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Which Computer configuration for digital Imaging




I would be interested in which computer set-up you would recommend for digital imaging.

In this forum there are threads about scanners, printers and screens, but this part is missing.

What experience did you make with your computer, what would you advise to buy (RAM, Speed, HD, Graphic card, Firewire, Calibration instruments etc.)


I have spent nearly two years now setting up a "digital darkroom", and I can summarize my experience briefly as follows:

Don't use Windows 98 because it doesn't show thumbnails in file icon displays, and doesn't offer a choice for "open with..." when you right click on files.

Don't use Windows Me because it is REALLY slow. Somehow after it has been running for a few minutes, and especially after you access the Internet, the CPU gets really busy with unknown tasks and the applications like Photoshop become REALLY slow. I wasted two months trying to work out what was wrong, and then gave up.

All my speed troubles went away when I started using Windows 2000 Professional. This is a very reliable and fast operating system. You can right click a files and select "open with.." to choose which application to use. You get thumbnails of your images in the folder display. Windows XP is probably similar but I haven't tried it yet.

Use Photoshop 6.0 or 7.0 because the other image editing programs cannot handle "colour management". I struggled for five months trying to make the printer output look like the image on the screen, and then found that all my troubles went away when I gave up on the cheaper image editing programs and started using Photoshop. There are excellent tutorials about how to use Photoshop at http://www.computer-darkroom.com .

You must use a "monitor profiling" system for your computer monitor. I use a program which came with my Samsung LCD monitor, and it works well enough for me. Search on Google for "monitor profiling" and you'll get good information about it. Monitor profiling allows your system to know how your computer's monitor shows the colours in relation to the RGB values in an image file.

You need at least one gigabyte of RAM to use Photoshop efficiently. I scan a lot of medium format images nowadays, and find that 2 GB is even better.

A fast CPU is needed to handle the "instant preview" of adjustments in Photoshop. I use a dual Pentium III 1 GHz motherboard (Asus CUV4X-D). Actually, the sheer speed of the processing doesn't increase much when using two CPUs, but the ability to run other programs concurrently with Photoshop improves a lot with two CPUs. Dual CPUs makes your PC like a truck capable of heavy loads rather than like a Ferrari with double top speed. This mother board has four slots for RAM, and with 512MB SIMM cards, I got 2 GB RAM on the board.

After a few months of scanning many photos, you'll end up with a lot of big files which would be disastrous to lose. So I use a "I Will" PCI RAID adaptor for IDE HDD. I have two 40GB HDD in parallel (mirror) RAID1 configuration on this adaptor. That way, if a hard drive fails, I don't lose all my files.

I also use special "silent" power supply and CPU fans because the noise of a PC is really disturbing when you do long hours of image editing. See http://www.quietpc.com .

I hope this information helps someone.
Craig: Your silent power supply and fan info is very helpful. My setup isn t as heavy duty as yours, but I'm not involved in heavy duty image production. I do use XP - Professional Version on one computer and Home Version on my portable. I find it far superior to earlier systems. My system uses 768 RAM and that seems sufficient for my purposes. I've tried a Mac because my older system under Windows 98 wasn't cutting it. Then a buddy showed me how to tweak the system so it would scream. XP makes it better. I still prefer my PC to the Mac because I learned on a PC and the Mac just requires commands I don't care to spend the time learning.
Jack: Thanks for the confirmation that Windows XP works well. If I build another PC, I'll try XP.
Trying XP with a new PC may be the best idea, Craig. People I know trying to install XP on an existing system have come to grief. I have seen and heard enough weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth to break the heart of a paving stone - or to cause my RTS III (ON Topic Gratuity) to become colicky and miss a frame.

I use Photoshop 7.0 with a Power Mac G4 and OS9.2. Have not tackled OS X yet but that will happen soon. I use an Epson 2450 scanner which is very nice at high res but I still have not figured out how to scan 6x7cm negs.

I have a gig of RAM and this system is very fast handling the picture files.

Running OS X with 832 megs of RAM on a G4/400 with a Microtek 4000tf scanner and Photoshop 7.

I'm a long time mac guy but have used PCs which I find have to much of a "futzing" factor compared to Macs.

Macs in general just run and run. OSX is really great but I wish it were less glitzy in favor of more speed.
Hi, just a few points; i use a mac g4 with 750 meg of ram, an 80 gig hard disk, and use osX continually, as i find that having dipped a toe in the new medium, and occasionally going back to os 9.2, I prefer osx . having said that, os9.2 will give better printing, and much more accurate set up.
i use ICC profiles, and silverfast pro.6 for scanning, and an linotype 1200 flatbed for 6x6 trannies. This seems to work well, although the flatbed won't work on osx.
certainly you don't get the hassles with osx like crashes on os9.2 ! Those i can live without. I had a PC, but after 10 years of hassle, I switched to Mac, and i wouldn't go back ! Its definitely a graphics oriented system, and it WORKS !