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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
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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
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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.


Is there a software to control the contax 645 body via a computer to change settings like shutter speed, aperature, ... etc.? Thanks. Ahmed


Well-Known Member
What about a budget (non pro) system? I currently have the following:

Sony laptop (128 mb ram/celeron 650mb processor)
HP photo printer
minola scan dual III scanner

I would like my new system to improve the following:

faster image processing
larger prints (currently only 8x11)
accurate viewing on monitor

Based on preliminary research, have decided to switch to a Epson 2200 printer, but am unsure of what computer and monitor to get. I would like to get as budget of a system as will let me enjoy the digital darkroom.



>Scott, I've had similar decisions to make as yourself over the last year or so. Just a few thoughts from my experience over this time that I hope may help you...

Re: Faster image processing...assume you'll continue with PC (see you're a Sony user); get as much Ram as you can afford (512mb-1GB); P3 is actually quicker than P4 even if processor speed appears slower (more comps per cycle ie just like the Mac) so you can save money by getting older P3 which should be more than enough for Photoshop.

Re: Larger prints...Epson 2200 is an excellent printer allowing up to 13" widths, however it does get some negative press concerning prints on glossy paper. If all you're printing to is matte then it doesn't get much better for the money but if you like glossy prints then it may disappoint you. An alternative could be the Epson 1280 which also handles paper up to 13" but will give you top results on glossy paper as well as matte. I think sticking to Epson in general is a good idea as the selection of inkjet papers in sizes up to 13x19" (which I assume you're looking for) made by Epson themselves will save you loads of time in getting the best results from your printer.

Re: Accurate viewing on monitor...CRT still better than LCD/TFT flat panels but you'll probably want to save space like everyone else!? The trick is calibrating your monitor so that what you see is what you possibility is to get something like the "Spyder" by Colorvision, it looks like a mouse with legs that dangles over your monitor and then helps you to calibrate the display. (Try
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) I'm sure there are other co's that produce a similar product but I'm not familiar with them I'm afraid!?

Hope some of this helps and good luck building your digi-darkroom!



I'm a long-time PC user. For that reason, if I was considering a system for digital photography/graphics purposes I would buy... MAC! That's right, Macintosh. That's because:

a) All pro labs understand Photoshop and Mac. They don't understand PC and Windows
b) It works faster, is much more stable system, UNIX-like in many ways and has quite long lifespan and very reliable.
c) Because color-control, profiles, etc are all well controlled from within OS itself, you don't need a bunch of third party tools to do it
d) Mac is designed to be a good desktop publishing system, thus almost all the basic stuff you need for graphics processing or digital photography is already there
e) Support and warranty terms are great
f) Leasing available
g) G5 is 64bit processor

So, if I was on tight budget, I would probably start saving some money for Mac instead of spending any money on PC. Then, I would need about $4500 to set up a decent system with everything I need (excluding software).
Here is what I would probably get:
Dual 1.8Ghz Mac G5 with 1GB of RAM, 160GB Hard Drive, SuperDrive (DVD-R/CD-RW),
NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 w/64MB. Monitor - Apple 17" Studio LCD or some 19" Sony Trinitron CRT based monitor or one of newer Planar 17" monitors.
That would come to about $3000-$3200. The rest of money will be used to buy film scanner such as Elite 5400 or one of announced new Nikons, hardware color calibration tool (Spyder) and maybe later on photo printer. Plus about $700 for photoshop or JASC PaintShopPro if it's available for Mac (not sure about it).

However, most likely I wouldn't buy inkjet photo printer, because inkjets haven't yet reached the quality of output that I would like. So, I would scan my pictures, do little editing and then "pre-flight" them for printing at West Coast Imaging, Calypso, Holland Photo or A&I using LightJet, Chromira or whatever I like



Scott, I would guess you'd feel most comfortable staying with PC's since that is what you are using now. If this is a NON-pro system, then please don't panic over Mike L's extraordinarily expensive solution for a home use budget computer from the Mac line-up. IF you are considering a Mac at all, you can get quite good speed from the eMac, which several designer friends of mine use for photoshop work for their clients. The eMac was originally released for use in schools, but designers and agencies caught news of what was inside this modest looking little thing and started making fine use of them. It contains the G4 as it's powerbase, and that makes it slightly behind the ultimate pro machines that have a new G5. If you aren't doing video work, I really doubt you need the speed and extreme cost of the G5. The eMac has the advantage of having a CRT screen which is best for photographic editing (photoshop) work. The iMac is nice, but I don't care for those screens as much. You can click on and choose "store" and find the eMac goes for as little as $799 including a Combo drive (read and write CD's, Read DVD's) ($699 if you get a refurb from Apple). Then add about $150 from another reseller like MacZone to get you up to a 1GB of Ram and you're pretty much ready to add software and roll. My only reason for posting all this Mac info is to counter the very frighteningly high numbers Mike referenced for someone who is just looking for home use on a budget. Don't be afraid to stay with a PC if that's where your comfort zone is. Best regards, -Lynn L. (A Mac User)


Well-Known Member
Yes, Mike's system is not budget from my standpoint. I already have the Minolta Scan Dual III, windows xp pro, photoshop 7. i am considering upgrading my printer to a epson 2200 and am undecided on the computer and monitor. for the computer and monitor combined total I wanted to find as cheap a system as would currently do the job. the main reason my current laptop (described above) doesn't cut it is that the screen goes dark or light depending on the angle of view (if someone could explain why this is and whether the newer LCDs have the same problem), and I need a little more power and hard drive space. Maybe i should get another monitor to plug into the laptop instead for a less expensive solution. hmmm.


Just realized that I forgot to mention something important. That "system" is purely hypothetical, because that's kind of what I would shoot for if I was planning on getting digital-workflow system. BUT, since I don't have that kind of money - I don't have that kind of system as well



New Member

I believe that you might be pleasantly surprised by adding RAM to current laptop. With 128 Mb, you really have very little left over for image editing. If you spend the $100 or so to upgrade to 512 Mb, I think you might find what you have already acceptably fast.


>For Photo Shopping memory is more important than Processor speed. Photo Shop is a bitmapping program. So there are normally no complicated, processoreating vector calculations. Only with filters the processor has to do some real stuff. > Your Laptop is reasonable for P/S. Give it 512 Meg Ram, add a firewire hard drive (if you have the port), get a Sony 21 inch monitor. That whole thing costs you about 700 bucks.

My "digital darkroom" consists of an AMD 400/K6-2 (equivalent to a Pentium 2), with 320 Meg RAM (75% owned by Photo Shop), W2K, Photo Shop 6.0, a generic 17 inch monitor and a Canon S9000. Monitor calibrated with Adobe's Gamma tool. Not very professional, but I get what I need.

Printer: Give the Canon S9000 (or the newer model - S9100 or so, but the S9000 is a 100 bucks cheaper) a thought if you want 13x19. I like the colors better than the Epson's. I can use Ilford Galerie Classic paper ($.40 per 8x10 sheet, a beautifully textured paper) and for archival I don't car much from an ink jet. Sure, its black and white quality is not as good as Epson's, but my black and white comes from a real darkroom. And Epson pissed me off when I heard how much the exchange of their ever clogging heads would have cost me. With the Canon you can change the head yourself.


Well-Known Member

I have an older iBook and two Window notebooks and a PC. Any notebooks including the iBook are not good for image editing due to the viewing angle. The image shade change as your eyes move around. It really degraded my eye sight. More importantly, except for the Apple and few other manufacturers, you cannot calibrate your LCD screen. I have just bought a new Sony notebook, very fast in PhotoShop 7 and Illustrator 10, but disappointing that I can not set ICC profile to the LCD screen, not even brightness and contrast. I am struggling with the color accuracy in window based notebooks even I have read ton of “how to” Photoshop books for the last few years.

I highly recommend Mac just for that reason. The color management in Apple is much more advanced. I was told the color management for PC has not been changed since Window 98.

If you really need a notebook, consider the iBook or PowerBook, add a external monitor for home use. Even the new cheap iMacs are very fast for Photoshop and good enough movie editing (for non pro).

If you are on a budget, as Claus indicated, add ram and an external monitor is the way to go.

For printer, generally Epson is better than HP since there are more third party papers for the Epson. It is very hard to change the print profile for the HPs for non HP papers. I have read some reviews regarding the glossy paper problem with the Epson 2200. But I have seen a huge number of glossy / matt prints from the 2200. They are beautiful. I was told the compliant about the quality of the glossy paper are due to user errors (usually double profiling).

For paper, Pictorico is exceptionally good for the 2200, especially the gallery grade glossy paper. The image really pops. Their web site show you how to setup the ICC profile for the Epson.


Well-Known Member
Yes, I added another 512MBs to my existing 512 on my PC and it transformed the performance. I can now use Photoshop without it seizing up even if I am also using other applications at the same time and it is quicker all round. Previously I had thought that 512MB would be more than sufficient.


Good news!!!
I was on my way to change my laptop because I thought PhotoShop needs a faster proc than pentium 3M..
I only need extra-memory !!
You are looking for an affordable printer.
Why don't you look at HP 7660 ?
Using the Grey Cartidge (#59) B&W prints are unbelievable.
And color photos are as good as well..



Well-Known Member
Thanks for all your help. My laptop only holds 320 mb ram. and the chip is a 650 celeron processor (so the fan is working all the time and makes the laptop hot too). my biggest problem is not being able to see the image correctly on the laptop just as albert said, the images lightens or darkens depending on eye angle.

I have two issues with just getting a monitor and plugging it in: 1. I can't place the keyboard right in front of the monitor because the laptop screen will be in the way, and 2. my computer only has 1024 x 768 resolution and I don't think that would change if I got a nice monitor (I could be wrong on this).

Also, I do think the laptop has firewire but I have never used it. are external drives as good/better than those in the computer? are they almost as fast or would I be transferring images back and forth between the laptop hard drive and the external one?

I don't absolutely need a laptop either.




320mb RAM won't cut it for efficient Photoshop. It's true that Mac really is superior for graphics (and no doubt PC is better for number crunching). It all depends on what your goal is in your printing. Are you looking for "pro lab" quality? Are you wanting to print large? Do you need archival quality? If so, there is no cheap solution. There's only less or more expensive.

A basic ibook with addtional RAM is not terribly expensive. Sony Trinitron or La Cie (mine's an Electron 19 Blue at $379) monitors are great and under $400. And for printing, if you don't need archival prints, go for the Epson 1280 at $399 or the R300M if you don't need big prints (even prints on CDs) for $249. You'll get prints that pop a little more than with the 2200, they just won't last as long. I love my 2200 but the prints off the 1280 are great too. In fact, many pros use a 1280 or even the R300M for their portfolios rather than 2200's, that's how good they are. By the way, on the 2200 glossy prints are not as good but try Premium Lustre, it's great!

A great advantage of going with a laptop is that you end up with a dual monitor system. Put all your tools on your laptop and then you'll have full screen images for editing on your primary monitor. A big plus!

For around $2,300 you can have a great setup. I know that's not cheap but quality costs.



Well-Known Member
Guy, you mentioned using both the laptop monitor and another one where you can put tools on the laptop and work on the picture on the other. Do all laptops do that? How do I set something like that up?=20