View Full Version : computer specifications

Herb Cunningham
2-Dec-2003, 18:57
I am befuzzled with all the computer replies. I am currently struggling along with 256 meg of RAM, 900 mz processor, 32 meg video card, and was soliciting bids for 2.4 gz pentium 4 processor, 1 gig RAM, two hard drives, and 128 meg video card. I use PS 7, Edit Lab 4.0 and Reindeer Graphics OPTIX plues Silverfast 6.0 ai and a few others. ///Bids were $1300 and $1600, all new, from Dell and Campaq.

From what I read in the last few days, Mac G5 is a better choice, but I looked up the prices and was not amused- $3500? I have long wanted to go to mac, but holy Toledo, $3500? surely there is a mac that is more in line with the $1500 range?

Herb Cunningham

Frank Petronio
2-Dec-2003, 19:29
You're comparing apples to oranges. The $3500 dual G5 Mac is the top of the line, and a PC with similar performance and specs would cost even more - $4500 or so. If you check out the Apple website or any of the resellers like smalldog.com you will find a range of new and refurbished G5s in the $1500 range, and even the bargain basement G5 would outperform the 2.4 ghz P4 when using Photoshop. Buy the RAM and second hard drive from a reseller, not from Apple to save money. Also remember that the Apple is better built than either a Dell or Compaq (compare them in person.)

That said, you're looking at about $2000 to get a nice G5 system going with a gig of RAM, good video card and second HD. It's worth it.

Ken Lee
2-Dec-2003, 19:38
One need not spend $ 3500. Beware of marketing hype.

The G5 has dual 64-bit processors, and is apparently optimized for graphics-intensive processing. 64-bit processors have not fully emerged in the Windows world, but one can easily get dual 32-bit processor machines, or machines with N processors. Multi-CPU machines been readily available for years. The same is true in the Unix/Linux world: it's nothing new.

It remains to be seen if Photoshop will run N times faster, by having N more processors. Similarly, until Photoshop is re-written to take advantage of 64-bit processors, it remains to be seen that it runs 2x faster on a 64-bit machine than on a 32-bit machine. As far as I recall, Photoshop 7 is mostly 8-bit code, and the newer version, Photoshop CS, is just now introducing 16-bit operations.

The Windows systems you have described should do fine, unless you plan to spend all day using Photoshop. Same with the lower-end Macs. Another 1 GB of RAM will improve performance a lot, and will cost around $ 200. A 2.4 gHz machine is fast enough to do operations on a large file in reasonable time - but Photoshop is very demanding on RAM, so when you get a machine, make sure that it allows you to add RAM in the future to more than 1GB.

Don't overlook the cost of tools to profile your paper/ink and to calibrate your monitor. Without a calibrated system, all the processors in the world will still only give you junk, and waste your time and effort making endless trial-and-error prints. With a calibrated system, you do all the corrections on the screen, and then press the button to print.

Gene M
2-Dec-2003, 19:42
80286 with 1 meg RAM and a 40 meg hard drive. Hook that baby up with DOS 3.1 and your screamin'. Splurge and get the version with two floppy drives and a 13" green text monitor.

Forget that Windows thingy. It's merely a fad.

Larry Gebhardt
2-Dec-2003, 19:56
Gene, I think I bought that system for about $2000 - seems like yesterday.

Michael Kadillak
2-Dec-2003, 20:55
Based upon the fact that computers depreciate faster than a rock droppin to the bottom of a lake, have you considered outsourcing some of your digital requirements. Many times you can take a digital photography course for a song at your local community college that will not only educate you on the software, you can get much of your negs scanned and work with knowledgable folks to get it fine tuned. I went this similar thing a while back when I needed some woodworking and did not have the space or the money for the tools. Cost me a total of $50 as I was going to have to buy the wood either way. Same your money for film, film holders and optics.

Just my $0.02.

3-Dec-2003, 07:36
We use two G5s at work for video editing. They work great and save us a lot of time, but we are talking about typical file sizes of 4-9 gigs. I use a 2gig Pentium 4 PC with Photoshop - file sizes 300-400 meg or so, and it works great - very fast. I just don't think that a photographer working with a single image needs a dual processor G5 - not at $3500. If you want a Mac, you might check into a single processor, or look around for a used G4 from someone like us who upgraded. Either of those should get you close to the cost of a PC.

3-Dec-2003, 07:58
The MAC platform may be better for graphic designers, but I bought an eMac and PS7 last April just to work on images, and find that my 3 year old PC with Windows XP and PS Elements is a far more logical way to handle my photographs. MAC's iPHOTO2 seems to be designed with engineers in mind, not photographers.

Ellis Vener
3-Dec-2003, 09:15
Bill, you are comparing lemons and persimmons. Apple's iPhoto program is not a subsitute for Adobe Photoshop Elements (any version) or a full version of Adobe Photoshop.

I know several photographers who use the $800.00 eMac very happily, but they aren't processing lots of images at a time.


The top of the line Apple G5 is way topo much overkill for still photography aplications. The low end G5 will work fine. To be efficient you'll cwant at least 2Gb RAm (but you can get by with 1Gb or 1.5Gb. using a single processor G4 or G% will also save money on RAM costs as you must have equal amounts of RAM for aeach processor in a multi processor machine. You will also want a second internal hard drive. make at least two partions on that drive and dedicate one ofthe partitions to just be your proimary scratch disk for Photoshop. This keeps the computer from going back and forth to the same HD for both the open image and Photoshop commands. I also strongly recommend you get a monitor profining and calibration kit. The best seems to be the Gretag-Macbeth EyeOne Display (US $250) but the Colorvision OptiCAL or Monaco systems work well as well.

If you want to go with an Apple, either look at an iMac, and eMac, or go to http://www.smalldog.com and look for a G4.

QT Luong
3-Dec-2003, 11:27
The paradox here is that while a G4 (or similarly performing PC) is probably
enough for most LF photographers, a 35mm photographer might need all the power
he can get from a top G5 and even more.
The key here is whether you work on one image at a
time or are in a production environment where you process batches of work
(for example my stock photo website (http://www.terragalleria.com)
has more than 7000 images).

Nathaniel Paust
3-Dec-2003, 11:52
For basic scanning and editing work, I'd really look at an iMac.

They have a few things going for them. 1) Small desktop space, small power requirements, and low noise. (Although this might just be my pet peave.) 2) Decently fast. In everyday work, it's not going to be a 3 GHz Pentium 4, but photoshop can take advantage of altavec for a lot of stuff which brings image editing up to speed. (for example my 400 MHz G4 laptop lets me work about as fast as my 2200 Athlon XP for imaging work) 3) Decently priced... around $1800 for a 17 inch screen and a DVD burner. 4) And then there are all the advantages of MacOS X. I won't try to preach too much, but my laptop has crashed twice in the 2 or so years that I've been using OS X, I've never gotten a virus, and the built in spam filter works pretty well.

Of course, if I had the money, I'd immediately get a G5. The real problem is that my laptop still does everything I need it to do with speed that puts other 3 year-old machines to shame.

Frank Petronio
3-Dec-2003, 12:45
While the general concensus is pro-Mac, don't go into it thinking they are perfect by any means. I'll admit to being a Mac zealot for over 15 years but even Macs have their issues. My wife's 12-inch Powerbook has been back to Apple four times now for two warranty protected problems. But having bought dozen of Macs ove the years, in general I think they are more reliable and better engineered than the generic PCs from Dell, Gateway, etc.

All the more reason to buy from a reliable reseller like smalldog and seriously considering the AppleCare option.

Michael Chmilar
3-Dec-2003, 14:11
You can get the bottom-end G5 1.6GHz suitably configured for ~$1600 (upgraded video card, downgrade the SuperDrive to a CD-RW, remove modem). This is with the minimum amount of RAM than Apple will ship. Don't buy extra RAM from Apple - they charge 2x (or more) than what you will pay from a third-party.

One nice thing on this machine is you can increase the RAM to 4GB. Very useful for LF-sized files in Photoshop. The memory for the G5 1.6 is also cheaper than the memory for the top-end machine (which can hold 8GB).

James Driscoll
3-Dec-2003, 15:18
For working at home a G4 is all you really need....and they can be bought LOADED for under a $1000...I bought mine used off of EBAY and it arrived fine and is used for Photo and Graphic Design work.

Do your homework (www.lowendmac.com-great site about doing this on the cheap, www.xlr8yourmac.com-great site about hardware) and you won't get burned buying a new machine.

Depending on what OS you will be running (9.2 vs the various OS X's) will help determine what machine to buy. As was proven...the dual processor machines where worthless with OS 9...the system couldn't take advantage of the two processors...but OS X can.

I feel you can get away with an "older" (2001-2002 made) G4 or if you want to splurge and be good for a while...a mirrored drive door G4 (late 2002-2003) will suit you fine. We are currently using a 533 and it isn't "slow" by any means. We also use an older beige G3 for internet and scanning usage...so we don't tie up the main machine with downloads and such. When you upgrade...you can always use the older machine as a scanning mule or an internet machine.

Remember you don't have the requirments that retouching pros have...3 minutes to process a file vs. 2.5 minutes or even 2 minutes (for arguement sake) isn't going to make a difference to you...but does for someone who earns their living doing this. So an older model computer is going to be OK for what you need it for...and remember there are ENTIRE retouching studios and pre press houses still using "old" G4's as we speak.

Everyone keeps babbling about machines.....you also need a top notch monitor. Not exactly a cheap item....the 17" Apple LCD is a bargain at under $700 new...if you really want to cheap out you can do what we did...the 17" FLAT CRT Apple monitor (it has a clear case where as the older one is either graphite colored or blue and the screen isn't flat) for $160.00 of off EBAY- also arrived free of problems. Easy to calibrate....

If you really want to get fancy....two monitors. All of the retouching pros drop the palatte/toolbars on one screen and the image on the other.

The bottom line is I can retouch at home and my soon to be wife can do (who is a graphic designer) can work from home when she has to. If the machine is good enough for pre press work....it should be good enough for what you need it for.

Treat computer equipment like LF equipment...you start with (enter low end camera here....) move on to (enter mid range camera here) and end up with (enter paragraph of equipment here)....

There is plenty of information on the web....it will surpase anything almost any of us can tell you, afterall we are photographers not computer geeks.

But we are still geeks.....