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What's the current thinking about a PC for image processing?

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I'll go with 32GB RAM.
 
Geoff: I'm intrigued by your comment about storage, and would love to know the rationale for only using externals. I'd have thought that keeping everything you might need to access inside the computer would allow faster access. The Lenovo chap I spoke with said that even an external drive connected through an eSATA port (which is about as fast as you can get, isn't it?) is slower than an internal. I can imagine assignment photographers having their current and recent assignments on the computer and the rest archived to a NAS or similar, but I tend to access my early photos nearly as often as my recent ones. I have around 1.6TB of images (growing rapidly as I use a D800) and around 1TB of other stuff that I access regularly. Currently I only use externals for backups as speed doesn't matter there.

 

David,

 

It's an old MO for photo work. Any finished work is only stored on external media, there's rarely a need to access it and speed of transfer is not an issue even with USB 2. It means you don't need to have massive drive capacity in your computer - I long ago gave up even having two HDs in mine. Only work/jobs in progress are on my desktop. I import all the work to desktop folders and then immediately backup to a dedicated external, which is solely for that stage of backup. I import to LR and delete/edit/process until the job is signed off or stock is sent to x,y or z. Then all the work I want to keep is move off the computer and into a series of external drives. One of these are then re-imported into LR for DAM. It's very rare I have to dip into the externals but I see no significant time issue if I have to find and process another image for a client.

 

So the computer drive only has current work on it, means I can work with a small drive of 500GB which is nowhere near full. I shot 12GB yesterday on a job so I'm generating a lot of data but rarely have more than four or five jobs in progress on the desktop. I have 1.3 TB of data on externals but I do delete all raws/crap files from a job once the client is finished otherwise I would have some stupid amount of data to store. I have the jpegs for personal promotion but the jobs won't get re-used, a new shoot would occur.

 

I also use an external for the scratch disk for CC, don't see any real slow down with that. LR could be quicker but that's a RAM issue.

 

Geoff

Edited by Guest

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I'll go with 32GB RAM.
 
Geoff: I'm intrigued by your comment about storage, and would love to know the rationale for only using externals. I'd have thought that keeping everything you might need to access inside the computer would allow faster access. The Lenovo chap I spoke with said that even an external drive connected through an eSATA port (which is about as fast as you can get, isn't it?) is slower than an internal. I can imagine assignment photographers having their current and recent assignments on the computer and the rest archived to a NAS or similar, but I tend to access my early photos nearly as often as my recent ones. I have around 1.6TB of images (growing rapidly as I use a D800) and around 1TB of other stuff that I access regularly. Currently I only use externals for backups as speed doesn't matter there.
 

 

External drives have speeded up incredibly since the advent of USB3 and Thunderbolt (Mac only I think). The whole MacPro and even iMac model now is going towards external drives with SSD for the OS and programs.

 

I am also using D800 and I like to have all my images accessible. Previously I had an old MacPro with 4 internal drives accumulated over the years. Currently I have nearly 3TB of images (archival stuff to a huge amount of unprocessed raw images) which I keep on an external 4TB Thunderbolt drive. When I got this drive, I also got a few 4TB USB3 drives for backup. These were about half the price of the Thunderbolt and surprisingly are just as fast for copying and accessing files (despite claims that thunderbolt is faster). Opening a largish PSD file (350MB) into Photoshop, there is no noticeable difference between the SSD, Thunderbolt or USB3. Similarly with saving such a file. The Lightroom catalogue and PS scratch are on the SSD although, with 32GB of RAM, the scratch is rarely used except for panoramas.

 

So the main point I am making is that you don't need internal storage for your images. And I can do a full image backup in not too many hours. USB3 has changed the world. 

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I also use an external for the scratch disk for CC, don't see any real slow down with that. LR could be quicker but that's a RAM issue.

 

Geoff

 

 I don't think it's a RAM issue. I think it's Lightroom itself. I have 32GB of RAM which is way more than Lightroom needs and it is slow (the graphics that is).

Edited by MDM

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An alternative option to a fully SSD drive it to use a hybrid drive. I'm using Seagate 750GB Momentus Hybrid Drives.They use a combination of a large HDD and a small SSD in a single package. The drive "learns" what programs/data you access regularly and keeps those on SSD for speedy access, the rest is kept in HDD. I've been using a couple of these for over a year now with no problems at all. They give a very effective trade-off between cost/capacity and speed. Windows boots very quickly, and my frequently used programs (Photoshop and LR4) open in snap. I'm delighted with them.

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An alternative option to a fully SSD drive it to use a hybrid drive. I'm using Seagate 750GB Momentus Hybrid Drives.They use a combination of a large HDD and a small SSD in a single package. The drive "learns" what programs/data you access regularly and keeps those on SSD for speedy access, the rest is kept in HDD. I've been using a couple of these for over a year now with no problems at all. They give a very effective trade-off between cost/capacity and speed. Windows boots very quickly, and my frequently used programs (Photoshop and LR4) open in snap. I'm delighted with them.

 

I use a 750GB Momentus as my boot drive and what you say is true. However I have serious concerns about their reliability. My first one went back and was replaced under warranty and a year later I have spent the last two days battling with the second apparently failing - I finally managed to get my PC to run for long enough to get the back up completed. I am hoping it will last long enough into tomorrow to be able to clone it onto a full SSD (480GB Samsung) that is on its way to me.

 

That should at least make my PC very responsive!

Edited by Martin P Wilson

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Hi David

 

There's really nothing wrong with the brand names. I think that the monitor may be the only area worth worrying about from the point of view of colour calibration and whether you want 1 or 2 monitors.  Also watch out for the components but really nowadays, it's more a matter of your 3D games, rather than photo editing.

 

On the memory front, you're way over the top. The question is more a matter of 8 or 16GB, I only have 8 in the laptop I'm using and have had no problems with massive panoramic Photoshop images.

 

Looking at the HDD - yes, an SDD improves performance dramatically but you can always have a second HDD with much larger capacity and move your images off there and potentially into a NAS for backup/archive purposes, so 256GB is ample.

 

Best of luck,

 

Mike

 

+1.

 

I converted an iMac to SSD from HDD but kept the original HDD to store large seldom accessed files. It's hardly used really as I rely on 2 NAS systems and the 250gb SSD drive has been more that enough.

 

The SSD performance is extremely good and will potentially make a bigger difference when compared to adding RAM when using one for the OS and software. Especially when comparing 24gb Ram to 32gb.

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An alternative option to a fully SSD drive it to use a hybrid drive. I'm using Seagate 750GB Momentus Hybrid Drives.They use a combination of a large HDD and a small SSD in a single package. The drive "learns" what programs/data you access regularly and keeps those on SSD for speedy access, the rest is kept in HDD. I've been using a couple of these for over a year now with no problems at all. They give a very effective trade-off between cost/capacity and speed. Windows boots very quickly, and my frequently used programs (Photoshop and LR4) open in snap. I'm delighted with them.

 

I use a 750GB Momentus as my boot drive and what you say is true. However I have serious concerns about their reliability. My first one went back and was replaced under warranty and a year later I have spent the last two days battling with the second apparently failing - I finally managed to get my PC to run for long enough to get the back up completed. I am hoping it will last long enough into tomorrow to be able to clone it onto a full SSD (480GB Samsung) that is on its way to me.

 

That should at least make my PC very responsive!

 

 

It will. I bought a few Samsung 840 Evo's to convert iMacs and use in high speed external USB bays. They're great.

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David,

 

I've been using Lenovo towers for years now - the most recent version I have is getting on to 2 years old with a 128GB SSD and 2TB hard drive in the tower, 32 GB RAM and i7 processor, with 2 NAS units of 6TB each, that store my images (I managed to fill 1 NAS and now am on the way to filling #2). I run Lightroom and CC PS 2014, with the LR catalog sitting on the 2TB internal drive. I don't find that it is that slow to retrieve images from the NAS to work with in LR. The only time I use internal storage for images is when I'm making photobooks, and that is due more a performance issue with the software that I use. 

 

Touchwood, I've never had an issue with my Lenovo equipment that I wasn't able to fix myself (I replaced the 2TB disk), and have never had to invoke a warranty. I regularly upgrade components of the tower and find it's incredibly easy to do. 

 

Personally, if the budget can stretch to a 512GB SSD, I'd go for it. My 128GB SSD drives me nuts as Windows patch upgrades don't clean up after themselves and consume a lot of space. 

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An alternative option to a fully SSD drive it to use a hybrid drive. I'm using Seagate 750GB Momentus Hybrid Drives.They use a combination of a large HDD and a small SSD in a single package. The drive "learns" what programs/data you access regularly and keeps those on SSD for speedy access, the rest is kept in HDD. I've been using a couple of these for over a year now with no problems at all. They give a very effective trade-off between cost/capacity and speed. Windows boots very quickly, and my frequently used programs (Photoshop and LR4) open in snap. I'm delighted with them.

 

I use a 750GB Momentus as my boot drive and what you say is true. However I have serious concerns about their reliability. My first one went back and was replaced under warranty and a year later I have spent the last two days battling with the second apparently failing - I finally managed to get my PC to run for long enough to get the back up completed. I am hoping it will last long enough into tomorrow to be able to clone it onto a full SSD (480GB Samsung) that is on its way to me.

 

That should at least make my PC very responsive!

 

 

Martin, Oh, that's worrying :(  I'll keep an eye on mine and make sure my backups are even more frequent. The Samsung 840 drive looks very interesting, not a bad price. Some worrying comments about a firmware bug that causes slow access of older files though... (see the Amazon 1 star reviews).

Edited by M.Chapman

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Actually I think I have ordered the Sandisk; I was going to order a Samsung but the Sandisk was cheaper and I have been using their cards for a long time without any failures. Well one, when I knocked the lock tab out of a SD card - mea culpa there. A client software developer, a serious tech guy, is happy with his Samsungs - he has three and been using the oldest for 2-3 years.

 

I am not certain my Momentus is failing but the symptoms are similar to the previous failure.

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Geoff and MDM - thanks very much. I hear what you're saying, and it makes a lot of sense to me. However, your workflow is very different from mine. For example, I have no such thing as 'current' work, at least not in my photography ;-) So while I can, I think I'd prefer to keep my workflow simple and try to avoid some externals having backups and others having original working files. Perhaps in the future I'll upgrade to a NAS and keep my images on that but I can't really justify it yet.

DDoug - really interesting link! I wonder how responsive it will be to work on multi-layered TIFFs or PSDs across the internet!!

Chris - Gold! Real life experience with a Lenovo in AU ;-) Thanks.

I'll probably go with a Lenovo P300 with:

  • Xeon E3-1241 v3 (or possibly i7-4790) <-- any comments about this choice?
  • 512GB SSD for Win 7 and software
  • 128GB SSD for LR catalogue, PS scratch drive, etc
  • 2 x 3TB 7200rpm 6GB/sec HDDs for storage 
  • 4 x 8GB PC3 1600 MHz ECC RAM (total 32GB)
  • incremental backups to external HDDs (including LR catalogue) every few minutes using SyncBack

Video cards are the area I know least about and which I've found hardest to research. The computer comes with either an NVS 315 or Quadro 410. It may be possible to have instead either Quadro K2000 or Quadro K600 (not certain, and I won't know until Monday). The K2000 is considerably more expensive than the other options. Now, I use Nik and Topaz but I'm by no means an advanced Photoshop user. The most intensive operations I can imagine myself using are stitching and HDR/tone mapping (hopefully tasteful!), and I don't think I've ever used more than about ten layers. I really can't imagine getting heavily into blurs, warps etc, and almost certainly not 3D or serious video editing. This comparison site http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/gpu_list.php suggests that the K2000 is significantly better than the NVS 315 for 3D, but much of a muchness for 2D. Thus, my instinct is to go with the basic NVS 315 and if my use of Photoshop changes, or PS and/or LR starts to use high end graphic cards features for everyday functions, to upgrade at that point. Any comments about this?

Many thanks,

David. 

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Geoff and MDM - thanks very much. I hear what you're saying, and it makes a lot of sense to me. However, your workflow is very different from mine. For example, I have no such thing as 'current' work, at least not in my photography ;-) So while I can, I think I'd prefer to keep my workflow simple and try to avoid some externals having backups and others having original working files. Perhaps in the future I'll upgrade to a NAS and keep my images on that but I can't really justify it yet.

 

DDoug - really interesting link! I wonder how responsive it will be to work on multi-layered TIFFs or PSDs across the internet!!

 

Chris - Gold! Real life experience with a Lenovo in AU ;-) Thanks.

 

I'll probably go with a Lenovo P300 with:

  • Xeon E3-1241 v3 (or possibly i7-4790) <-- any comments about this choice?
  • 512GB SSD for Win 7 and software
  • 128GB SSD for LR catalogue, PS scratch drive, etc
  • 2 x 3TB 7200rpm 6GB/sec HDDs for storage 
  • 4 x 8GB PC3 1600 MHz ECC RAM (total 32GB)
  • incremental backups to external HDDs (including LR catalogue) every few minutes using SyncBack

Video cards are the area I know least about and which I've found hardest to research. The computer comes with either an NVS 315 or Quadro 410. It may be possible to have instead either Quadro K2000 or Quadro K600 (not certain, and I won't know until Monday). The K2000 is considerably more expensive than the other options. Now, I use Nik and Topaz but I'm by no means an advanced Photoshop user. The most intensive operations I can imagine myself using are stitching and HDR/tone mapping (hopefully tasteful!), and I don't think I've ever used more than about ten layers. I really can't imagine getting heavily into blurs, warps etc, and almost certainly not 3D or serious video editing. This comparison site http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/gpu_list.php suggests that the K2000 is significantly better than the NVS 315 for 3D, but much of a muchness for 2D. Thus, my instinct is to go with the basic NVS 315 and if my use of Photoshop changes, or PS and/or LR starts to use high end graphic cards features for everyday functions, to upgrade at that point. Any comments about this?

 

Many thanks,

 

David. 

This is quite good about the processor choice: 

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Good link, Mike. Thanks for posting. 

 

I've ordered the computer. Linovo did manage to put in a K620 card - according to benchmarks, better for 2D and even 3D than the much more expensive K2000! And due to a quirk in their discounting system, I got a second 512GB SSD in place of the 128GB drive for only $20 extra. 

 

Thanks again for the advice, everyone. 

 

In case there's anyone in the same boat, here are some extra links I found useful:

http://robertoblake.com/blog/2014/01/building-photoshop-cs6-computer-2014/

http://www.imagescience.com.au/kb/questions/141/Build+a+powerful+PC+for+Photoshop+and+other+imaging+applications

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