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Processing hi res photos with a PC--can it be done?
9 replies 2295 views
01-10-2012, 09:42 PM Georgia A. Hart
My new 18 mp canon creates RAW images of ~15 mg which my current good old HP PC cannot handle (using photoshop 5 and Lightroom, 6-8 seconds to open one RAW image). Thus I am looking to buy a new computer but for financial reasons don't want to convert to MAC. Can a new PC/Windows handle this type of work? If so, what options are needed or desirable? Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks much, Georgia Hart
01-11-2012, 08:28 AM Tammy Hammond
IMO. I a good computer is a worthwhile investment, and working on a MAC is a joy that supersedes the cost.

That said, HP (old or new) is a headache (IMO). If Windows was my only choice I'd look at a top-of-the-line Dell. Learn about the advantage of good processor performance, maximize RAM, and keep the computer "cleaned up" for optimum performance whether PC or MAC, that's the bottom line. Also, if ALL of your RAW images are residing on your computer that machine needs adequate storage space otherwise the computer will eventually slow down, move archived images to an external hard drive to free up space.

Tammy Hammond
01-11-2012, 09:57 AM Bob & Nancy Stocker
I concur with Tammy's advice. However, on my aging MAC I still find RAW files a bit cumbersome. I deal with the problem by taking both RAWs and JPGs. This fills up CF cards faster and may slow down the camera some, but the JPGs are useful for weeding through my photos and selecting ones to keep. I only open RAW files for keepers that I post-process.

Bob Stocker
01-12-2012, 07:15 AM Ronald Eberhart
George,
I agree with others that if you are starting new that a MAC would be the best choice. That said, many people are not starting new or for various other reasons want or need to process on a PC. You absolutely can process raw files on a PC and I do it all the time with Raw file that are bigger than yours from my SONY a900 that has 24Mpix. I was in your spot 2 years ago and needed to upgrade. For about $500 - $1000 you can buy or build a PC with 4+ 64 bit cores running at 3+GHh, 8GB of DDR3 memory, and 1-2 1,2,3TB, disk drives. You also want to be sure to get Windows-7 64 bit so you are current in the OS Then you should invest in a really good monitor. I have 2 21" Dell monitors and love the room I have to work on a large desktop. Three key things to consider when you upgrade is 1. Go 64 bit. It really does make a difference in speed. 2. Get fairly fast CPU's. It is more important to have fast CPU's than more cores. The OS will help spread work around on to multiple cores, but raw processing speed really helps. 3GHz is not blazing fast today and you will not end up paying a large premium to do this. The faster you go however the more you will pay. I have an Intel Core i5 660 that runs at 3.33GHz. 3. Last is memory and it is critical. Going to 64bit allows you to have more memory which helps tremendously especially if you are stitching panos as I do. I notice a HUGE slowdown when I process a stitch job and the available memory gets used up. This means that the OS then must go to disk in order to swap things out and process your work. Having 8GB of memory will handle big jobs and allow most things to remain in memory so they will snap to attention when you ask for them. When shopping for a disk drive look for fast as well. There are many big (especially 3+ TB) drives that only run at 5000 rpm. Get drives that run 7200 rpm+. They are a bit more, but not tons more. Sorry this is so long, but specifics matter here. If anyone wants/needs more help with this kind of project drop me an email. I will be happy to take a look.
Ron Eberhart - ron@roneberhart.com
01-12-2012, 09:02 AM Ronald Eberhart
George,
I agree with others that if you are starting new that a MAC would be the best choice. That said, many people are not starting new or for various other reasons want or need to process on a PC. You absolutely can process raw files on a PC and I do it all the time with Raw file that are bigger than yours from my SONY a900 that has 24Mpix. I was in your spot 2 years ago and needed to upgrade. For about $500 - $1000 you can buy or build a PC with 4+ 64 bit cores running at 3+GHh, 8GB of DDR3 memory, and 1-2 1,2,3TB, disk drives. You also want to be sure to get Windows-7 64 bit so you are current in the OS Then you should invest in a really good monitor. I have 2 21" Dell monitors and love the room I have to work on a large desktop. Three key things to consider when you upgrade is 1. Go 64 bit. It really does make a difference in speed. 2. Get fairly fast CPU's. It is more important to have fast CPU's than more cores. The OS will help spread work around on to multiple cores, but raw processing speed really helps. 3GHz is not blazing fast today and you will not end up paying a large premium to do this. The faster you go however the more you will pay. I have an Intel Core i5 660 that runs at 3.33GHz. 3. Last is memory and it is critical. Going to 64bit allows you to have more memory which helps tremendously especially if you are stitching panos as I do. I notice a HUGE slowdown when I process a stitch job and the available memory gets used up. This means that the OS then must go to disk in order to swap things out and process your work. Having 8GB of memory will handle big jobs and allow most things to remain in memory so they will snap to attention when you ask for them. When shopping for a disk drive look for fast as well. There are many big (especially 3+ TB) drives that only run at 5000 rpm. Get drives that run 7200 rpm+. They are a bit more, but not tons more. Sorry this is so long, but specifics matter here. If anyone wants/needs more help with this kind of project drop me an email. I will be happy to take a look.
Ron Eberhart - ron@roneberhart.com
01-12-2012, 11:09 AM Christopher & Robyn Loffredo
I just bought a new dell higher end laptop. 8mb ram; new intel i5II, and 750gb hardrive. Big key for me was getting the dedicated graphics card with 1mb of dedicated ram.

My old cheap HP would not run NIK HDR as the standard level graphics card was not sufficient. I could not do video editing either. I am not a Mac guy and the cost to change all my software over would be very expensive.

Bought one of the pre-charitmas Dell pacakges that was something like $350 off the list price and made the total price around $800. If you search the web you can find all sorts off dell coupon codes that can better what Dell is offering. But sometimes Dell offers prior customers good deals. Dell's pricing is highly frustrating to me, but you can save $ if you shop around.
01-16-2012, 08:10 AM Roger Clark
George,
Hopefully I am not too late.
There is a huge difference in I7 processors versus all others (I5, I3, etc). For fastest processing, be sure the computer has and I7 processor. Whether it is 2.8, 2.9 or 3 GHz will not make as much difference as I7 versus others. Next, in the I7 family, 4-digit numbers, as in I7-nnnn have better performance than I7-nnn processors. I do my photo work on an I7-950 machine at 3.07 GHz. I built it myself a year ago from parts: with 12 GBytes of ram it was about $1100 with a quad core I7 and USB3. Should be cheaper now.

more in a minute--will put some stuff together.

Roger
01-16-2012, 08:46 AM Roger Clark
continuing....

Unfortunately, store bought (or even web bought) standard models from big manufacturers can have poor performance. Unless you read a very specific and good review of a specific model, performance can really be poor. For example, I have a Dell with USB2 ports that are so slow, they are barely faster than USB1. The parts that manufacturers put in the box are critical to performance, not just cpu and amount of memory. One needs a quality motherboard.

For store (or web) bought computers, I suggest strongly considering computers specifically built and targeted for gaming. The 3D gaming system have pretty good performance. My previous computer was an Alieneware system (Alienware is now own by Dell).

Be sure the computer has USB 3 ports. With the larger file sizes we have with newer digital cameras, USB 3 really helps offloading data (with a USB3 card reader). That also helps with faster backup.

With the higher packing density of 3 and 4 terabyte disk drives, I find 5400 rpm drives fine in performance. There are 3 SATA interface standards: 1.5 gigabit/s (GB/s), 3 and 6 GB/s. For faster throughput, 7200 versus 5400 will not make as much of a difference and would a 6 GB/s SATA versus a 3 GB/s sata. Be certain you aren't getting 1.5 GB/s sata.

So for speed get 6 GB/s, USB 3, and I7 cpus.

Monitors for photo editing should be IPS type panels. See:
http://www.clarkvision.com/articles/choosing_an_LCD_monitor/

and then calibrate:
http://www.clarkvision.com/articles/calibrating.your.monitor/

If you are a little bit adventurous, consider linux. I found the windows XP interface fine. I do not like the mac interface. For example, I work on dual 30-inch monitors. If I'm working on a window in the lower right corner, why should I have to move the mouse almost 2 meters to the upper left corner the get window control and other menus? It's nuts. Windows 7 is like a Boy Scout taking a little old lady across the street, but never asked the lady if she wanted to cross the street. My first encounter with windows 7 was with a new laptop on safari in Tanzania in 2011. I just wanted to look at my pictures and get them copied onto the hard drive and a USB drive. Windows 7 thought I wanted to do something else (I swore at so much I've blocked it from memory). When I returned home, I refused to upgrade from XP, bought a new computer and put linux on it. Linux opens and displays my canon raw files as well as jpegs with the standard file viewer. Linux has come a long way from 5 years ago. Your android phone is linux. Google runs on linux. Many web sites you visit are linux. The spacecraft teams I work on are all run on linux.

But the problem with linux is no photoshop. My sons told me about virtualbox (free). So I installed virtualbox, then windows 7 and photoshop under linux.

I do all may normal work under linux, including photo viewing and file management. I run photoshop in the virtualmachine and it works great. Windows is fast and zippy because I only have photoshop and one other program in windows. I surf the net and do email on linux with firefox and thunderbird/seamonkey.

I had color management issues in windows. It seems every program thinks it wants to control everything. Thus they end up fighting. Under linux, I have a great calibration and the best consistency I've had in photos in years.

Roger

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