Photographer moving from PC to Mac for stability and speed: config questions

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by MoWheels, May 24, 2008.

  1. MoWheels macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 24, 2008
    Location:
    Albany, Georgia, USA
    #1
    I'm a photographer processing large batches of digital images (weddings). My specific need is a computer optimized for running Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop CS3 with Nik and OnOne plugins concurrently with STABILITY and speed.
    Currently using 2 year old system: Win XP Pro 32 bit with AMD x2 4400 CPU, 4GB ram. System works acceptably if I don't try to run all concurrently. When heavily multitasking, system bogs down, often hangs, and too frequently CS3 will crash (usually when running OnOne Phototools).
    I've compared speed of my system (2281) with current Macs using Geekbench and see a potential 3 to 4X improvement with the stock MacPro 8 core. Mac users commenting on my favorite photography forums all speak to the smooth, reliable multitasking of the Macs, even when using Mac laptops.
    I'm looking at the standard configuration mac pro (8 cores 2.8, 2GB Ram, ATI video, 320 GB HD) plus adding additional RAM and larger drives. I am comfortable with performing hardware upgrades myself. My plan now is to add 8 GB RAM and two 1TB drives to the stock configuration. I currently run two monitors: Dell 24" (1920x1200) and 19" (1280x1024) which I plan to keep.

    My questions:
    For my purposes, is there a compelling reason to upgrade the video card from the stock ATI? (I'm not a gamer.) Any problems with the dual monitors noted above?

    Can the stock system drive be easily cloned to a larger 1 TB drive without third party software? Would it be better to buy the system with the single 1 TB drive option rather than doing an upgrade myself?

    I understand RAM must be upgraded in pairs. Is there any reason not to use the stock 2 GB RAM and add 8 GB (4 x 2 GB) for a total of 10 GB? (Looking at OWC RAM) Is there an optimum RAM configuration for my uses?

    The software I must use with my photo lab for uploading final images for print and for album layout and production is currently Windows only. Would you recommend keeping the current PC just for running that software, or would you recommend installing Windows in a virtual machine on the Mac for convenience?

    Any other comments which would help me select a more efficient and reliable system for image post-processing is appreciated.
     
  2. ert3 macrumors 6502a

    ert3

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2007
    #2
    The only reason to upgrade your video card does not really apply to you so I would say no unless you are a closet gamer.

    It would be best to get as much storage space as you can out of the box rather than go through an update.

    Unless you can use 64bit apps (and photoshop is not going 64bit until after CS4 atleast for macs (though you may want to boot camp for 64bit apps) you can't actually use more than about 3.2 gigs of ram anyway.

    Boot camp would be optimal for uploading if you really HAVE to use the windows XP program but perhaps if you tell us what the program is then we can find what you need.

    If you really need to use the Windows XP upload program then try using it via Darwine or crossover. If push comes to shove I recommend you use Parallels with boot camp so that you can use that program as a continued part of your work flow.
     
  3. speakerwizard macrumors 68000

    speakerwizard

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2006
    Location:
    London
    #3
    stick with the stock gfx, its fine for your usage,
    easy to clone and stick a bigger HD for boot drive, you can use disk utility but superduper if free and easy,
    i personally bought an 8GB ram upgrade from OWC to get me up to 10GB its great,
    have you looked at aperture? its got a great light table layout mode
    http://www.apple.com/aperture/tutorials/ there is a free trial too, ive not used lightromm but i use aperture and those ive spoken to who use both tend to prefer aperture.
     
  4. MoWheels thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 24, 2008
    Location:
    Albany, Georgia, USA
    #4
    Wow, thanks for the quick replies!
    Seems like the stock video card is okay.
    ert3, I've read about the 64bit plan for Photoshop. I spend most of my time in Lightroom and it's in beta for 2.0 now. It is 64 bit for both Win and Mac OS. I'm not a "bleeding edge" user so I haven't tried it myself, but those who have are giving it good reviews.
    Even though Photoshop can only use 3 GB of RAM itself, doesn't running a 64 bit OS with lots of RAM provide for faster multitasking of several programs even if each is only a 32 bit app? That's my understanding, but I'm no expert.
    The program I need to use with my lab (Millers Professional Imaging) is their Remote Studio. I believe its a Java based app, and their web site says its only for Windows PCs. It's more than just an uploader.
    Speakerwizard, I'm glad to learn the 10 GB config is fine. I've not looked at Aperture. I'm happy with Lightroom and have learned it pretty well. With its 64 bit version coming soon, I'm planning on sticking with it for a while. I've gotten my workflow better organized now, but am now limited by my system's sluggishness and reliability.
    I think going to a 64 bit system with more RAM is what I need, and at this point in my life and business, I want ease of use and reliability over lowest cost. I've got to invest some time and effort in learning a new system (Vista or OS X) and figure now is a good time to change platforms to OS X. (I guess Apple's advertising has worked on me.)
     
  5. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    #5
    Can the stock system drive be easily cloned to a larger 1 TB drive without third party software? Would it be better to buy the system with the single 1 TB drive option rather than doing an upgrade myself?

    Use SupeDuper! for a straight clone it is free more advanced routine backup options cost more. Although I would just run the install disc on the new drive especially since the system is new and not loaded with software already that way you can choose what you want installed.

    For my purposes, is there a compelling reason to upgrade the video card from the stock ATI? (I'm not a gamer.) Any problems with the dual monitors noted above?

    A better card could be useful for GPU optimized programs. Say if you considered switching to Aperture from Lightroom since Aperture can utilize the processing power of the GPU, as I recall.

    I understand RAM must be upgraded in pairs. Is there any reason not to use the stock 2 GB RAM and add 8 GB (4 x 2 GB) for a total of 10 GB? (Looking at OWC RAM) Is there an optimum RAM configuration for my uses?

    Their is a slight speed boost from having four matched RAM chips for full 256bit access which you would lose keeping the 2x1GB but generally more RAM is beneficial it really just depends if in work you will use more than 8GB. Though Adobe max's at >4GB multiple apps can use more.


    The software I must use with my photo lab for uploading final images for print and for album layout and production is currently Windows only. Would you recommend keeping the current PC just for running that software, or would you recommend installing Windows in a virtual machine on the Mac for convenience?

    I would opt to keep everything on one computer for ease of access say use XP in Parallels, don't use Vista unless you A. Specifically need it B. Need 64bit for more than 4GB RAM usage. You may also look for Mac alternatives if possible. However two computers could be useful if you can efficiently multitask and use both machine while swapping files between them.








    Any other comments which would help me select a more efficient and reliable system for image post-processing is appreciated.

    I do not know specifically how you plan on setting up your HD's but if you are dealing with many large multilayered photos you may consider keeping your 320GB as your boot drive and application drive. Then slap in a cheap 160 to 320GB HD for Windows in Parallels depending on storage needs.

    Then for data storage of all your files. If you were planning on 1TB Data and 1TB backup you may consider 2 500GB's in RAID 0 for Data usage and an external 1TB for daily backups. Then you have much faster access to your data and an external backup solution that can be secured at night. If you needed 2TB then you could do RAID 0+1 with 2 internal RAID 0 1TB HD's and 2 external 1TB HD's offering both high speed data access and instant backup through mirroring. For the external drives I would use Firewire 800.

    At any rate keeping your Data, Windows and Boot/Application drives seperate greatly increases the speed you can access your DATA at especially since you will be launching applications and accessing multiple picture sets throughout the day. And a Data Backup solution in invaluable so I would say at least a minimum of 4 Hard Drives; Mac OS/Apps, Windows/Apps, Data, Data Backup
     
  6. MoWheels thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 24, 2008
    Location:
    Albany, Georgia, USA
    #6
    Thanks for the info on superduper. Also on the detailed drive setups. I like the convenience of running XP in a VM on the Mac. Is Parallels a better choice for my purposes than Fusion? I obviously have no experience with either. I would want to use the VM solution that was easiest to configure and required the least time to maintain. I'm wanting a "work horse" that doesn't need constant attention with tweaking, etc.

    The comment about the GPU on the video card being used by the software struck a chord as I believe the OnOne Phototools program uses the graphics card significantly. Their web site doesn't go into detail, but just says the software works better with a current tech video card with plenty of ram. My current card is an ATI Radeon X1550. I have found that when using the OnOne software within CS3, I have to convert the file from 16 bit to 8 bit to avoid memory errors.
     
  7. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    #7
    As for which is better VMWare or Parallels I could not say. It seems the general virtual environment of choice is via Parallels here at MacRumors. Perhaps someone with experience using both will chime in.
     
  8. raxafarian macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2007
    #8
    After we've all been saying the video card doesn't matter for photoshop it seems that it will in the future

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=488545
     
  9. MoWheels thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 24, 2008
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    Albany, Georgia, USA
    #9
    Just read the thread about CS4 and GPU acceleration. Looks like I may need to go with the Nvidia card. Interesting stuff.
     
  10. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #10
    The only reason I would get a better GFX card...
     
  11. trevorreid macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 24, 2008
    #11
    Im a photographer as well. I feel your pain in processing large batches of images. I do allot of work with 16 bit files and they can be a pain sometimes. A few things i would suggest you look at...

    If you do allot of photoshop work..
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136054
    set this as your scrach disk, its read and write time is super fast and really improves your photoshop performance.

    For all arciving needs, get two 1tb drives from Seagate
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148274
    set them up as a miror raid in disk utility as soon as you get your computer this will be a good safe backup for all your other information

    get a stock 500gb hard drive kuz it only cost 45 from apple, use it for all of your music and apps.

    Ive herd that OWC has the best ram, i just got some from crucial and im returning it to get owc ram. Photoshop can use 4gb max at one time if its settings are maxed out. 10 would be total overkill, but an 8 core computer is overkill for most people any ways so why not spend the 350 bucks for bragging rights. It will also help if you have multiple programs open at once....bridge, photoshop, itunes, mail, dashboard, ichat.....etc
     
  12. dchao macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    #12
    Your bottleneck is going to be the disk IO's, not the memory or processors. If you read benchmarks on internet, you will see 4 cores having the same results as 8 cores on the PS CS3 test.

    You could get away with the single quad-core model without noticing much difference and use the saving towards getting a RAID card and some hard drives to set up a striped RAID configuration. This will give you a more noticeable performance boost.

    My 2 cents.
     
  13. MoWheels thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Location:
    Albany, Georgia, USA
    #13
    Thanks for the tips on drive setup. I'm familiar with the benefit of fast drives. My current PC has two Raptors Raid0 for the system and one Raptor as swap drive. It was a huge problem getting the Raid0 configured and then installing XP as a new install disc had to be constructed slipstreaming in the Raid driver before beginning the install. One major point in this switch to Mac and OS X is to avoid all the time spent (wasted?) in just trying to get a system working well. I've spent as much $$ (and lots of time) on the XP box as the Mac Pro will cost, and reasonably expect it (the Mac) to work much better right out of the gate. I hope I haven't set my expectations too high.

    My rationale for the 8 core vs 4 is that I will be multitasking a lot running Lightroom often with multiple processes as well as Photoshop and associated plugins. I'll probably install XP in a VM for running the software required for my photo lab. I would think that all this could likely see some benefit from 8 cores. I'm sure there won't be nearly as much difference going from the 4 to 8 cores as there would be going from my current AMD X2 to the quad Intel.
    :)
     
  14. dchao macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    #14
    Actually I like VMWare more because I think VMWare's unity mode is better than Parallel's coherence mode, IMO of course. You should check both of them out, see which one you prefer.
     
  15. MoWheels thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 24, 2008
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    Albany, Georgia, USA
    #15
    Thanks for the comment. I have never used VM software. From the little I've read, Fusion sounds like it may be better for my use. What is your opinion for installation: install XP in a Boot Camp partition and then install Fusion and set up VM from the Boot Camp partition, OR just install XP directly within Fusion (no Boot Camp)?
     
  16. Di9it8 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    #16
    VMWare

    I use VMware directly on the laptop and I can switch between Mac & Windows with out rebooting.
    No need to set up in boot camp:D
     
  17. MoWheels thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 24, 2008
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    #17
    This sounds like the better route. I don't anticipate needing to boot the Apple machine into native XP. I'm going to keep the old PC around for a while in case something presents itself which won't run in a VM.

    One question regarding installing the VM. Do you decide on which physical drive it installs on? Or does it matter. Assuming I have a system drive for OS X and apps, a second drive for swap, and third for data, where (if there's a choice) do I save the VM setup for best performance?
     
  18. dchao macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    #18
    Yep, no partition for any VM solutions out there. This was a big headache for me, as XP runs faster on NTFS partition, but I also need to set up a 3rd FAT partition for data sharing. And Boot Camp asistance would not let me setup a 3rd partition....

    No more messing around with partitions using VMWare, as VMware can now share the same user's home folder with OS X.

    As to where to install VMware, the same system drive as OS X would be OK. Since you don't have a RAID setup, I would assumes that all the hard drives are about the same specs and speed and have the same failure rate. If you have a RAID setup, then the system, data and swap drive can all have different RAID levels. Then the decision as to where to install VMware becomes more critical.
     
  19. MoWheels thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 24, 2008
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    Albany, Georgia, USA
    #19
    Thanks!
    Seems like installing Boot Camp wouldn't be all that useful to me. I'm not going to bother with a RAID setup either. The majority of my needs for data interchange between OS X and XP would involve XP reading files created in OS X apps. When I need the reverse situation, can/should I write files from XP to OS X folder. I guess I can't wrap my head around the VM model. I understand formatting a partition with a particilar file system (NTFS vs FAT) and thus the limitations of reading/writing between different OSes. In a VM only setup, can you read/write freely between the OSes? Sorry if I'm missing something obvious here.
     
  20. jjsmacpro macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 27, 2008
    #20
    MoWheels, I am a not a pro photographer, as you are, but I do enjoy photography as an enthusiastic hobbiest.
    I have been a Windows PC user since my first IBM in 1985. I needed a new computer and decided to switch to Apple for the added stability, the customer support, and the terrific Apple community. Last month I purchased a MacPro 8 core, 2.8 on which I use PhotoMecanic and Nikon Capture NX. It is a terrific computer and I have absolutely zero buyers remorse with my purchase.
    Please note that I'm no where near as tech savy as many who write on this forum. That being said... here's how my system is currently set up:
    I upgraded the video card to the Nividea 8800 because I read it performs a bit faster when rendering raw files.
    I have also added 4GB of RAM to the stock 2GB.
    I have kept the stock 320 Gb hard drive for the operating system and my applications. I added 3 1TB hard drives. One I use for all my data files; one for a second backup of my raw files; and the final one for Time Machine.
    I am currently using an external hard drive for backups that I can store off-site, and I am researching adding a RAID back up system or a Drobo backup system.

    I hope this helps, and have a great productive time with your new Apple system.
     
  21. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    #21
    All Macs comes with a system / restore disk, and on it there is Disk Utility which is what Mac Geniuses typically use to clone harddrives.

    Setting RAID is pretty easy in OSX.

    8 core is better, can run lots of different apps for processing at one time.

    OS X is much better than windows for handling hundreds of large files at the same time (that's why most media companies use Macs). Glad you are thinking about the switch.

    Bootcamp isn't an install. All it does is to partition your boot drive. You do need bootcamp drivers that comes with Mac Pro though.

    You can set up partitions on an internal, non-boot drive. It's really easy to set up / use multiboot on the Mac.
     
  22. MoWheels thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 24, 2008
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    Albany, Georgia, USA
    #22
    Thanks folks for all the comments thus far. Still trying to get all my ducks in a row before placing the order. Acknowledging my Mac ignorance, I have a question regarding hard drive upgrades: since OEM drives don't come with cables, what's needed in the way of power and data cables to install drives in the Mac Pro?

    As an aside, I just learned the hard way to beware of eBay Photoshop deals that are "too good". Last summer I bought a package with a virgin copy of CS and a sealed box CS3 Upgrade for my PC. The CS disc came with no box or manual. I paid about half the retail price for CS3. eBay seller had rave reviews. Everything installed fine and activation and registration went smoothly with Adobe's server. I've been a happy camper for the last 10 months. Today I called Adobe to cross-grade my copy of Photoshop CS3 from PC platform to Mac. They asked my CS3 serial which rightly showed it was an upgrade version. They then asked for my original product serial, which I provided from the CS disc. To my sad surprise, the CS disc was counterfeit with a bogus serial. Even though their server activated my CS3 it turns out now that I don't have a legitimate version and obviously can't cross-grade it to Mac. They of course offered to sell me the full version for the Mac. I almost went ahead and ordered, but decided to see if I had any other options. I checked eBay for the seller I bought from and found he disappeared last September with several folks complaining of being ripped off. That's my only bad eBay experience.
    To my pleasant surprise though, I was rummaging through offers that came with my new Wacom tablet I bought a few weeks ago and found it was bundled with PC and Mac versions of Photoshop Elements, which can be upgraded to CS3 with a discount. Looks like I'll go this route.
     
  23. dchao macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    #23
    I doubt anyone will see and notice any different in real life. In Bridge the improvement is in milli second, and you are not talking about rendering your RAW file at 30 of frames per second vs. 60.

    RAM and Disk IO are still the most critical factors in determing speed of CS3.
     
  24. Emerson macrumors member

    Emerson

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2004
    Location:
    Iowa
    #24
    This is one of the most beautiful things about the Mac Pro, you simple pull the drive sled out, screw on the harddrive and stick it back into the computer. No cables required, so you actually want to get OEM drives as you will have no use for the cables.

    Here is link that shows what I am describing, good luck with your purchase.
     
  25. MoWheels thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 24, 2008
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    Albany, Georgia, USA
    #25
    Well, that's too cool for words!

    I placed my order this a.m. for the Mac Pro - went with the 8 core 2.8 with 500 GB HD, Nvidia 8800, and AirPort. Ordered aftermarket additional 8 GB RAM and 3 additional HD to upgrade. Can hardly wait!
    Thanks folks for your tips and comments - I'm sure I'll have more questions soon when I put this thing in service.
     

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