How-To Build the Ultimate Digital Photo Studio PC

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kgcode

I do a lot of video editing, and after the death of an older motherboard, I decided to upgrade to Premiere CS5 and build a new system based (mostly) on the specs in this article.  Although I had heard that the GTX 470 had some compatability issues with several motherboards, I thought I was doing the smart thing by choosing a GPU/mobo combo that was proven.  But I haven't been able to get the 470 to work once the NVIDIA driver loads.  After the Windows 7 "starting windows" animation plays, I get no video signal from then on (i.e., no logon screen, etc.).  The system continues to boot...but with a black screen.

I have RMA'd the card, but got the same results with the new card.  Have worked through countless suggestions for getting it to work (from EVGA support, EVGA forums, ASUS forums, NVIDIA forums, etc.), with no change.

Question: Are there some tweaks in the ASUS BIOS that were required to get the EVGA GTX 470 to work on this motherboard? 

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person.not

I scan and repair high-resolution historical and family photos. When you pull a scan at 2400x2400x16-bit color, it adds up quick. I have scans that are almost 1 GB.

BTW, it TRUE 16 bit output (most scanners on the market say 16 or 24 bit scans but only output 8-bit). My scanner output allows me up to of correction before the naked eye sees a difference (yes gamer boyz, I said"naked"). Then, you load, zoom and repair, dust check IR scan, etc. you are talking RAM baby. Ihave the ASUS SABERTOOTH X58, 12GB RAM, i7-970, EVGA GTX470 and a 32" monitor. Yes you need the large monitor so you can pan and zoom with ease. Gboyz won't understand...this is not your little brothers "gamer" computer...

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yr

The choice of the HP printer seems a little dumb. Do you buy a cow for a glass of milk?

The image quality of the HP, while great, is only "consumer photo quality". The gradient of colors is not very good. They don't hold a candle to Canon or Epson prints. AND... Do you really plan on making that many prints wider than 17"? Get a 17" model from Canon or Epson, and outsource the larger prints to a lab.

The fact is that MOST people hardly ever print larger than 8x10 or 11x14; they simply have nowhere to put the print to display, and most albums only hold upto 10x13.

So WHY sacrifice quality of the ALL prints just to be able to print a little larger? The SWEETSPOT seems to be the 13"  Canon 9500 II and Epson 2800, who make gorgeous professional exhibition grade prints, for about $700. Outsource the few large prints, and get GREAT everything.

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Girard MoutonIII

Would Gordon Mah Ung's "Ultimate Gaming PC" custom build in the November issue do the job for the photographer?  How would it compare to Loyd Case's "Ultimate Digital Photo Studio PC?"

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jasondunn

With all due respect to Mr. Case, I've never seen an article that reeked of "Look how much money I spent on my PC" without the justification or details to back it up. This article read like a brag piece rather than the high quality I'd expect from Maximum PC. Where were the benchmarks showing why 24 GB of RAM was worth the money over 8 GB? Or why that video card was better than another? I'm used to seeing benchmarks and details as to why one piece of gear is more beneficial than another - this article lacked any sort of substance and it's not what I'm used to seeing in Maximum PC.

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bootz

Any last generation box with a dual core cpu (excepta an Atom) and mobo based graphics can run Photoshop adequately. More than adequately.

The key to high end digital image processing is a monitor that can be adequately calibrated for WYSIWYG printing. That excludes most LCD panels out there, regardless of panel technology. The best monitor options tend to be those few that are packaged with dedicated calibration devices aimed at achieving what most users would find quite low brightness levels. I doubt the HP can be easily tuned to the required parameters.

 

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kiaghi7

I completely agree with the follow-up comment about the Canon Pixma 9000 MkII, it can do anything you want it to every bit as good (if not better) than anything else in its class (13"x19") and I actually got mine for $260 brand new -AFTER- shipping! So follow it closely for a little bit and you'll find a fabulous deal on a tremendously good printer.

 

Bare in mind it is NOT, I repeat it is NOT a printer for fiddling with school reports or office spreadsheets (it can do them with profound ease mind you) because it is a very purpose built photograph/imagery printer.

 

If you want to go the extra mile, and save quite literally many hundreds of dollars, get a continuous ink system from a reputable company, and you can get 20+ refills worth of ink for less than half of what a single set of replacement ink cartridges would go for, and (presuming good quality ink) you won't miss a beat on the quality of your product and vastly reduce your cost/overhead.

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Canowyrms

You could easily get a lower-end i7 and overclock the hell out of it for MUCH cheaper. I've worked smoothly in Photoshop on a system with an old Athlon 64 3000+, a 7300GS, and a mere 1GB of ram. This is a nice PC and all, but do you REALLY need this high end of software to do photo editing? Seems out of proportion for me; maybe if I was editing HD video I would consider the hardware chosen.

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Thiazolium

Judging by the irascible responses to this report, the commenters had waaaaaay too much coffee before posting.  Relax, it's just an article.

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makin_time

I wasn't sure why this article was even in the mag and now it's popped up here. There are too many loose ends to this and it sure sticks out as something unusual in MPC's history. Aside from a few grammatical errors (who starts a sentence with 'and'?), there isn't much to back up the benchmarks or the SSD comment in the schematic of the PC. What was the Graphics Testbed? How old was it? Why did the featured PC crush the testbed? Was it the RAM? The CPU? The article seems to almost dodge the issue of performance, certainly when you consider that every other PC tested uses games and other standard benchmarks to gauge performance. If this PC was tuned specially for graphics/video, what made it that way? Were there particular tuning specs or parts that lend themselves to these applications? 

Finally, if the SSD was the boot drive, we can only assume that the applications themselves were loaded onto the RAID Barracudas. How is the SSD supposed to speed up 'application load times'? 

I kind of get the feeling that this kind of article is not too well thought out, but that's just my opinion. Is it tough to fill space these days? Why not have a showdown with the 24 gig ram unit against the latest and greatest ultimate PC? Or, even better, test it against 'professional workstation components', whatever they are. 

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anc51699

The DesignJet 130r definitely belongs on this list. We used to have one at my job and it did an amazing job on posters. Never broke down, either. It is very big though. We ended up getting a DesignJet Z2100 to replace it since the 130r is on the older side, and although the Z2100 is faster and it takes a bigger paper roll, it's almost twice the size and weight of the 130r.

Also, why would anyone even need 24GB of RAM? What was the reasoning for going with that much RAM? Unless you're running a virtual XP system, listening to music, and running Photoshop, all while playing Crysis, why would you need more than 8GB in any system?

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whitneymr

I am SO envious! I'm doing my work on an i-920 oc'ed to 3.2 with 6gigs of memory, and a GTX470, and an HP LP2475w which is a great IPS panel for $560, and an Epson 2880.

You're right your 24 gigs of memory is overkill but my 6 gigs is too small.  That seems say 12gigs is the sweet spot.

The Epson 2880 is a very good 13" printer that prints on fine art paper with the best of them.

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eric0rr

WHAT PROFESSIONAL SPEND +4000 ON A PHOTO-EDITING POWER HOUSE! i mean seriously, 256 gb boot drive, 64 would do just fine, considering that the only 2 programs that need to be on the boot drive is photoshop and the OS (ok its actually way more but whatever). and 24 gb of ram! its more like you guys are trying to get any excuse to recreate your dream machine 2010, 16 gb of ram would do fine, you would hardly notice a difference in performance. other than i guess it all makes sense.

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kevjohn

In total agreement with eric0rr. I know a lot of professional photographers, and not a one of of them has a rig this muscular and expensive. Not the ones who do commercial work, not even the ones who do video editing, none of them.

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DJSPIN80

What professional?  The ones who make a living out of it.

I make a living as a software engineer, even I use a PC w/ a minimum of 8GB of RAM.  It's not about two programs, it's the fact that those two programs consume large quantities of RAM.  When you're shooting pictures using a D300s, your 12MP image has a pixel density of about 300 dpi.  Those images (in JPEG) are probably around 10+MB, and if you're serious, you shoot RAW which consumes even more.  My D70s clocks in at 25MB per image; 6MP @ 300 dpi.

If you use a non-destructive tool like Lightroom or Aperture (for us Mac guys), then you're looking at shuffling metadata for each image.  If you use a workflow, applying adjustments on each image that weighs in at 25MB+ each, let's just say it takes a lot of horse power to do.

Even in my day to day; as a developer, I use a lot of tools.  I use Visual Studio 2010, ANTS memory/performance profiler, SQL Management Studio, etc.  I also develop and test in isolated virtual machines.  So while the machine looks like overkill, you'd be shocked at how easy Photoshop 64-bit can gobble up RAM.  Let's not forget that Windows pages pretty heavily, so using a large 256GB boot drive - while it seems excessive - may add a performance boost because as Windows begins to page, it has room to grow (Windows architecture pages regardless of how much RAM you have) the page file.  So his machine will actually run really fast and he can execute Photoshop/Lightroom workflows with ease.

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Girard MoutonIII

DJ or anyone else, what custom build would you suggest?

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leetNightshade

I completely agree with you, eric0rr. This machine is complete overkill for a digital photo pc!!! You just need a decent amount of ram and a duo-core should be just enough, and a quad-core more than enough. Hex-core is just overkill, considering it doesn't help your photo editing THAT much and you end up spending a ridiculous amount of money on the processor, and motherboard for that processor, etc.   So for a digital photo pc, this entire article seems somewhat full of b.s.

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Marsel

I understand all their choices- huge SSD for storing files you are currently working on. After finishing with a project, you can archive on the 2tb drives. As for the ram: 2 hours of blu-ray quality video is like 20GB, so if you are editing a movie type (super long video) project, you need a shitton of ram. Anyone who buys a $1500 monitor no doubt works on some serious, professional stuff. Of they are rich spoiled kids, but I dont think thats the case here lol

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leetNightshade

Except this article says digital photo pc, not movie editing, so you don't need nearly that much ram.  The case is also kind of expensive for something that looks like it has limited thrills.  Hex-core processor is overkill for photoshop when you could use a high end processor like the quad version of the i7 for a muuch, much lower price.  That's something you'd need in like a high end gaming machine, or for an application you're constantly putting the processor under high stress, like for video decoding. Also, the graphics card is completely overkill, that kind of graphics card is only needed for a gaming machine, not for a photo editing machine; I know Photoshop started taking advantage of graphics acceleration, but I'm sure a card that expensive doesn't help that much more than a GTX 460 for half the price that's superclocked.  

Also,  Adobe CS5 Production Premium, technically includes extra software a photo editor doesn't need, so is another area this article went completely overboard on actually trying to provide useful insight to building a good digital photo editing pc.  

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Marsel

Dude, its for video and photos. Read the first line:

 

"THE MISSION As a digital photography and video enthusiast, I needed a system that could handily withstand the rigors of Photoshop and make my occasional work in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 move more smoothly"

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mesiah

You are forgetting, this is "Maximum" pc, not "Just the right amount" pc.

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whitneymr

One big change on CS5 is there's major gain in performance by adding memory up to the point of 32gigs.

http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/photoshop/pdfs/photoshopCS5_64bit.pdf

As for video cards technically any Nvidia card from the 7000's series up will work but you won't find any pro's using less than a GTX 200 series and I am using 2 GTX470's in SLI and did see improvement going from 1 to 2.

I haven't seen a straight answer from Adobe yet on if CS5 is using 6 cores but it will max out 4 cores. 

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Calibretto

Waiting for all the Apple fanboys to simply say, "get a Mac," because they somehow run Photoshop better.

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DJSPIN80

LOL!!!  As a mac fan, I'd say "Get a Mac" so you can run Aperture. :P

Photoshop is nice but sometimes it's overkill.  Lightroom and Aperture contain the same set of tools that Photoshop uses to manage photos - plus it's non-destructive editing and it has a robust portfolio for image management.

Also, I would definitely get a Mac in this case (I already have a Macbook Pro): dual six-core Xeon's with 24GB of RAM equates to deliciousness.  Get an SSD boot drive and a 2TB secondary drive for archiving: wonderful!  The downside?  It'll cost 10x as much as this PC. :P

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israel09

drool's on printer

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DJ Kennedy

I could cut at least 2 grand from that rig. First off - Adobe CS5 Production Premium at $1700??? WTH do you need Production premium to edit photos? Get Photoshop CS5 instead and save a grand.

Photographers dont usually have a lot of cash to spend on computers - we need it for new cameras/glass!

$1300 for a monitor? Sheesh, save a grand and get a smaller monitor. Yes larger is better, yes it would be awesome if it was already a calibrated monitor but get a 20inch or so monitor and a monitor calibration unit and youd save at least $500

a SSD for a boot drive on a photo editing machine is not needed so why such a large one? As mentioned a 64GB would suffice and youd save another lens worth of cash.

Two HDD is not really needed so you could get away with with getting a cheaper set up - go with 1 and save $200 (but Id recommend at the very least with going with a external HDD!!! so put that extra 200$ on that instead!

$1350 for a printer? Personally Id go with a Canon pixma pro 9000 Mk II at half the price.

Too much memory - 8-12 gigs is fine, 24 is over kill.

The CPU costs too much. Go with the AMD hexacore chip and save over $500 bux.

The GPU? Well, I went with the GTX 480 personally. Sure its a little more but I also fold on my rig but using 64 bit W7 and CS5 you can utilize your GPU so yeah - Id be ok with the 470.

Wether professional photographer or not - this rig is twice the cost that it needs to be. We need that money for new glass or new cameras (or strobes, or this or that - always something else we need other than a $4000 rig to edit images).

 

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DJSPIN80

A good lens will last you a long time.  They're pricey but it's not like you need a new lens each year.  My photographer friends (the pros) usually have a decent set of lenses.  They may buy one or two lenses a year, or not.  Some still use the same camera + lens systems, even budding photographers can get away with two lenses in their arsenal (a 50mm and a 35mm will mostly do).

The thing about photography is,  you can do a lot with less.  I survived on one lens (18 - 70mm from Nikon).  I used it for events, travels and portraits.  I have done more with one lens than I could with five, in fact, I don't need five lenses...I can compose faster with one lens and never have to switch lenses in the field.  Now, I'm retiring my 18-70 in favor of two prime lenses: a 35mm and a 50mm.  I wanted larger apertures for low light shooting and better bokeh; I know the 35 and 50 will more than do their jobs sufficiently.

I would agree that a lot of stuff can be trimmed from the rig, but it is Maximum PC not "+1 from average PC".  Also, I would ditch Photoshop altogether and just stick with Lightroom.  At the start of this article, the author clearly stated that this is both for pictures and movies; granted, CS5 Photoshop and CS5 Premiere Pro is a little excessive, it will run smoothly.

I would probably skip the printer altogether and go with a professional printing service.  If you use Smugmug (some of my pro friends use it) then they offer professional printing through a 3rd party service.  That'll easily save you $1400 off the top, with that money, I can get an 85mm f/1.4 prime from Nikon! :D

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