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Computer Recommendations For Photography
Old 02-08-2008, 11:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
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This subject has been hotly debated in the Forums and while I realize there is no clear cut answer I want to add from my own experience and possibly help someone who is just getting into photography or someone who has been in it for a while and wants to upgrade their computer. These are my opinions from my experiences and observations and they are just offered as suggestions, nothing more but I think they are certainly valid.

First off you donít have to mortgage your home or drive yourself into bankruptcy in order to have a good computer for photography, there are a lot of great deals out there. If you shop smart $1,000.00 will get a good computer and monitor and will do everything photographically that you needed it to do and last for years.

Forget about a laptop for your primary photography computer. You need the robustness and adaptability of a desktop; a laptop just will not cut it.

For a computer you can do very well with a single core processor and save a bunch of money. Stay away from the Celerons and the Semphrons. They are a joke for anything and for photography anyone who buys one will regret it in a very short time. For an Athlon you can buy an X64 processor in the 3500 to 4500 range and you will do quite well. For a Pentium buy a P4 Hyper threaded processor in the 2.4 to 3.0 Ghz range. Get a large hard drive, either Serial ATA or EIDE. Make sure you have at least 1 Gig of RAM and 2 Gigs if you can afford it. Most computers these days have onboard graphics. Get at least 128 Megs of Onboard video and 256 Megs if you can find a computer that has it. Make sure the computer has plenty of USB 2.0 High Speed ports, 6 to 8 on the back and 2 to 4 on the front. Fire wire isnít anything to worry about so donít mess with it. You should also get an external Backup Hard Drive that connects to the computer via USB 2.0 High Speed but you donít have to get it at the same time you get the computer. You can probably find a computer with this configuration for under $600.00.

For the Operating System the only thing to even consider is Windows XP Professional. Donít even bother thinking of Windows Vista, it is a dog with fleas and the biggest mistake that Microsquish has ever made and you just donít need the headaches.

The monitor is where you really need to spend your money since you will be looking at it day in and day out plus you want a good one so your photos will look incredible. I recommend a Samsung or a Viewsonic monitor. There are many other brands out there but with either of these two you will not go wrong. As far as size is concerned buy a bigger monitor than you think you will need. Widescreen monitors are all the rage but I personally have a Samsung 19 inch 4:3 monitor and it does everything I need. If you want a widescreen (16:9) get a 21 to 24 inch and you will be set for life. If you shop smart you can pick up a widescreen for under $400.00.

Too many people make the mistake of thinking they have to spend lots of money to be adequate and it simply isnít true. Rather than spending $2,000.00 or 3,000.00 on a computer system why not put the difference into good lenses? After all, are we computer operators or photographers? Buy smart and make your money work for you instead of just giving it away. Nuff said!
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Re: Computer Recommendations For Photography
Old 02-09-2008, 12:36 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I read a lot of Vista hate...but honestly, I don't have a problem with it at all. It's been very stable for me (Vista Ultimate). I also disagree with the "forget a laptop" rec. The biggest issue in my opinion is most PC laptop displays are low contrast and small. However I do use a laptop for travel. It really saves my luggage cart.

I certainly agree with saving some money and putting it into lenses. They won't be obsolete as quickly!
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Re: Computer Recommendations For Photography
Old 02-09-2008, 12:13 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by PhotosbyChuck View Post
I read a lot of Vista hate...but honestly, I don't have a problem with it at all. It's been very stable for me (Vista Ultimate). I also disagree with the "forget a laptop" rec. The biggest issue in my opinion is most PC laptop displays are low contrast and small. However I do use a laptop for travel. It really saves my luggage cart.

I certainly agree with saving some money and putting it into lenses. They won't be obsolete as quickly!
I likewise find Vista to run quite well. I have two Vista machines and three XP machines. I find Vista to perform better than XP and Vista is more resistant to external attacks. I also use a laptop as well as a desktop. I have Vista on one laptop and XP on the other. Both laptops run Photoshop just fine, but the Vista one runs it much faster than the XP one. I do find that the laptop screen is not as good as my larger 22" widescreen LCD that is attached to the desktop machine.

I would recommend that one get the dual core machines. The reason is that Photoshop makes good use of these processors and you get a much faster performance. A second hard internal hard drive is also a must for Photoshop use (as the scratch disk). Minimum of 2 gb of RAM. By the way, the dual cores really shine when you have several applications running at the same time. I often have Photoshop running as well as a large Website Development program, Word, a FTP program, a text editor, and BreezeBrowser.

You can get a fantastic Desktop in the $1000 range and a very usable laptop in that same range. I just bought the Dell Inspirion 1520 with dual core 2.2 ghz processor, 2gb ram, and a good Video card. It has Vista on it. It was under $1000.

By way, for speed comparison. My XP desktop is a 2.8 ghz single core with 2gb of RAM and the Vista desktop is 2.4 ghz dual core, with 2 gb of RAM. Photoshop runs at least 50% faster on it as on the single core. Both have an internal Sata hard drive used for the scratch disk.

Cheers,
rfs
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Re: Computer Recommendations For Photography
Old 02-09-2008, 01:19 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R_Fredrick_Smith View Post
I likewise find Vista to run quite well. I have two Vista machines and three XP machines. I find Vista to perform better than XP and Vista is more resistant to external attacks. I also use a laptop as well as a desktop. I have Vista on one laptop and XP on the other. Both laptops run Photoshop just fine, but the Vista one runs it much faster than the XP one. I do find that the laptop screen is not as good as my larger 22" widescreen LCD that is attached to the desktop machine.

I would recommend that one get the dual core machines. The reason is that Photoshop makes good use of these processors and you get a much faster performance. A second hard internal hard drive is also a must for Photoshop use (as the scratch disk). Minimum of 2 gb of RAM. By the way, the dual cores really shine when you have several applications running at the same time. I often have Photoshop running as well as a large Website Development program, Word, a FTP program, a text editor, and BreezeBrowser.

You can get a fantastic Desktop in the $1000 range and a very usable laptop in that same range. I just bought the Dell Inspirion 1520 with dual core 2.2 ghz processor, 2gb ram, and a good Video card. It has Vista on it. It was under $1000.

By way, for speed comparison. My XP desktop is a 2.8 ghz single core with 2gb of RAM and the Vista desktop is 2.4 ghz dual core, with 2 gb of RAM. Photoshop runs at least 50% faster on it as on the single core. Both have an internal Sata hard drive used for the scratch disk.

Cheers,
rfs
Mr. Smith, I honestly don't know what you're doing right, since I don't know your computer setup, but I'm running Vista on a duo core @ 1.8 GHZ with 3 GB of ram, and it crashes at least 3 times daily, a real pain. And I believe that you and Chuck are the only people out there that I've heard good things about Vista from, everybody else who I know that have used it, HATE it with a passion. I'd love for Vista not to crash on me on such a regular basis, so any tips are much appreciated.
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Re: Computer Recommendations For Photography
Old 02-09-2008, 01:42 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Mr. Smith, I honestly don't know what you're doing right, since I don't know your computer setup, but I'm running Vista on a duo core @ 1.8 GHZ with 3 GB of ram, and it crashes at least 3 times daily, a real pain. And I believe that you and Chuck are the only people out there that I've heard good things about Vista from, everybody else who I know that have used it, HATE it with a passion. I'd love for Vista not to crash on me on such a regular basis, so any tips are much appreciated.
First you must define what happens when the crash occurs (lockup, frozen app--but other apps work, etc). Then you must analyze the hardware attached to the system. Often there is a driver that is not up to date. Was the Vista an upgrade to an existing system? Was the ram added later (or part of it)? Have you tested the RAM? Do you have video problems after the machine runs all day? I have lots of people that I help in my circle with their machines. 99% of the time the problems with lockups are not from Vista or XP but from other factors (drivers, spyware, virus, trojans, ram, heat build up, video card problems, and so forth). Since Vista is the new kid on the block that is who people try to beat up on. But that rarely solves the core problem of finding out what is "really" wrong.

Cheers,
rfs
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Re: Computer Recommendations For Photography
Old 02-09-2008, 03:17 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I would like to add that XP will go away (no longer supported or patched) in some months time, maybe through the rest of the year. Now, if your really wanting to save some money, Unix will probably be a much more viable solution very soon. Since the advent of Apple's OSX (which is unix based), it and other unix/linux based OS's will become more popular. It didn't take very long for someone to get OSX running on regular pc boxes (less the windows os). I think you will see someone making mods to a unix/linux OS, like redhat or freeBSD, so that it will be able to run the mac version of Photoshop and other OSX apps. Until that time, there is GIMP. I not saying that you should run out and build a unix box today, but i think there is a movement afoot and you will see unix based machines more and more.
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Re: Computer Recommendations For Photography
Old 02-09-2008, 06:27 PM   #7 (permalink)
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UNIX predates Windows by a decades -- and it still suffers the same challenges it always has to becoming a mainstream PC OS. Multiple flavors and versions, limited driver availability, limited application availability, significant comparative technical knowledge to install and configure.

Meanwhile, 100 million copies of Vista had been sold at retail as we rang in 2008. UNIX won't be replacing Windows any time soon.
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Re: Computer Recommendations For Photography
Old 02-09-2008, 11:15 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R_Fredrick_Smith View Post
First you must define what happens when the crash occurs (lockup, frozen app--but other apps work, etc). Then you must analyze the hardware attached to the system. Often there is a driver that is not up to date. Was the Vista an upgrade to an existing system? Was the ram added later (or part of it)? Have you tested the RAM? Do you have video problems after the machine runs all day? I have lots of people that I help in my circle with their machines. 99% of the time the problems with lockups are not from Vista or XP but from other factors (drivers, spyware, virus, trojans, ram, heat build up, video card problems, and so forth). Since Vista is the new kid on the block that is who people try to beat up on. But that rarely solves the core problem of finding out what is "really" wrong.

Cheers,
rfs
Well, I get the "blue screen of death" a various times, no real standard time, like heavy image processing, even just when I'm running IE. But, your statement on testing my ram, that intrigues me, how do I go about doing that. Oh, to possibly address other issues, I tend to leave my computer on all of the time, and as for the spyware/trojan thing, I'm running Norton Internet Security 2008. I'm hoping that I can resolve this issue, it is an annoyance.
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Re: Computer Recommendations For Photography
Old 02-09-2008, 11:58 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by isaiahbrink View Post
Well, I get the "blue screen of death" a various times, no real standard time, like heavy image processing, even just when I'm running IE. But, your statement on testing my ram, that intrigues me, how do I go about doing that. Oh, to possibly address other issues, I tend to leave my computer on all of the time, and as for the spyware/trojan thing, I'm running Norton Internet Security 2008. I'm hoping that I can resolve this issue, it is an annoyance.
To test memory, go to the Control Panel and select Administrative Tools. Then select Memory Diagnostic Tool. The Tool is a "DOS" app. You can also run it without loading Windows:

Turn on computer and keep pressing F8 key till the boot menu appears. Use TAB key to select memory diagnostic tool at bottom of screen.

Cheers,
rfs
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Re: Computer Recommendations For Photography
Old 02-10-2008, 01:25 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Your probably right. I didn't think about the driver issue until after i posted. seems that you can buy vista or buy a mac.
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