View Full Version : How much computer power for scanning?
We're considering getting a new computer to replace our ca. 1997 model, which is way outdated. I would like to get one that would let me enter the world of 4x5 sheet film scanning with something like the Epson 3200 flatbed. Would a machine with, say, 256 RAM and a 40 gig hard drive be enough? I can't spend a bundle of money. Thanks in advance for your advice.
That would work, but I would recommend that you buy as much memory as you can afford. If you can get 512 RAM you will be much happier. You also won't be able to store many of your scans (at least at a high resolution) with a 40-gig drive, so I would recommend a CD burner so that you can store your images.
You will find that indeed scans suck up disk space at an amazing rate. You should be able to go to a 80G drive for very little extra cost; actually, sometimes here they are actually cheaper due to 40G drives being old stock.
256M will stress your patience. More is merrier; 512 should be a small cost increment.
4x5 scans will take up lots of disk space. Hard drives are so cheap now that 80-140 is now the norm. I'd go for at least one gig of ram - because you are not only scanning film, you have to work with a big file size in Photoshop.
4x5 scans will take up lots of disk space. Hard drives are so cheap now that 80-120 gigs is now the norm. I'd go for at least one gig of ram - because you are not only scanning film, you have to work with a big file size in Photoshop.
You will want 1 or 2GB of memory for comfortable editing. A 40GB drive is fine, as long as you plan on archiving your scans to CD or DVD, but an 80GB would be better. I would get a DVD writable drive given the current price (about $120), as it will let you write CDs and DVDs. If I was short on cash, which I usually am, I would get a lesser processor and more memory. You can also plan on scanning your film at only 1600 dpi, which will only need 1/4 the memory of a 3200dpi scan.
I am using an Epson 3200 to scan 4 x 5 originals, mostly colour negative. File sizes for 24-bit scans approach 500 megabytes in size and 48-bit scans are nearly double that. You will require at least 2 gigs of memory to work on files that size in Photoshop as the program needs three to five times the amount of memory as the file you are working with, and even more if you do a lot of work on those files involving adjustment layers. 4 gigs of memory would be ideal. Even with 2 gigs of memory you will be reading and writing to the hard drive frequently--so get a speedy and large hard drive. Please note that the Epson 3200 does not really resolve 3200 dpi; it's true resolution is closer to 2000 but its file sizes are based on 3200 dpi. It does a very good job (for the money) on 4x5 and medium format colour negatives, good enough to enlarge 4 to 7 times, depending on your demand for quality and the ancillary software you are using. But it does a less good job on transparencies, and a relatively poor job on black & white negatives (it doesn't see through the grain structure very well). If B&W is your metier, look elsewhere.
Just make sure the machine has empty memory slots, and it shouldn't be a problem to upgrade later, but I'd still start at 512. If you have Firewire or USB2, you can add external drive(s) (preferably the 200+ GB variety) that work just fine. For external storage, DVDs are much more space and time efficient than CDs and the cost per MB stored is close to CDs.
I work under Linux using the Gimp which is currently restricted to 24 bit color depth. I have 1 1/2 Gb and I would be happier with more although I can make do. Scanning is no problem for the 3200 even with much less ram, but complex photoediting requires a lot of memory.
No matter how large your drive, don't expect to keep images on disk. Use CDs to store them. A relatively fast and reliable CD burner is a must. Better yet, get a DVD burner if you can. Unfortunately there seem to be two competing standards out there, and until one or the other folds, it may be worth waiting.
I scan at 3200 ppi and rescale in my photoeditor to 1800-2000 ppi, which is probably overkill for most 4 x 5 work. The scanner has the pixels, but it doesn't have the resolution to justify staying at 3200 ppi.
If you can't afford all the memory you would like, make sure your motherboard allows you to add more when you have the money or the prices come down.
I use a 550Mhz G4 with 600 mb RAM,I could use a bunch more ram though.(I wouldn't recommend any less) The scans can get pretty big with the 4x5. Photoshop 7 will suck the RAM up pretty fast. I got my G4 on that auction site for a pretty killer deal. If your going for Apple it would be a good idea to buy a used one unless you have a whole lot of cash laying around.
You didn't mention which platform, but if you are coming from a 1997 era PC you owe it to yourself to at least consider getting a Mac. The prices/value/software are very good, especially for digital imaging applications. A 17-inch eMac (education model) with a G4 processor is in the $7-800 range - add a gig of RAM to it and you will have a bullet-proof computer that will perform well for another 4-5 years. The monitors on the eMac/iMac line are very good, far better than the discount/less expensive PC monitors. True you can get a functioning PC for less $ but you do get what you pay for... and the Mac is easier to use, out of the box, with less hassles.
Also, the difference between Windows 98 and XP is significant enough that you might just as well go to a modern operating system like Mac OSX.
I use an older computer with a 3200, too. To update my computer to handle the 4x5 scans, I had to:
1 - Get a USB2/Firewire card. These are inexpensive, and well worth it for the gigantic increase in speed. My computer only came with a USB1 port.
2 - Get more RAM. Find out how much RAM your computer can take, and max out. My computer doesn't accept more than 768MB of RAM, so that's what I have. This is a huge limitation for PS with 4x5 scans, but if you scan at 1000 DPI to 1600 DPI (which is more than enough resolution), you'll be fine. Eventually I'll get a computer with 2GB or more RAM.
One important thing to keep in mind -- when you buy RAM, buy it all at once. In other words, if you have 256MB of RAM and are moving to 768MB, don't just buy 512MB and add it to what you have. Instead, buy all 768MB and remove the 256MB you have. You'll save yourself tons of headaches and strange crashes that way.
IMO, a 40GB hard drive is enough if you don't want to spend any more $$$. Archive your files on CD-RW or DVD-RW.
Let me follow on with the Mac discussion for a bit.
First, the new eMac may be one of the biggest bargains in hardware available today, an acceptable choice for graphics work. The new iMac is better and, IMHO the new G5 CPU is absolutely the best box on the market today for graphics works. If price is not the primary consideration then I strongly recommend going with a G5 box and as much RAM as you can afford; if you are going this route get at least 10gigs of RAM. The G5 running OSX 10.3 is the ONLY option in the microprocessor world available now that allows you to break through the 4 gig RAM barrier.
You haven’t mentioned software and monitors but they are both important. If you are going to be running Windows you really should not think of a system other than XP and the ONLY software package that makes sense is Photoshop 7 or Photoshop CS. If you decide to go with a Mac then Photoshop is still the easiest and a totally satisfactory solution. If you are a bit software handy you can also run a variety of Unix based software (such as The Gimp Leonard mentioned) since OSX runs on a Unix kernel. If you are not at all familiar with the vagaries of Unix, however, then stick with Photoshop.
What do you gain with all this RAM? Speed, in terms of how fast Photoshop opens files and how fast it performs some of the complex manipulations and adjustments you will be making to your images once they have been scanned (both even more important than the time gained in actually completing and transferring the scanned image to your puter. As an example, I run a 1.25 Ghz dual processor Mac G4 with 2 gigs of RAM and it still takes a noticeable amount of time (yeah yeah yeah probably only a few seconds but I still notice) to open a 50 mb tiff file. The faster your processor and the more RAM you have the more you will cut down on this time.
To me the most important consideration is the monitor which I don’t believe you mentioned in your initial post. IMHO 17” diagonal is the absolute minimum you want to mess with for image processing and the bigger the better. DO NOT repeat DO NOT get sucked into buying a lower priced large LCD monitor. You will find that they just aren’t there yet in terms of how they handle color. In fact, (my opinion again based on a lot of knowledge in this area) unless you are prepared to spend really big bucks don’t even think of an LCD for image editing. If you really think you can get by with a 15” screen then maybe the 15” from Apple or one o fthe other top-of-the-line 15’s will be ok but, again, that is awfully small for image editing. The limiting factor, if you go with a CRT screen, will be the size of your desk/table from front to back. My personal preference in a manageable size reasonably priced monitor is the LaCie 19” Electron Blue. Their 22” is even better but it starts to get into the monster size and eats and enormous amount of real estate. Fagain, my opinion but if you get any new CPU and plug it into your old monitor you will be wasting your money.
Good luck and have fun on your new adventure …
<LI>Get a computer that can hold at least 1.5 GB of RAM. If it can hold more, that is even better. Don't bother getting a machine that maxes out at 512K or 1G, or you will be buying again really soon! Memory is pretty cheap, these days, and getting cheaper. Even if you don't install the maximum RAM at first, make sure you have the option to grow. As mentioned, your RAM size should be five times the size of your scanned files.
<LI>The "sweet spot" for hard drives, in terms of price/capacity, is probably in the 80GB to 120GB range, at the moment. 7200rpm drive speeds are common and affordable, and are preferred over the older 5400rpm ones. Of course, you can always add or swap drives, later.
Photoshop uses the hard drive as a "second-level" image cache when runs out of RAM to hold your image date + adjustment layers + working space. Insufficient RAM and a slow drive is a recipe for sloooowwwwnesssss.
As wonderful as it is, scanning is not the "cheap" solution. Make sure you factor in all the costs or you will get annoyed.
For scanning proper, you don't need a powerful or fast machine...but since 4x5 files are large, you will need a large hard drive, and/or the ability to burn your files to CD or DVD.
Photo editing software requires a hefty machine: tons of memory and a fast CPU. Photoshop allows you to create layers and undo steps, so it stores multiple copies of your image, as it were... in RAM. On a 4x5 image, that runs into gigabytes real fast.
Once Photoshop runs out of real RAM, it uses swap disk space, so having a second disk drive just for the swap files makes an improvement, since you are no longer reading the program code, the Operating System code, and the image itself from the same disk. If you are gutting your old machine,perhaps you can its hard disk installed on your new machine as a 2nd hard drive. Don't use it for any other purpose, so it won't get fragmented.
I just got a machine with 2GB of memory, and when I edit my 4x5 images, Photoshop uses all of the memory.
Make sure you know all about monitor calibration and printer/ink profiling, and allocate the money for it. Otherwise, it's like working in a darkroom without a thermometer, and without a method of measuring the volume of your chemicals: some people might have good luck with it, but for the rest of us, it's hit or miss.
Many posters have already answered your question in strict terms of computer requirements to do scanning. My two cents on this are: 80 GB hard drive and 512 MB of RAM and a CD or DVD burner for a scanning machine. The more you're intending to 'edit' these images on this machine (as opposed to just scanning and burning them) the more you'll want to add RAM, disk space and processing power.
Further to some of the discussions raised in the thread, one of the first questions I would have for you is, what is your intended use of your new system? What have you been doing with your current equipment? Will you being doing the same things on the new system or are you shifting gears and looking to expand the computer’s use? If the use remains the same than any computer on the market now will seem very very fast in comparison to a system from 1997. If you’re on a tight budget, as you mention, than that is a comforting thought to keep in mind.
I’m a fan of the iMac or the eMac, mentioned by a few posters, for a budget system; but frankly if you have reasons to be in a PC world that works fine as well. The reason this is true for a photographer is because Photoshop, the photographer’s digital workhorse, is cross platform (and in my experience incredibly seamless across platforms). If your uses are more demanding in terms of colour accuracy than the Macintosh machine would gain some advantage from its implementation of ColorSync technology. There are a number of other platform issues that may be relevant depending upon your use, preference, clients, etc.
Once again, what you do with a machine is critical to the purchasing decision (and defining the budget required).
A quick note on the G5s. The entry level G5 allows a maximum of 4 GB of RAM and the DPs (dual processors) allow a maximum of 8 GB (see G5 specs (http://www.apple.com/powermac/specs.html)). But, Ben, if I read your post correctly you’re looking for a much more modest system than that.
Like a few of the posters, I believe that an eMac is an absolute bargain as an imaging work station. Whether you buy a Mac or a PC, you are far better off spending your money on RAM (get at least a gig) than on raw processing power since Photoshop speed depends heavily on free RAM. That being said, a Mac computer, even one with a low speed processor can make life better for you since a Mac multitasks far better than a PC. For me, using a G4 or an eMac with 1 Gig RAM, it is possible to scan a 200Mb image in Vuescan, print out another 200Mb image in Photoshop and surf the web simultaneously with no crashes.
I would also recommend an eMac or a G4 iMac, both have a G4 processor running at least at 700Mhz. Beside the processor (G4 versus G3) memory is the most critical element. I use 512MB and find it barely adequate when working with 4x5 scans (I am using an Epson 2450 scanner at 48bit resulting in 650MB files for each 4x5 slide). I would surely recommend 1GB of RAM. Hard disk size is not critical, 30 to 40GB is plenty enough but spend the money on either a CD-RW drive or, better, a DVD-RW drive.
Is the issue how well your computer will work with a scanner, or how well it will work with Photoshop? I would suspect the latter.
I would also consider things like what graphics chip set you want, whether it can handle two monitors, whether you have a dedicated drive for the Photoshop scratch file, as well as the other memory considerations mentioned above.
If your machine can handle Photoshop, it can probably also handle the 3200.
As you are getting many different opinions and I think some people are aiming over your head and budget. If you get an Epson 3200 with a full version of Photoshop, that alone is over $1000. And you absolutely need a modern $700 to $1000+++ Intel/AMD PC or Mac to begin to run it. With RAM being the cheapest upgrade you can get, having a gigabyte or more of RAM is a starting point. Macs have Firewire already built in, plus other advantages in terms of color profiling and ease of use out of the box. But if your "help network" (friends that help with your PC) are Windows based, it may make sense to follow their lead, as they are the people you will call in the middle of the night when you don't understand something. A well set up Windows machine will run Photoshop as well as a Mac (notice my qualification.) If you are working at the level of using a 3200/Photoshop/large format film, then you also need to have a decent quality 17 to 19 inch monitor and a decent inkjet printer. An eMac comes as a single unit with a good cathode ray monitor incorporated; the iMacs use flat panel LCDs of good quality, the older G4 and newer G5 towers allow any PC monitor to work. If you buy a separate monitor, Sony and LaCie make good ones for under $500. A good letter sized inkjet is only $100, but the popular Epson 2200 (prints 13x19) is $700 plus expensive consumables. You didn't mention your final output requirements, but if you are happy with making nice 8x10 and occassional larger prints, a basic system described above will work fine. The fellas talking about dual monitors, 8 gb of RAM, and 600 mb files are talking about their own desires - many people are able to do the highest quality work (just at a more modest scale) with a basic system of a gig of RAM and a modest set-up, working with 20 to 150 mb files. Finally, www.smalldog.com has good service and deals on refurbished Mac and Epson stuff. Good luck distilling the BS.
You ask about power for the scanner but the real issue is what you must do downstream with the scan. Need big memory? Yes, of course, the bigger the better. My computer has 1.5 GB, several drives so the scratch disks are in separate drives. I watched the task manager in Windows XP while Photoshop was processing a 400 MB file. Memory use was a breeze, lots left. CPU usage was something else, it was at 100% usage most of the time the file was being processed. Previously I had thought increasing memory to 2GB to speed up the very slow processing. Lesson? Wrong! What I need is a faster CPU. My 1.8 GHZ CPU does not cut it anymore. Also, my memory is old 133 MHZ SDRAM, not high speed DDR. Thus I have enough but slow memory and a slow CPU so there is a bottleneck at the memory, even though there are lots of it, and another at the CPU.
There is a great deal of freedom and savings in putting together a superb top end PC and benefit in the tremendous range of excellent software available at competitive prices.
Just to add in another tale to this thread: I use a 1.8GHz CPU, 768MB of RAM, 80GB hard drive. Scanner is an Epson 2450, so my 24 bit scans run around 300MB. My system is adequate for editing, but just barely. It desperately needs a second drive for the scratch files, and double the memory would be nice. I drink a lot of coffee when my files start getting up to around 1.5GB and I ask PS to do something complex...
FWIW, I used to operate a pre-press, scanning, and digital imaging business in the 1990s. I had several maxed-out Macs, Scitex scanner, Iris printer, multiple Pressview monitors, etc. Now I do all my work with a 1ghz G4 Apple Powerbook with a gig of RAM and a 60gb hard drive. The 15 inch LCD is just fine, and although I often refer to the numerical values and proofs for final color, I'm happy judging color relationships on screen. I use an Epson 3200 and a cheap Epson C84 printer. I mostly scan 4x5s at ~ 300mb and downsize from there. Once in a while I will use my friend's Imacon but only for film that has an extreme contrast range. And sometimes I get larger prints from a Epson 2200 or 9600 as needed. All in all, I don't have alot of money tied up in hardware and it works really well. But maybe I am more patient because I was doing digital imaging using really primative equipment back in the early 1990s.
In addition to the advice to buy RAM, buy yourself the time to read the manual and learn how to use the software well! Ignorance is by far the biggest bottleneck. Oh, and get a Wacom tablet - a big productivity booster once you get used to it (it takes a few days - be patient.) Good luck.
Thank you for the kind and overwhelming advice. My eyes glazed over at some of the computer terms -- I'm afraid I'm not very sophisticated, yet, on digital imaging. As a non-pro LFer, all I want is a machine that would let me print out, say, a decent 5x7 or 8x10 b/w image from a 4x5 neg. Decent enough to hang on my walls for my own amusement. And also, would Photoshop Elements be Ok for my amateur needs? Thanks again for your guidance.
Yes, Elements is a bargain and will suffice for modest use. Also check out the possibility of a student or teacher in your family purchasing Photoshop (and other computer items) with their education discount.
Another way to approach this is that given you only want to go to 8x10 inches, what size file do you need to manipulate? Assuming you scan at 48 bits per pixel colour depth & want to print at 300 DPI (which is typical) to 8"x10" paper you will need a printer file of 8x10x300^2x4 = approx 28 MBytes. This means scanning a 5x4 inch neg at 600 DPI (just to check: 4x5x600^2x4 ~ 28MB...yes!).
The problem with this is that if you do a lot of manipulation, you will loose quality which is one reason why people usually scan at a higher resolution and then downsize the file to suit the printer (but note, given a 8x10 inch print, even with a 512MB PC you still have room to overscan by 2-3 times (4-9 times larger file). However, you do not NEED to do that if the manipulation is minimal (cloning for dust removal, contrast/brightness adjustments etc).
The Epson 3200 comes bundled with Photoshop Elements and good quality scanning software for negatives and chromes (at least it does here in the UK). One problem with Elements is that it only allows 8-bit B&W mode (16-bit would be better), but if you are printing to a low/medium end inkjet, whether you will see the difference is moot.
In short, in IMO (Humble not being a thing we Do here ;-)) if you are restricting yourself to 8x10 to 10x16" ish size prints, the system you suggest (with preferably a bit more RAM) will suit you fine.
Have fun.... Cheers,
If your requirments are only for 8x10 output 512MB will be adequate. Look at Picture Window Pro from dl-c.com (http://dl-c.com) - it wll do most things as well or better than PhotoShop. Also think about picking up a used Epson 2400 instead of the 3200 - put the money saved into a DVD writable drive.
Many, many thanks for everyone's input.
Sorry for the "late" reply - I've been on the road. Basically, the answer to your question of "what's enough" depends on your file sizes.
I drum scan 4x5 negatives to fairly large sizes. My files typically are 500MB and up. If you are going to be handling large files a lot, here is what I recommend. Clearly, very clearly, YMMV!
1) Photoshop wants you to have about 5 times more RAM than your file size. My 2GB is not enough, but that's all Photoshop can recognize (stupid 32bit program!). With less "excess" memory, Photoshop sends more data to disk, and writes to disk are many orders of magnitude slower than writes to RAM.
2) It really helps to have two physical "spindles" for Photoshop. That's two physical disk drives. The second drive is for Photoshop's scratch disk - to keep Windows/MacOS from competing with Photoshop for disk I/O time.
3) Processor speed *does* matter. Photoshop is not necessarily limited by disk I/O speed. It depends on what you are doing. Get a fast processor.
4) If you can afford it, go with SCSI disks. Get 160UW SCSI or better. Use 10k rpm disks or faster. The higher throughput will really make a difference. Without it, you can spend quite a lot of time waiting for Photoshop to close a large file. I've seen Photoshop CS take over a minute to close a 500MB file on a system with ATA 133 disk drives.
5) Photoshop version matters. The faster Photoshop for large files seems to be v7.x. File opening/closing/updating (writing to scratch disk) seem to be about the same speed for v6.x and the new CS. Photoshop v7.x is considerably faster, at least for me.
In general, the smaller your files, the less the above matters. Really, any old PC seems to work just fine with files less than 128MB. As you increase above that, you really begin to see the effects of faster hardware. As I said, YMMV.
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