1200$ PC for a photographer

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Boid, May 15, 2013.

  1. Boid

    Boid All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    I've been toying around with the idea of getting a Nikon D800E, the downside to which would be that I would need to change my desktop at home. I also have a MBP which isn't as good at handling large files that the Nikon spits out, plus I don't like editing on a laptop (even though it has a largish 17" screen).

    While browsing around trying to see how I would put this together, I came across this website - Logical Increments - PC Buying Guide a "build a pc" website dedicated to helping gamers put together rigs at various price points. Not quite what I wanted. So I wrote in to the site admins who most graciously decided to help me put together a rig on a 1200$ budget. Thanks Orion Bukantis!

    As a side note, they also said that they would try and work on a similar website that helps photographers with building a PC system, because their requirements differ from what a gamer would be looking for.

    This is the setup that Orion recommended to me, I hope it is of use to someone else as well -

    Intel i7-3770K
    This is the fastest CPU for a reasonable price. Photoshop and most other lightly threaded applications perform better on Intel CPUs for the money. You can see benchmarks here: AnandTech | Bench - CPU
    This comes with a heatsink, which will work fine for you since you're not overclocking.

    ASRock Z77 Extreme 4
    Or any of the quality Z77 motherboards from our guide will do very nicely. The advantage to getting a fancier one, beyond any of the additional features you (may) want is that they are built with higher quality components, and will be more reliable. Motherboards are one of the most common components to fail, so it's worth paying a little more for quality.

    16GB DDR3-1600
    You probably won't need 16GB, but it will allow you to have lots of things open at once, including many photos in photoshop.

    Graphics Card:
    Integrated HD 4000
    I would start out with no graphics card. The i7-3770K has integrated graphics that work just as well as expensive discrete graphics cards for non-gamers, and will even work with most of the GPU-acceleration of the Mercury Graphics Engine in CS6. If you decide the you want something more powerful, you can add something like a GTX 660 any time you want.

    Samsung 840 Pro 256GB
    $120 x 2
    2 x 3TB HDD in RAID-1
    This is probably the most important part for you, and the biggest difference from a gaming PC. You want a fast SSD for your primary drive.
    In the past, it would be a good idea to have multiple drives for different things (OS drive, photoshop drive, scratch drive) but good modern SATA 6.0Gbps SSDs are fast enough to make this unnecessary. Use the SSD for Windows, Photoshop, other programs, and the files you're working on now, and the large HDDs for storing everything else. Windows, photoshop, and other apps, will probably take ~ 60 GB on their own, so perhaps you could get away with a 128GB SSD, or maybe you want even more super fast storage and want a 512GB SSD.
    If you want more than 3TB of storage space, you can get 4TB HDDs.
    Setting the large HDDs up in RAID-1 mode will give you redundancy - all data is automatically copied to both drives. So you only get the storage space of a single drive, but all your data is there if one of the drives dies a horrible death. You'll still want external backups (ideally offsite) to protect against things like accidental deletion or something that destroys your whole computer though.

    Power Supply:
    Seasonic S12II 430W
    You definitely want a high quality power supply, but since you won't be stressing a heavy duty graphics card (even if you decide to add one later), you won't really need more than 350W. Without a graphics card, your PC will probably use 150W under full load. With a graphics card like the GTX660, that would go up to 250W. That said, getting a bigger power supply wouldn't hurt anything if you want the extra margin of safety.

    Fractal Define R4
    $80 - 140
    This is pretty subjective. The Define R4 is one of my favorite current cases. It's very quiet, cools well, can hold 8 HDDs + 2 SSDs, and I like how it looks in both black and silver.
    All of the cases we recommend on Logical Increments are blends of thermal performance, acoustic performance (silence), aesthetics, and price. You can go with any that you like, the parts I've recommended will fit in any of them.
    The Corsair 550D is another of my favorites.

    Other things you might need:
    DVD / Blu-ray drive

    We're working on recommendations for those, but we haven't done enough research yet. They're inexpensive and subjective enough that you should be fine reading a few reviews and finding ones you like. Or the stuff you have now will work fine.

    That's a total of around $1200, and honestly that's the right amount to spend. You're going to get close to the maximum available performance, but still for a reasonable price. The case, power supply, and hard drives will be useable for years of future upgrades too.

    Another website that seems very popular (also has a uk version) is Pick Parts, Build Your PC, Compare and Share - PCPartPicker
  2. You're going over to the dark side? Oh MY!
  3. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Thanks for sharing this info Rajiv. I wish my workflow involved a PC instead of a laptop. Maybe one day.

    Do you mean the PC or the Nikon? LOL.
  4. LOL! Both!!
  5. BillN

    BillN Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    you don't mention the monitor that you plan to use

    I have noticed that the 24 meg images from my "new" D7100 do take some time longer to "load" that the 12 meg D300 RAW images ....... not really happy

    My 3 and 4 year old MPB and iMac, (4GB 1067 MHz DDR3 and 2.66GHz Intel core 2 Duo ...... for you experts), may need reviewing ......... almost like the PC days, (upgrade every year) ......... but I don't want to do this!!!!

    Maybe I should have a dedicated machine just for photography? ........ as Bold above
  6. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I've gone back and forth between Mac and PC three times already since the early '80s and I'm not going back to PC unless Apple goes out of business and Windows is the only option. That said, photography is clearly the driver of why I've needed to upgrade my gear. I've only been back into photography (and into digital processing for the first time) for a little over three years now, and I'm on my second Mac of that period already. The first iMac (a 2009 model IIRC) struggled with Aperture and SEP1 and then absolutely fell apart with SEP2. I upgraded and my wife VERY happily took my previous model (she's a schoolteacher and it's MORE than enough power for her uses and she was just using a school provided laptop previously). The new one (which I'm sure is a generation or 2 old at this point) does well enough with Lightroom and SEP2 and the other Nik plug-ins. But the raw files are getting bigger and bigger and bigger - it takes a while to process an RX1 file. And its not like files are gonna be getting smaller in coming years. The next time Google upgrades the Nik suite, it'll probably clog things up again. So I'd guess I'll have to upgrade the Mac again within another year or two. And the old one, the one my wife is using, is still overwhelmingly fast enough and good enough for anything I'd ever do with a computer OTHER than photo processing.

    Computers are a lot like cameras - you can still do great stuff with the old gear, but you can do so much more with the new gear. And the new gear is just so impressive its kind of fun in its own right.

  7. Yeats

    Yeats All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
    A lovely system, my only quibble would be using Intel's stock cooler. The odd mounting mechanism sometimes leads to an incorrectly-mounted cooler, resulting in thermal issues under load. Also, it has (IMO) an annoying sound profile. It's money well spent to buy a good aftermarket cooler.
  8. Isoterica

    Isoterica Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    You are going to have one spectacular photography set-up between computer and camera Boid. Btw, that is not compact :D.. but I can't wait to see what you capture.
  9. I'd go MAC!

    I had an iMac and it was brilliant!!!! I now have a PC and although it handles my 46 megapixel Sigma DP files with ease, the PC is a bit of a pain in the rear! I made sure it was built by a company who knew what they were doing and initially it was fine but recently I'm getting the usual problems associated with PC's where things just don't work properly and I'm having to re boot quite a bit. The HDD is churning away doing something but I have no idea what??? Every PC I have ever had has had niggles or was down right crap! The one I have now cost me nearly £1000 for the base unit alone. I'm convinced it's Windows and other programs that make it run oddly. I have anti virus which has been good and I have a program that keeps the PC clean but I still have to sort problems out every now and then which is a pain.

    When I had my MAC it ran almost perfectly for 4 years never giving me a moments trouble apart from a couple forced re-starts. If you want a reliable no fuss computer you can not go wrong with a Mac. I am actually considering getting another. The next time my PC fails me I may well be onto the Apple website!! :biggrin:
  10. Ripleysbaby

    Ripleysbaby supernatural anesthetist

    Sep 9, 2011
    Cumbria UK
    +1 on the mac. Unless you intend doing video. The iMac graphics card just is not good enough. And they are not upgradable . Heat issues I would imagine .
  11. Yeats

    Yeats All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
    Some people simply prefer the performance, versatility, upgradeability, and value you can get with a PC that you can't with a Mac, and not having to deal with the usual problems associated with Macs... :wink:
  12. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Mr. Moderator thinks the OP was sharing his custom build for others who may be considering a photo-specific PC build and not to start a debate about Apples and PCs.....those never end well. People have made up their minds by this point which they prefer.
  13. True but For me Macs are more reliable and awesome for image manipulation.

    One good thing about having a dedicated PC just for images is that the risk of viruses is greatly reduced as you will not be trawling the net looking at all and sundry raising the risk of infestation!
  14. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
  15. pdh

    pdh Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    D'oh! indeed
  16. Yeats

    Yeats All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
  17. :tomato2:

    Honestly..I'm not a PC basher or Mac fan boy....honest!!!!!:biggrin: I drive a VW cos it's uber reliable.

    I'll get my coat! :blush:
  18. Mac users: before you start considering selling off or switching platforms... Hard drive upgrade and RAM upgrade are probably cheaper and more effective options. Its usually possible to put more RAM in your machine than is Apple supported (eg my Mini can take 8Gb RAM officially... But 16Gb unofficially). I plan to make this upgrade as soon as my warranty has expired, as well as add a SSD drive. Mac mini can have two drives, so i'll make the SSD the boot drive and the existing 500Gb, the secondary one. Its a bit complicated but a better option than switching machines every few years.
  19. Check the specs for your particular machine with an app called Mactracker
  20. BillN

    BillN Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    OK - a question?

    what do we reckon is the best dedicated set up for image processing and nothing else, processing 24mbte + files in LR and PS

    Machine spec - price?
    Monitor - size - price?
    Anything else that I have missed