yet, and might go up to 32.5MP).

    Oh, and using ACDSee/Affinity, not PS or LR. And main photo storage on NAS, not this machine.

    So what I'm after is a decent spec, not skimping on power for small savings, but I'm not after a hairy-chested price-no-object muscle machine either. Something sensible, usable and decently future-proofed as this may well be my last major PC replacement.

    Put it this way, the more the PC budget goes up, the more the camera (and bits) budget goes down.

    System unit only. Will reuse existing monitor, mouse, kb etc (and probably add a Wacom 'cos, well, want one). Provided ACDSee etc support it. That is yet to be checked.

    So really, the question is .... suggestions for :-

    - CPU
    - Mobo
    - RAM
    - GPU (bearing in mind gaming is not a high priority)

    And I may well look to buy, rather than build.

    Thoughts?

    TIA.
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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    Normally I'm a build over buy person, but there are a couple of reasons to consider buy:
    1) Support - a decent builder will have a good fix/replacement process and this can cut down on down-time if you're using it a fair bit
    2) OEMs may just have better access to hardware at the moment, which in this time of substrate shortages can be quite an advantage.

    CPU: Anything 8 cores up from Intel 10xxx series or AMD 5xxx series
    Mobo: Whatever matches the CPU - Z490 for Intel Desktop, WS299 for Intel workstation and B550 for AMD.
    RAM: 32GB 3200 DDR4, in 2x16 sticks to allow for a cheap upgrade in the future should you ever need 64GB
    GPU: Go for something efficient like a 1050ti

    Storage is probably a key spec - I'd pair a fast NVMe SSD on M.2 (OS, caches) with a larger HDD for storage.

    This configured build for eg. puts a lot of expense into storage (1tb NVMe SSD + 8TB 7200rpm HDD), small warranty upgrade, and ends up at £1544 delivered.

    Case
    PCS 3601 CASE
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    AMD Ryzen 7 5800X Eight Core CPU (3.8GHz-4.7GHz/36MB CACHE/AM4)
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    Price: £1,544.00 including VAT and Delivery
    You can play with the configuration at the below link:

    https://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/saved...pc/FAHA!Hu5kv/

    EDIT: or I could read your post more carefully and note NAS for main storage! Sorry! You can cut that back down a bit then

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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    Does it need to be a desktop?? Would a laptop also do??

    Edit!!

    It also depends on what you are upgrading from - Intel CPUs do have integrated graphics which might remove the need for a dedicated dGPU,especially as the latter are in short supply.


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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    If you can get your hands on a laptop with a Ryzen 5xxx APU I would have thought that would be ideal for some home photo editing. Portable too.

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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    Quote Originally Posted by CAT-THE-FIFTH View Post
    Does it need to be a desktop?? Would a laptop also do??

    Edit!!

    It also depends on what you are upgrading from - Intel CPUs do have integrated graphics which might remove the need for a dedicated dGPU,especially as the latter are in short supply.
    No, definitely not a laptop. Already have a half-decent i5 laptop, and MS Surface Pro (which I'm on right now).

    A laptop for this machine doesn't offer me much to add to portability, but heavily restricts what else I can do with it. For the sake of brevity, I omitted some of my plans but I'm heavily de-machining. I want to cut my current PC count from about 14 to, probably, 4. That includes the lappy and SurfPro mentioned above, and probably ONE old machine, just for those few things I can't get running. I'll probably also replace 6 or 8 of the old photo printers, and maybe cut the scanners down to only two or three.

    Basically, a mahoooosive declutter operation. But I do want to preserve options for internal drives, etc. I also have a choice of cases, so may choose to supply someone like PC Specialist with a case. At the end of it, I want to end up with probably one new photo printer, keep the dye-sub, keep both flatbed and film scanners, and the auto-feed doc-imaging unit, but maybe get rid of the other flatbeds, including the A3 flatbed, tranny adapter, etc. And end up with one central machine (the one this thread's about), plus the laptop for luggability and the SurfPro for lightweight portability.

    As for "upgrading from " it's more a case of replacing. The outgoing machines are pretty much steam-powered. The most recent of them is Q6600 era (it isn't a 6600, but it's that generation).

    But I'm going to be asking things of this new machine I don't dare ask of the old stuff, because it would first laugh at me, then drop dead of a heart attack, when it realised I was serious.
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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen999 View Post
    No, definitely not a laptop. Already have a half-decent i5 laptop, and MS Surface Pro (which I'm on right now).

    A laptop for this machine doesn't offer me much to add to portability, but heavily restricts what else I can do with it. For the sake of brevity, I omitted some of my plans but I'm heavily de-machining. I want to cut my current PC count from about 14 to, probably, 4. That includes the lappy and SurfPro mentioned above, and probably ONE old machine, just for those few things I can't get running. I'll probably also replace 6 or 8 of the old photo printers, and maybe cut the scanners down to only two or three.

    Basically, a mahoooosive declutter operation. But I do want to preserve options for internal drives, etc. I also have a choice of cases, so may choose to supply someone like PC Specialist with a case. At the end of it, I want to end up with probably one new photo printer, keep the dye-sub, keep both flatbed and film scanners, and the auto-feed doc-imaging unit, but maybe get rid of the other flatbeds, including the A3 flatbed, tranny adapter, etc. And end up with one central machine (the one this thread's about), plus the laptop for luggability and the SurfPro for lightweight portability.

    As for "upgrading from " it's more a case of replacing. The outgoing machines are pretty much steam-powered. The most recent of them is Q6600 era (it isn't a 6600, but it's that generation).

    But I'm going to be asking things of this new machine I don't dare ask of the old stuff, because it would first laugh at me, then drop dead of a heart attack, when it realised I was serious.
    Just asking as the Zen3 based laptops look very powerful with close to desktop levels of CPU processing grunt.

    So how small does this PC need to be?? Large ATX tower,or something a bit smaller,ie,mATX. Also what is the model number of the monitor?

    Edit!!

    WRT to prebuilt PCs CCL Computers have a 3 year collect and return warranty as standard.CyberpowerPC also have a lot of customisation options too.

    In terms of the CPU,the 8C/16T Ryzen 7 3700X(what I use) is decent value. A 8C/16T Ryzen 7 5800X is 20% to 30% faster but is at least £100 more,and for similar money a 12C/24T Ryzen 9 3900X can also be had.

    Any of these will be a huge upgrade over a Q6600. Even a Ryzen 5 3600 will be!
    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 10-02-2021 at 11:22 PM.


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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    I know photoshop can make use of dGPU but it runs ok on my laptop with iris graphics so would the ryzen 4xxx APUs be any good? If so check out the asus pn50. It's not very customisable but it's a well-spec'd mini machine and will take 3200 DDR4 so-dimm, one nvme (pcie3) and one SSD and with the 4800U model it will give you 8c16t. I'm still waiting for Scan to deliver the one my parents have on pre-order. Had it arrived I could tell you how it fares. You only need to buy RAM and SSDs everything else is taken care of. And it's portable. Less build hassle, more time to spend researching monitors - which for photo editing is rather crucial.

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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    I have options on the case. One machine I'm numping will leave a rather nice Coolermaster aluminium case. Another (the Q8200 or something similar, like a Q6600 but a bit faster and low thermal profile, 65W??) will be coming out of an Antec 1200. Or, I have a pretty nice but modest-sized brand new mAtx/ITX case sitting here awaiting first use. I might use that as a HTPC though. That'll be the next project. In short, the case is a low priority - either I use something I have or if there's good reasons for a given mobo (etc) I'll buy a new case if need be.

    The balance I'm trying to get is best bang-for-buck, BUT with some future-proofing, but not going for silly powerful unless there's a convincing reason.

    I mean, where's the sweet spot? There's always a point where the next jump in power that's noticeable costs far more than it's worth. i.e. law of diminishing marginal returns really bites.

    To narrow that down, if a processor is £50 more (say, 300 rather than 250) either is viable provided I can get good value formoney. I'm after maximum cost-effectiveness rather than hitting an absolute budget because it's a once-in-10-years type of upgrade and while I don't mind adding RAM or storage space later, I really don't want to be changing anything that means taking something out to do it.

    Also, while I'd like to spend the least possible, it's the least possible to hit that (occasional or non-gaming) sweet spot. If I can do that at £1000, great. If it costs me £1500, so be it. What I'm after is a balance between not spending unnecessary money (i.e. not going top of line for the hell of it) but also not wishing 6 months or a year later that I'd spent £50, or £250, more. I hope this is making sense, but I deliberately didn't give a target budget because, within reason, the budget is what I need to spend to hit that sweet spot. And yeah, that's hard to quantify.

    Monitor model? Dunno. It's a well-regarded Dell 24" IPS panel but from quite a few years ago. It's also not what I'm looking at right now. I might go for a proper photo monitor, Eizo or similar, but it's phase 2. Dunno yet.
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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    Oh, and in case it matters, not Photoshop. Or not centrally. I might still bang on the latest permanent licence I have but I am not paying a subscription to Adobe. So, ACDSee Ultimate and/or Affinity Photo probably, along with DaVinci Resolve and maybe Audacity. Plus maybe Photoshop 7 or whatever my latest licence is, if I feel I need it .... which I doubt.
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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    Here are some benchmarks for DaVinci Resolve:
    https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/ar...formance-1961/

    Also,you might want to check DxO Photolab - its PRIME noise reduction is probably the best on the market.

    AWD-IT do some very good value bundles:
    https://www.awd-it.co.uk/amd-ryzen-7...pu-bundle.html
    https://www.awd-it.co.uk/amd-ryzen-9...pu-bundle.html

    So the Ryzen 7 5800X comes to roughly £370 in the first bundle,and the Ryzen 9 3900 non-X to around £335 in the second bundle. The MSI in the first bundle has a better VRM,but the second motherboard is costlier as it has built-in Wifi. Not sure if a cooler comes with the bundles,so potentially another £20~£30 there.

    A Ryzen 7 3700X and a similarly specced B550 motherboard will come to around £420(and comes with a CPU cooler),so you could save around £100 going that route.

    32GB of DDR4 is around £130:
    https://www.ebuyer.com/1126916-adata...00316g18a-db10

    £60~£80 should get you a fairly decent PSU. SSDs are more dependent on what you require! A lower end NVME 1TB SSD is around £90,and a higher end PCI-E 4.0 one with stuff such as data recovery is closer to £150. Lower end 2TB NVME SSDs start at around £190.

    GPUs are very hard to get hold off now,but if you want a basic dGPU a GT1030 would suffice for around £70


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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    That's the beauty of going pn50 for my folks. Avoided PSU, case and GPU issues.

    The so-dimm stock fluctuated a bit but we got lucky (and the really low latency XMP sets won't run on it so the gamers were going for different kits).

    They're also buying a 5.25 enclosure to get a "fast" DVD RW (i chuckled at this but apparently a USB powered one won't do for them and hey if they want to spend £50 on an enclosure that's their call!)

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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    The idea that a PN50 can hide around the back of a monitor sounds pretty awesome for a declutter operation. But if you want some options of PCIe cards and old school disks, then I would echo a B550 board and some 6 or 8 core CPU should do you.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Asrock-B550...dp/B089VY5WVM/
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/AMD-Ryzen-3...dp/B07STGGQ18/


    My daughter does digital art as a hobby and seems quite happy with a 4 core 4 thread 2200G. That's at the wrong end of the curve, but I think shows how little you can get away with these days. Her old Phenom II machine used to take literally minutes for some operations, now they are really quick with instant preview. For a tablet she uses a Huion KAMVAS Pro 12, really nice toy for the price though the 1080p resolution meant she ended up with a 1080p main display to clone to the tablet.

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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    Looking at your uses, I'd say the best value set-and-forget future proof processor on paper would be the 5900X however you can't buy it anywhere unless perhaps you can find it in a pre built or a 5900 in a bundle deal (if they're even out yet). So yeah one of CAT's suggestions looks like your best bet and you can't really go wrong with either imo. The 5800X is more expensive and has better single thread but slightly worse multi thread than the 3900. If you don't have a CPU cooler then the best value is probably with the 3700X; it's slower but not that much slower and you can always swap it for the 5950X in future if you're in need of (a lot) more grunt. Like CAT mentioned, even a 3600 would have a transformative effect on your workflow but it comes with a crappy cooler so the above options seem spot on. The rest of the build should fall into place once you've decided on the processor as you don't seem to have huge demands on the gpu or storage and you already have plenty of tower cases to fit it all in. I would be surprised if you didn't end up with a decent chunk of change from £1000.

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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhaoman View Post
    If you don't have a CPU cooler then the best value is probably with the 3700X
    If you can find one at Currys rather than at ripoff prices, I thought the 5600X was a better bet, hence my wife ended up with one. Multi thread performance is half way between 3600 and 3700X, like it was a 3000 series with 7 cores and a bit of an overclock. Single thread is simply better, and that is what you will feel most of the time.

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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    The 5600X also has a poor cooler though which is where some of the value of the 3700X comes in (assuming you can find either at sensible prices). I mean you're right, the 5600X is fantastic but then you could argue the 3600 is actually probably the best value for money out of all. I was thinking you could conceivably use the 3700X cooler with the 5950X in future (with a bit of undervolting) but definitely not the 5600X/3600 cooler.

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    Re: Recommended spec for a 'decent' spec for photo work

    Here's an example of the kind of issue I really need advice on, and some of my own comments (like future-proofing) probably aren't helping. I'll come back to that in a minute.

    Suggestions so far include :-

    R5 3600 £180-ish
    R7 3800X £320-ish
    R7 5800X £424-ish (currently).

    So clearly, there's a whopping difference in price between first and last, but my concern (mentioned it earlier) is "sweet spot", and not paying high end for it's own sake. That's not what I meant by future-proofing.

    What I do mean is perhaps better explained by saying :-

    - first priority = good (but not necessarily stellar) spec for my needs

    - second priority = "don't spoil ship for a h'appeth of tar".

    That is, if I spend £x on, in this case, CPU, do I get significant gain by spending, say £x+10%, or £x+£50?

    So if I need to go as far as 5800X and in my actual usage, there are real gains not theoretical or benchmark performance gains, then I can and will spend what it costs to do that.

    But, if the undoubted speed benefits of 5800X over, say, 3600 aren't going to make £250-ish difference to my day-to-day experience, then I'm happy (happier, even) at £180 than £430.

    I'm still not sure I'm explaining what I'm after. Video-editing, or photo-editing, when it's large files on a grossly under-powered machine can be frustratingly slow, to the point it becomes unpleasant. I will throw that extra £250, or £1250 extra at it to avoid that if it makes a real difference to me, in use. But I'd rather not, because that difference will probably constrain my camera purchase to what will do, not what I really want.

    The overall budget is pretty decent, but not bottomless and I'm after camera, a variety of accessories, some software, and the PC. It'll fit, but there won't be a lot of breathing room.

    So .... I'm after optimum bang-for-buck to get a good enough PC for that photo and video stuff. I certainly don't care about clock speeds, or even cores/threads, or even benchmarks other than in when they point to real world usage benefits. I'm not, for instance, after a CPU for willy-waving purposes (not suggesting anyone here is recommending that) but for differences to my real world experience.

    I will pay significantly more to change my usage experience to avoid frustration, but not to get a task to finish in 18 seconds rather than 20 seconds. My guess (and this is where real world advice would be really helpful) is that either the 3600 or 5800X would be entirely usable.

    I might, however, benefit from 64GB of RAM rather than 32GB and I think 32GB rather than 16GB has already been suggested. But I don't know. That is the kind of future-proofing I meant. Maybe adding a second SSD. That can be done for moderate cost, without wasting anything already installed. But I don't want to be changing mobo or CPU (hopefully, ever, because I don't see my requirements rising drastically in the future).

    Very much the same logic applies to video card/gpu. I will want to drive two monitors. I doubt that's a problem. If I end up adding a third, I'll add another card if I need to, but don't want to take out a fairly expensive card to put a bit more expensive card in. Again, I'll spend a bit more, if need be, to future-proof that.

    One thing I absolutely don't want is hassle. Taking bits out, selling them, and upgrading is hassle.

    So I'm after that sweet-spot of powerful-enough, versatile-enough to avoid mucking about with cpu/gpu changes in a year or two, and will spend what I need to to take reasonable precautions against it. I just don't know where it is.

    For a comparison between £x and £x+50 for a processor, I'm not really bothered. If the extra is justified, fine. It's a trivial difference. But while £430 as opposed to £180 is doable if I need to, that's not so trivial so it needs to make a very real difference to my actual usage experience.

    Oh, and this is entirely a home, hobby project. There is no business case, ROI, commercial justification, etc., to think about.

    I hope that narrows down what I'm after from this.
    Last edited by Saracen999; 11-02-2021 at 11:56 AM.
    A lesson learned from PeterB about dignity in adversity, so Peter, In Memorium, "Onwards and Upwards".

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