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2010 iMac 27″ Photoshop Performance Test

September 16th, 2010 Comments off

There aren’t really any meaningful Photoshop performance  test’s (bench test).  Photoshop utilizes computer resources based on so many variables that it’s difficult to tell what the bottlenecks are with a single Photohop performance test. The Retouch Artist performance test is somewhat useful and it’s a good start for devising your own test. I use Photoshop performance tests that are specific to the operations and file sizes that I perform repeatedly; like merge five 21 Megapixel images to HDR or smart sharpen a 50MB 16Bit TIFF. Merge to HDR is a hard drive intensive test and sharpening is CPU intensive. I’m using these tests to optimize my performance preferences in Photoshop and my scratch disks. The hardware test you use should be done on the file sizes you regularly use.

There are many commercially available performance tests that will give you a general idea of how hardware is performing. These bench tests are posted all over the internet (barefeats.com), so if you’re looking for performance information on a computer you don’t own, like a 2010 27″ iMac, there’s probably plenty of data about it online. Here are a couple of nice videos from TechFast Lunch that compare the Core i5 iMac with the upgrade core i7 iMac.

Apple’s 2010 27” i5 and i7 iMac models are a thing of beauty. We recently put one in the studio to use as a print server. I truly feel that Apple got it right on this one for the average user. We got ours from B&H Photo Video because the price is the same as Apple’s, but there’s no sales tax and their shipping is amazingly fast. I ordered on Monday and had it on Wednesday. The price point is acceptable for the outstanding features Apple has included. Here’s a quick rundown of the options and some suggestions for “pimping it out”.

The 27” display back lit display is excellent. It has the same resolution as my 30” displays and I really don’t miss those 3 inches. It’s supported by a robust video card.

The i5 processor is a good base model, but upgrading to an i7 processor for $200 is worth the money if you’re going to be using it all day for image processing. I found this example useful and here are some bench Tests:

The RAM modules are easily upgraded by the user, so I wouldn’t buy it from Apple. It uses DDR3 1333 SO-DIMMs which are usually used in laptops. G.Skill has an excellent selection of products that will do the job and it’s cheaper to get it with the minimum and even replace the existing memory if necessary. Again, 8 gigs of ram is a good base, but if you’re doing image processing all day, then 16 gigabytes is what you need.  We bought our GSkill mac ram from Newegg.

Hardrive space is the real weakness of the iMac models. There are a few solutions to the problem, but it’s a little complicated. Inside the machine, there are three total SATA II connections. The stock model has room for one full size 3.5” drive and one 2.5” SSD drive. There’s also one external firewire 800 port. This is the place that the 2010 iMac 27” models need to be pimped out the most. Here are the options for configuring drives:

Stock from Apple: you can get a 1TB or 2TB($150 upgrade) 3.5” drive and also have a specially mounted SSD. They don’t include the special mount unless you order it with a SSD. You can also get your iMac with 2 SSD Drives and no spinning drive. The 1TB and 2TB drives are either Western Digital or Seagates, you can tell which one you got by the serial number on your iMac. There are some issues with how the fans work if you replace these drives with another model.

Replacing the drives inside of an iMac is a bit tricky, but it is possible. Here’s a good tutorial on the process from ifixit.  I recommend leaving this to the professionals at OtherWorldComputting.  My recommendation for upgrading hard drives on a 27”, to make it an image processing workstation, is to ship it to OtherWorld and let them configure it the way you want. They have excellent SSD Drives that use the  SandForce SSD controller. Here’s what they offer as options for utilizing the three available SATA II connections:

#1 Move one SATA to the outside of the computer. I highly recommend doing this, because the connection will be roughly twice as fast as the firewire 800. You can then connect eSATA hard drive enclosures. Unfortunately the eSTA enclosures will not be hot swappable. You will need to shut down your iMac to switch from one enclosure to another.

#2 Replace the internal DVD burner with a SSD. You would then need a USB II connect DVD burner, but they are cheap ($40) and work fine. This is a great option because you can have an internal SSD and an Internal 3.5” Spinning disk.

#3 Replace the internal 3.5” with a SSD or a bigger faster 3.5”

The hard drive configuration you choose should be based on the kind of image processing you do. My general recommendation is to replace the DVD with a 240GB SSD and run the OS and programs off of that. I would also move Adobe Lightroom Catalogs and “working” files to that drive. Next, I recommend a 2TB drive in the 3.5” bay and an eSATA modification. The eSATA is the only way to really get the hard drive space necessary for a large archive of images.

That sums up the options you have in configuring hardware on a 2010 iMac 27″.  It’s a solid performer and it looks right at home in a photography studio.

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Single-File Philosofy of digtial assett managment

June 11th, 2010 Comments off

Many projects I work on are benefited by my single file philosophy. It’s a simple guiding principle which is often missed in digital imaging workflow. Multiple files are unnecessary when the project can be contained in a single file. I much prefer to have a multiple layer single file open in Adobe Photoshop for may projects. I also prefer a multi-page Word Document for a single project in Microsoft Word.

Using multi-page and multi-image files requires some rethinking of computing technique. Outputting Photoshop layers as individual directive files is necessary. Also, jumping to pages via links is necessary in Word. Most necessary program processes are very close to one of these two techniques. Once you have these two skills mastered then you’re ready to start using the single philosophy.

The use of multiple files comes from a day when programs could not open and operate on large files at once. That day is over and very large files are very accessible. Sometimes it’s just helpful to gang things up into one large file.  If you want to see it all at once and work on it all simultaneously, then get it all into one file.

The fewer files you have to mange the better off you are…that’s a fact.  However, there are many reasons to keep multiple files!  Be smart about when you use multiple files VS a single file with layers or a multi-page Word Document.

Think about the way you can delete previous e-mails and save one if all the copy has been included.  This is the bases of the single file philosophy of digital asset management.  Fewer files are rapidly becoming the workflow for digital imaging.  At the forefront of this movement in digital imaging is the DNG file format which is incorporating multiple versions of the imag rendering instructions.  That’s right there’s’ all kinds of ways to interpret the original camera data and rapidly there are more and more ways to save that data in a single file.

I expect there to be more ways to navigate through the mass data in larger files in the future.  When doubling computer resources, why not double file size?  And wile we are all doubling things, think about doubling viewing space.  Our eyes have incredible ability to send tuns of data to our brains, so generally looking at more data at once is a good thing.  I can’t live without two high resolution 30 inch monitors.

Edward Tufte can explain viewing realestate far better than I can.  His books on visual information are amazing and his lectures are equally charming;  a must see for creative professionals.

Please consider the single-file philosophy of digital asset management and workflow whenever you working with similar files.  I think you will find  it useful in many cases.

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Imaging Workstaion Hard Drives-Top 3

May 24th, 2010 Comments off

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Here are three Top drives for mainstream digital imaging workstations.  Non of these come as standard equipment in off the shelf systems, but replacing drives in older machines with these will breath new life into them.

OCZ Z_Drive P84 and M84  PCI-E  SSD RAID

I love the speed and ability to migrate a PCI-E Raid Card to another machine.
I like SSD for Boot, Program, and Cache files, but the cost is overwhelming for storage of large file archives.

OCZ’s Site

Check Price at My Digital Discount

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WD Velociraptor SATA 6.0 10,000 RPM Drive

It’s currently the fastest SATA spinning disk drive.  I’ve been successfully running Raptors and Velociraptors in SATA Raids for many years.  I use  Velociraptor drives  for large collections of working files.  I keep the images that I’m currently accessing on a Velociraptor RAID 0.  This dangerous but fast RAID is backed up  automatically nightly and periodically manually.

Check Price at Newegg

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WD Caviar Black SATA 6.0 Dual Processor 32GB Cache Drive

These drives come in 500 GB, 640 GB, 1T and 2T.

I like the WD Black drives for a number of digital imagining tasks; primarily storage of large groups of files that are worked on periodically.

These are good get SATA 6.0 drives for the price.   SATA 6.0 isn’t generally necessary, but does  offer  small advantages for building raids.  SATA 6.0 is backward compatable and the current prices at NewEgg are the same for WD Black SATA 6.0 OR SATA 3.0 drives.

Bench Tests at Toms Hardware

Check Price at Newegg

IPIX Interactive Studio Pricing

March 7th, 2010 Comments off

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I’m frequently asked to deliver IPIX files for real estate virtual tours.  IPIX previously had a very unfriendly licensing structure for their Interactive Studio.  There was a “Project License” that lasted a month or a yearly subscription.  After some lengthy discussions, they offered me a license in perpetuity and are now selling the software for a one time price.

The IPIX Real Estate Wizard is a very inexpensive and easy and  to use system that combines two circular fisheye images.  You can purchase a set of 5 Keys for $20 which will unlock the software for five images.  A fair price in my opinion.  However this did not work for me because I use a much more complex system to create a better virtual tour.

My system for creating iPIx VR tours combines 25  full frame fisheye images for each view.  The images are made vertically on a Really Right Stuff nodal point tripod head. The head  wasn’t “really right”  for a Sigma 15 Degree fisheye, so I cut off the front with a hack saw.  There are five stops in my sequence and each

Today, there are numerous ways to stich and deliver 360 virtual tours, but if you need to make an ipx file for real estate clients who use iPix, Interactive Studio or the Real Estate Wizard are your only options.

HDR Tutorial Videos

March 2nd, 2010 Comments off

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HDR and Photoshop

HDR (High  Dynamic  Range Imaging) can be daunting to start with, but once you start you’ll never stop.  There are very few times when I don’t shoot an exposure bracket  so that I have HDR options; even handheld.  I don’t always merge the images into a 32bit file, but I usually combine bracketed exposures in some manner to expand and manipulate dynamic range.

Digital Imaging author and trainer, Colin Smith, has a number of tutorial videos out that are a good place to start your HDR training.  He did the tutorial videos for Photomatix, which is a must have application for HDR.  Colin’s PhotoshopCAFE website has lots of other useful digital imaging videos.