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Old Oct 17, 2005, 5:32 PM   #1
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I am looking to buy a new computer and more importantly a monitor specifically for digital photography. Any recommendations mostly for the monitor but also the PC would be greatly appreciated.

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Old Oct 17, 2005, 6:44 PM   #2
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As a computer/photography professor/profesional, I would first ask you, "How into, and at what level, do you want to be in digital photography ... and how much do you want to spend"?

I would recommend as much memory, speed, and hard disk as you can afford ... especially if you intend to use PhotoShop (a major memory hog) or do video editing. Without naming a brand, a well-memoried "multimedia" computer, preferably with a 64 bit processor (AMD is outstanding and a bit cheaper than Intel), DVD burner, and multi-type memory card reader is fine. A gig or better of memory makes PhotoShop CS2 run very well, as does a fast hard drive!

REMEMBER: within a reasonable price range you have many choices; virtually all name brands are good (but just like the Ford/Chevy argumentative crowd, "their" preference is always the best and you will get lots of opinionated arguements here). You will find good buys at Sams Club, Best, Office Depot, etc. Or you could mail order. For our college we use TigerDirect for their speed, honesty, and satisfaction policies. Factory refurbs from them of all brands have been just as good as new --- or you can assemble your own.

I also recommend a Wacom tablet (Intuos 3 is a good choice as you can get an "airbrush" pen as an accessory, but their Graphire issomewhat cheaper). 4x5 size is okay,6x8 may bebetter but isfar more expensive ... how much desk space do you have? I use the 4x5 Intuos 3 with no problem and love it.

As for monitors, the larger the better and currently CRT (television-like) monitors are the most cost effective and produce the best color , saturation, and contrast for the money. I personally prefer NEC and KDS, but there are many good brands out there. A good one, if not bundled with your purchase, should cost under $300, but there are plenty that will cost much more depending on size and built in features.

No matter whichmonitor you get (other than, perhaps,publication-specific page monitors), if you want to ensure colors (often not necessary nowdays for a general photography hobbiest, but purists will want one to reach the theoretical maximum balances), purchase a Spyder color calibration tool.

If you have a LOT of money, there are several flat-panel displays that will work well. ViewSonic and LaCie have some outstanding panels. You may need to use a callibrator on them, too. Personally, I like many of the higher end (read expensive) Sony multimedia units with Sony LCD monitor bundles. But I cannot afford their prices, so I "roll my own" using parts purchased from TigerDirect.

I hope this info provides you some help ... I am sure others will give their views, too!

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Old Oct 17, 2005, 7:44 PM   #3
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Ditto on the above comments. To keep mine short, I'll just say you get what you pay for. Expect a system in the $1200 to $1300 range if you plan to get serious in digital.

I like my Sony. :-)
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Old Oct 17, 2005, 10:10 PM   #4
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A high-end Samsung or ViewSonic CRT, 19-21" monitor will do all you are looking for...most LCD moniors are still not up to consistant standards, regarding color resolution & contrast...
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Old Oct 17, 2005, 10:17 PM   #5
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I agree with many of the things said above.
Are you capable of building your own system? If so, I would definitely recommend going that route. You can generally build a better system yourself for the cost of a similarly priced pre-built system made by someone else. This requires you do some research and educate yourself on what is good and what is worth the cost. But it means you'll get quality, fast components where it matters. And as a bonus you won't get all the annoying software the vendor installed for advertising reasons.

As to the specifics.....
I've heard that Athlon's are a touch faster in photoshop, but it isn't an inherent advantage, it's just that they are faster right now. More power to them, Intel needs some competition (which AMD has been giving them more and more of over the last several years. But more competition is even better.)

From what I've heard (from actual PS users in the PS group go to twice a month) 2-gigs of ram is more like what you needs for CS2. I've got 1 G for CS and I'm generally ok, but it depends on things like.... if you open more than one picture at once, if you enlarge your images a lot, if you use non-adjustment layers a lot. Things like that. I don't do any of those things and I push the boundries of 1G, but I'm ok.

If disk speeds really matter to you, you have once of two choices. RAID or SCSI. SCSI, while faster than SATA (yep, if you don't believe me go to http://www.storagereview.com) is way over priced per gig. So you're only choice is use striped disks for speed. At a minimum, if you care about speed, put two disks in. One for data and the photoshop swap area and one to boot off of and hold applications (personally, I partition the boot disk into the OS area and another for apps.) That will at least be a bit faster than one disk alone.

For monitors, I basically agree with hgernhardtjr. I would say it more stongly, though. If you take photoshop at all seriously, get a hardware profiling device. I don't like the Spyder, but many here do. I prefer the Monaco Optrix XR. Either way, get something.

LCDs, except for the high end, are not worth it. They have benefits (low power, less space, instant on,...) but their downsides are too big to ignore (reduced contrast, bad mushy darks, too bright lights. But I have very high standards.) Now, if you're willing to spend a substantial amount of money you can get a good LCD. But they are very expensive (thousands of dollars.) But this is a question of your standards. I've borrowed one that many describe as "fairly good" and after profiling it it was still unacceptable. It had a dynamic range of way less than stated, and was way to bright.

For a good, upper middle quality CRT, get a LaCie Blue. The 20" is shockingly cheap for something that good (although I believe... NCR(?) uses the same tube and is a touch cheaper.) My problem is that I need 21" for work reasons and they don't make one, they make a 23" which is rather large, heavy, and expensive. But my CRT is dieing and I'll probably have to get another. I wish LCDs were up to the task, but they aren't yet from all my research (both hard reviews and talking with Pro shooters, of which I know many.)

I sorta agree with the Wacom tablet recommendation. I've been told that the size of the tablet you want is generally dependent on the size of the monitor you have. A 17" monitor is fine with a 4x5 tablet, but something larger requires a larger tablet, or you loose fine control because the smaller area translates to more monitor surface. I've been told that the Intuos are worth the extra cost, but I've never personally used either to know.

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Old Oct 17, 2005, 11:51 PM   #6
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Hi! I just bought 20in Samsung 204t LCD monitor yesterday. First impression is very good. It's not a Hi-end, but not one of those that come in a 'package" with the computer. I was using some old crappy 17" CRT for several months after my good 19'' KDS had died. So now it looks like night and day!
I absolutely agree with Eric that CRT is better then LCD price- and image quality-wise. That's what I was going to get - good CRT. But, they are disappearing!!! I found a good 21" Vewsonic on Tigerdirect for $450, next day i wanted to buy one and it wasn't there anymore! And things like this happened to me 3 or 4 times! Big stores ( Office Depot, Bestbuy etc.) don't carry CRTs larger than 17" anymore. So I gave up and bought Samsung 204t. ( $650 @ Bestbuy)
I'm not a PRO, so I think it is good enough for my needs.
I don't know your budget and needs, just wanted to share my first impressions.
Hope this will help.

Good luck!

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Old Oct 18, 2005, 9:47 PM   #7
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Thank you for all the great reply's and information. It is all good information for me and I greatly appreciate it.

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Old Oct 19, 2005, 2:56 PM   #8
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OK I just purchase the viewsonic 21 inch CRT monitor. should be here in a few days. Now I need a CPU. If you could build the perfect computer for me, a novice with a passion for digital photography how would you do it. I will be using photoshop CS2. I don't know enough about computers to know what I really need and don't need. Also where can I get the tower built the way I need and sent to me. I am willing to spend about $1500 for the CPU. Please be as specific as possible since I will probably go this route.



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