Recommend a PC/laptop/Mac and photo/video software?

mrzero

EOS RP
Jun 12, 2012
314
1
Chicago
Presently, I am running a Macbook Pro from 2007 and it is showing its age. My internal hard drive is essentially full and I am cobbling by on a multitude of external hard drives (mostly FireWire). Everything is backed up, except for what is on the current memory cards. Due to the lack of on-board storage and other issues, downloading the current memory cards for sorting and storage is becoming a huge pain and I am just putting it off. This is all just personal and family stuff, no work for hire.

I am now thinking of getting a new computer and looking for advice on building a set-up. I am fine with Mac or PC, desktop or laptop. I am not too excited about the current Macbook Pros. The price is higher than I'd like to pay, especially considering that Apple seems to continually be removing features and ports rather than adding them. I don't need a laptop for travel, but I might like portability to work in various rooms or floors of the house. However, practicality dictates that at least one monitor, external hard drives, printers, etc., will all be set up in one workstation in the home office, so a desktop system might be best.

Photos: I currently shoot JPEG with minimal post-processing, but I would like to start using a photo editing/management software program (i.e. Lightroom) to do some nondestructive post-processing of RAW files on occasion as well. I don't have such a program now, and my files have been manually sorted into folders by "year\event" subfolders. It is time-consuming to do on the import side, but it seems future-proof and kept me from getting locked into a software library before I knew what I was doing.

Videos: I have a Canon HV20, which is an older tape-based digital camcorder. I desperately need a set-up that will allow me to easily import video from tapes shot on this, get it archived/backed up onto hard drives, and also edited onto DVDs. I have tapes from my wedding and the first 5 years of my kid's life and milestones, none of which have been backed up, most of which have not even been viewed lately, although the camera still shoots and plays back fine. I will eventually switch to a card-based digital camcorder or a DSLR for video purposes, but the current video situation is more important right now.

What would you recommend for computer hardware (brands, models, processors, memory, hard drives, back-ups etc) and software (programs, versions, subscription or not)? Huge bonus points for hardware that I can purchase via Best Buy, since I have their credit card and will probably get this paid off on a zero percent interest deal. Budget is also an issue, as I'd like to keep the whole setup between $1k to $2k US.

My photo and video gear is as follows:
  • Primary stills: Canon 6D, and I'd like to upgrade to the 6DII or 5DIV someday.
  • Glass: Decent mix of L and quality non-L lenses.
  • Other stills: Canon Rebel t1i, Powershot G1X, and a few Elphs.
  • Video camera: Canon HV20, to be replaced with another camcorder or a DSLR as funds allow.
  • Printers: Canon Pro-100 for 8x10 and larger, an older PIXMA for 4x6s, and an older HP all-in-one for documents.
  • Scanners: Canon P-150 for documents, and I intend on adding a new flatbed dedicated to prints and negatives.

Short version: Based on the gear above, what computer hardware and software would you recommend for personal photo and video work, costing between $1k to $2k US?

I'm asking here because I know we have some folks who are both knowledgeable and practical, and I'm looking for realistic ideas that a regular person can afford. Thank you to all, any advice is appreciated.
 

Kestrel

I'm New Here
Mar 8, 2014
19
0
Portland, Oregon
For your budget, I would go for a 21.5" iMac with 4K retina display for $1,500.00, and then add a 512 gb Samsung 850 Pro SSD for $225 from B&H photo and 16 gb of RAM for $133 from OWC (order it with tool kit so you can open up the iMac). Use the rest of the money for Adobe Photoshop for photographers for $9.99/ month. The computer will set you back a total of $1858, use the rest to buy a USB 3.0 backup drive. If you can afford $400 more, the 27.5 iMac with Retina 5K with 32 gb of OWC ram would kick butt.
 

YellowJersey

EOS 90D
Jan 2, 2014
144
0
Ideally, I think you'd get the best bang for your buck by building a desktop PC, or having one built for you. I recommend PC over Mac particularly because you can easily upgrade or replace parts. It's also probably the most cost-effective solution, particularly as it seems like storage is your biggest problem. You can load multiple harddrives into a PC tower easily and save your external ports for other things.

I agree with your decision on the new Macbook Pro. Seems Apple has taken a step backwards with that one.

As for laptops, I personally use and highly recommend the Lenovo T series. I currently use a T530 that's four years old for all my editing and, despite its age, is running extremely well. I also ordered mine with 4gb of RAM and a 500gb harddrive, but one $250 trip to the computer shop and I had upgraded to 16gb of RAM and a 250gb solid state drive. The reason I recommend the Lenovo T series is that these things are built to last. I have an eight year old T-500 and it's still going strong.

As for software, I currently use DPP and Photoshop w/ Nik plugins for my editing. It's a clunky and intelligent system, but it gets the job done. I know I'm in the minority when I say I don't like Lightroom's cataloging system, so I maintain my files manually. I'm very interested to try Affinity Photo, though.
 

LesC

EOS RP
CR Pro
I'd agree with 'Yellow Jersey' - if you're not bothered if PC or Mac, you'll certainly get more for your money with a PC. I recently replaced my old PC and after having read up on hardware requirements I knew enough to be able to specify which parts I wanted but had a specialist company build it for me.

I over-specced so that it will last me for a while (see below) & I'm not sure there's a Mac available to match it certainly not at a price I could afford! Allow some budget for a monitor (or 2) too.

Motherboard: EVGA X99 Micro 2
Processor: i7-5930K
Memory: 64GB Corsair Dominator Platinum 2666
Video Card: EVGA GTX980Ti SC
Samsung 951 M2 SSD (500GB) for OS & programs
Two WD 2TB Blue HDs for Data
Power Supply: Corsair RMi 750
Monitor: Dell U2414H x 2
Operating System: Windows 10 64 bit

I'd go with the Adobe Photography plan too so you get Photoshop + Lightroom and always have it up to date.
 

Zeidora

EOS RP
Feb 15, 2015
667
10
Re hardware, even for personal work, think about back-ups. Particularly for video editing 1-2K seems rather low/unrealistic.

Re cataloging, I've never been using LR. I am a museum curator, so work with large collections. I would build a database that you can customize to your needs, and that can import/export the usual formats (tab delimited etc.). I use FileMaker Pro on Mac, and have done so for about 20 years for my personal photo library. If you have never worked with dbs, it's a steep learning curve, but much more flexible in the end.

Re image editing, I would not go Adobe. The CC racket is to expensive, and PS has a serious learning curve. For casual editing Luminar might do the trick. For more heavy lifting, I like Affinity Photo. You may even explore the Canon Digital Photo Professional a bit more, and find out what is missing there, before committing to something else. Most permanent license softwares have trial downloads, take advantage of it.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Mar 25, 2011
16,668
1,625
Every one or 2 years, I buy a base Dell XPS I7(no monitor), usually for around $600. Then, I replace the 1TB drive with a 1TB SSD and add a 3 or 4 TB drive for storage. I also buy additional memory to bump it up to 24GB more or less.

This boosts the total cost to just over $1K. If I upgrade the video card, its another $150-250.

This is a decent setup, and when faster processors come along, I just upgrade it and relegate the old one to a backup. I have 5 PC's right now, the older ones are used for work that does not need the speed of the newer ones. You can spend a lot more for a powerful processor, but in a short while, it will be no faster than the current mainstream model.

Right now, the cost for that model is $658.55 with my company discount for a 8GB /1TB model with i7-6700 processor and Windows 10. Obviously, any software will cost extra, so you need to add that to your budget. I generally do not buy new monitors very often, I've never had one fail, they get replaced when I buy a larger or better one.
 

YellowJersey

EOS 90D
Jan 2, 2014
144
0
LesC said:
I'd agree with 'Yellow Jersey' - if you're not bothered if PC or Mac, you'll certainly get more for your money with a PC. I recently replaced my old PC and after having read up on hardware requirements I knew enough to be able to specify which parts I wanted but had a specialist company build it for me.

I over-specced so that it will last me for a while (see below) & I'm not sure there's a Mac available to match it certainly not at a price I could afford! Allow some budget for a monitor (or 2) too.

Motherboard: EVGA X99 Micro 2
Processor: i7-5930K
Memory: 64GB Corsair Dominator Platinum 2666
Video Card: EVGA GTX980Ti SC
Samsung 951 M2 SSD (500GB) for OS & programs
Two WD 2TB Blue HDs for Data
Power Supply: Corsair RMi 750
Monitor: Dell U2414H x 2
Operating System: Windows 10 64 bit

I'd go with the Adobe Photography plan too so you get Photoshop + Lightroom and always have it up to date.

How much did that cost?
 

LesC

EOS RP
CR Pro
YellowJersey said:
LesC said:
I'd agree with 'Yellow Jersey' - if you're not bothered if PC or Mac, you'll certainly get more for your money with a PC. I recently replaced my old PC and after having read up on hardware requirements I knew enough to be able to specify which parts I wanted but had a specialist company build it for me.

I over-specced so that it will last me for a while (see below) & I'm not sure there's a Mac available to match it certainly not at a price I could afford! Allow some budget for a monitor (or 2) too.

Motherboard: EVGA X99 Micro 2
Processor: i7-5930K
Memory: 64GB Corsair Dominator Platinum 2666
Video Card: EVGA GTX980Ti SC
Samsung 951 M2 SSD (500GB) for OS & programs
Two WD 2TB Blue HDs for Data
Power Supply: Corsair RMi 750
Monitor: Dell U2414H x 2
Operating System: Windows 10 64 bit

I'd go with the Adobe Photography plan too so you get Photoshop + Lightroom and always have it up to date.

How much did that cost?

I already had the monitors so the system cost just over £2000 (I'm in the UK) but as I said, I did go quite a bit overboard on the specs ;) The RAM & graphics card probably accounted for at least half the cost. Got mine from Scan Computers (3XS systems): https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/custom I guess there must be similar in the US.
 

mrzero

EOS RP
Jun 12, 2012
314
1
Chicago
This is all really excellent, thank you. I am not worried about a new back-up system right now, as I have a number of external hard drives that will serve that purpose in the short term. Also, although importing and backup of the video tapes is critical, I don't plan on doing any high-end video editing. Mostly just dropping clips into a timeline and making a few DVDs, preferably with chapters and menus, probably one for each year.

Although I realize it is more economical, I would really prefer an off-the-shelf solution that I don't have to open up and add on to. I previously had tower PCs that I opened up and upgraded, but that was a long time ago and I don't really have the time or confidence to do much with that.

Please, keep the thoughts coming...
 

LesC

EOS RP
CR Pro
Mine was pretty much 'off the shelf' in as much as I just picked the parts & it was built for me - I just had to connect the cables & switch it on... I picked one of their suggested systems where you have a choice of components to pick from. Just like buying a car where you'd pick which engine you wanted, paint colour, aircon etc!

I'm sure others based in the US could suggest recommended PC builders.
 

mrzero

EOS RP
Jun 12, 2012
314
1
Chicago
LesC said:
Mine was pretty much 'off the shelf' in as much as I just picked the parts & it was built for me - I just had to connect the cables & switch it on... I picked one of their suggested systems where you have a choice of components to pick from. Just like buying a car where you'd pick which engine you wanted, paint colour, aircon etc!

I'm sure others based in the US could suggest recommended PC builders.

I know what you meant, that is how I purchased my first few tower PCs. Now, I'm hoping to just buy a retail, prebuilt/preselected system. My preferred store is Best Buy, which is a big-box retailer in the US (and which I just learned has virtually no presence in the UK). As an electronics store, they are horrible, but I have a credit card there which will give me a 0% purchase option. I usually use it when replacing appliances that have died unexpectedly (washer, dryer, fridge, dishwasher, etc.)
 

Mikehit

EOS R6
Jul 28, 2015
3,341
544
mrzero said:
I don't need a laptop for travel, but I might like portability to work in various rooms or floors of the house. However, practicality dictates that at least one monitor, external hard drives, printers, etc., will all be set up in one workstation in the home office, so a desktop system might be best.

That is the first decision you need to make: laptop or desktop. With desktops you get more bang for your buck but if you need something portable you can get a laptop and have a work station with monitor and printer connected and slot the laptop in when you need to do detailed editing. If this is the way to go then you can get a decent screen (I would say 24" minimum) and you can reduce the size of the laptop which will save you a fair bit of cash on screen size to beef up the internals. I use the laptop for sorting, deleting the duds and for cataloging before plugging the external HDD into the main computer for detailed editing. As and when my desktop and my aging laptop die I may well for for laptop and workstation myself.

I would say go for the highest spec processor you can and add as much RAM as you can afford. Internal discs are really cheap, even at 1TB, but I would prefer to have my photos on external disc anyway. You may want to consider a NAS for everyday storage and work wirelessly.

SSDs are quicker to fire up than traditional hard discs but from what I can tell, the benefits of SSD on speed of photo processing are disputed - and seemingly much less than the benefits of boosting the processor. If you do go for SSD then I would suggest 128GB as an absolute minimum, possibly larger - it is surprising how quickly programs chew up the disc space.
 

unfocused

EOS-1D X Mark III
Jul 20, 2010
6,224
3,630
67
Springfield, IL
www.mgordoncommunications.com
I won't wade into the PC vs. Mac arena.

But, I will comment on one thing: I would forget about transferring VHS tapes yourself. Unless you are willing to invest a hefty chunk of money in equipment to do analog to digital conversion, it's much more convenient, better quality, time effective and cheaper in the long run to have someone else do it for you.

If you search the web, you will find there are any number of companies that do this for reasonable prices. If you can't afford to do all of them at once, just do a few at a time, starting with the ones you most want to have transferred. You can have them put on a CD and then transfer the files to a portable drive yourself.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Mar 25, 2011
16,668
1,625
unfocused said:
I won't wade into the PC vs. Mac arena.

But, I will comment on one thing: I would forget about transferring VHS tapes yourself. Unless you are willing to invest a hefty chunk of money in equipment to do analog to digital conversion, it's much more convenient, better quality, time effective and cheaper in the long run to have someone else do it for you.

If you search the web, you will find there are any number of companies that do this for reasonable prices. If you can't afford to do all of them at once, just do a few at a time, starting with the ones you most want to have transferred. You can have them put on a CD and then transfer the files to a portable drive yourself.

I'll agree that transferring tapes can be a minefield. Unfortunately, some companies do a poor job of transferring them as well. I do my own, but its not easy getting a high quality. I convert them to MP4 and save them on my NAS so I can watch them via Plex on my TV. For commercial tapes, its a waste of time, just do personal tapes. I tried and returned a couple of converters before buying a Diamond VC500, which is barely acceptable. A really good unit like the Black Magic units will cost hundreds of $$ and even then, you may not like the results.
 
Aug 10, 2013
7
0
I would suggest using your Macbook pro to get the files from you Canon camcorder, assuming the firewire port on both still works. (firewire ports are frequently blown, AFAIK one should plug cable in only when devices are off). I do not think that new computers come with firewire port in last 5 or so years. To edit video on your future pc I would suggest Sony Vegas Movie studio, make sure you have a version that includes DVD architect studio to author a dvd. You do not need Vegas pro. Magix recently bought the software from Sony either is fine. Vegas Pro was updated to version 14, AFAIK the studio version is still at 13, there is little difference between Pro 13 and 14.
Re PCon bestbuy website I'd search for Desktop PC, performance desktops, select Intel 6th generation core i7, try price range $750-1000. I'd suggest 16GB Ram, 1or 2TB hard drive, and an nvidea or amd graphics card.
 

mrzero

EOS RP
Jun 12, 2012
314
1
Chicago
wjauch said:
I would suggest using your Macbook pro to get the files from you Canon camcorder, assuming the firewire port on both still works. (firewire ports are frequently blown, AFAIK one should plug cable in only when devices are off). I do not think that new computers come with firewire port in last 5 or so years. To edit video on your future pc I would suggest Sony Vegas Movie studio, make sure you have a version that includes DVD architect studio to author a dvd. You do not need Vegas pro. Magix recently bought the software from Sony either is fine. Vegas Pro was updated to version 14, AFAIK the studio version is still at 13, there is little difference between Pro 13 and 14.
Re PCon bestbuy website I'd search for Desktop PC, performance desktops, select Intel 6th generation core i7, try price range $750-1000. I'd suggest 16GB Ram, 1or 2TB hard drive, and an nvidea or amd graphics card.

Thanks, wjauch, the video is one area I just haven't been paying attention to for a while. Any recommendations on software for the video import on the Macbook? The firewire on my Macbook Pro works fine and I use it for all my external hard drives. I don't know about the port on the camera, but I don't know if I ever plugged into it.

Mt Spokane and unfocused, I'm not talking about VHS tapes. The Canon HV20 records digital video, either HD or SD quality depending on settings, onto miniDV tapes. It exports via FireWire. When I bought it, the choice for "prosumer" level was between recording to miniDV tapes or to those mini DVDs. They didn't have affordable cameras that recorded directly to cards, at least not that I remember.

At this point, I'm thinking I might get a tower PC workstation up and running, import the video files via the Macbook Pro onto a hard drive, then wipe the Macbook Pro and walk the OSX back to a version that doesn't slow it down as much as the latest one.
 

JMZawodny

1Dx2, 7D2 and lots of wonderful glass!
Sep 19, 2014
382
11
Virginia
Joe.Zawodny.com
I went through this same decision a year ago. I opted for a 27" iMac with 5k Retina display, 3TB Fusion drive, 4GHz quad-core i7, 32GB ram, and the AMD Radeon R9 M395X w 4096 MB video card. I run DxO Optics Pro primarily. I can process 8 24Mpx images with Prime noise reduction simultaneously every 30 seconds. It exceeded my expectations and I would replicate that system if I had to do it all over again. Not as inexpensive as a home built PC, but I'm tired of building my own PCs these days - life (mine as well as technology's) is too short.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Mar 25, 2011
16,668
1,625
mrzero said:
wjauch said:
I would suggest using your Macbook pro to get the files from you Canon camcorder, assuming the firewire port on both still works. (firewire ports are frequently blown, AFAIK one should plug cable in only when devices are off). I do not think that new computers come with firewire port in last 5 or so years. To edit video on your future pc I would suggest Sony Vegas Movie studio, make sure you have a version that includes DVD architect studio to author a dvd. You do not need Vegas pro. Magix recently bought the software from Sony either is fine. Vegas Pro was updated to version 14, AFAIK the studio version is still at 13, there is little difference between Pro 13 and 14.
Re PCon bestbuy website I'd search for Desktop PC, performance desktops, select Intel 6th generation core i7, try price range $750-1000. I'd suggest 16GB Ram, 1or 2TB hard drive, and an nvidea or amd graphics card.

Thanks, wjauch, the video is one area I just haven't been paying attention to for a while. Any recommendations on software for the video import on the Macbook? The firewire on my Macbook Pro works fine and I use it for all my external hard drives. I don't know about the port on the camera, but I don't know if I ever plugged into it.

Mt Spokane and unfocused, I'm not talking about VHS tapes. The Canon HV20 records digital video, either HD or SD quality depending on settings, onto miniDV tapes. It exports via FireWire. When I bought it, the choice for "prosumer" level was between recording to miniDV tapes or to those mini DVDs. They didn't have affordable cameras that recorded directly to cards, at least not that I remember.

At this point, I'm thinking I might get a tower PC workstation up and running, import the video files via the Macbook Pro onto a hard drive, then wipe the Macbook Pro and walk the OSX back to a version that doesn't slow it down as much as the latest one.

I have one of the mini DV Tape Camcorders bought for the same reason. With a Dell PC, its possible to get a low cost firewire card and pop it in, I probably have a few around. Some of my older Dells still have firewire, but I bought the cards to upgrade to the faster version.

Prices have went up, so using your existing MacBook might be best, but if you plan to use it regularly, and purchase a pc, just add a card to it.
 

LordofTackle

EOS RP
Nov 25, 2014
291
0
JMZawodny said:
I went through this same decision a year ago. I opted for a 27" iMac with 5k Retina display, 3TB Fusion drive, 4GHz quad-core i7, 32GB ram, and the AMD Radeon R9 M395X w 4096 MB video card. I run DxO Optics Pro primarily. I can process 8 24Mpx images with Prime noise reduction simultaneously every 30 seconds. It exceeded my expectations and I would replicate that system if I had to do it all over again. Not as inexpensive as a home built PC, but I'm tired of building my own PCs these days - life (mine as well as technology's) is too short.

+1
That 27" iMac is an awesome machine. IMO it's excellent for photo editing.
I agree, they are really expensive, especially the new Macbook Pros, but what a lot of people tend to forget: with the iMac you also get a really good, really big display included in the price, which will set you back at least 6-700$ if you buy a comparable external display. That puts the high price a little bit into perspective. (FYI, with the 27" iMac you can still upgrade the RAM yourself and thus safe yourself several hundred bucks).
I really hate that trend with most manufacturers to solder everything on the mainboard (not only apple, many other are doing this now too). This is really a negative trend.

But if you want it a bit cheaper and more modular, and don't mind the OS change, you will probably be happier with a custom made windows tower, as pointed out by several others :)