days, digital minilabs from Agfa and Fuji have made producing inexpensive,
good looking prints directly from memory cards as easy as shooting film,
but just as the person who wants to create more expressive film images
needs the creative control afforded by a darkroom, any digital imager
who wants to produce photographs that sin, needs a digital darkroom. If
the center of the traditional wet darkroom is an enlarger, the heart of
that digital darkroom is its computer.
Over The Map
The aluminum-bodied Apple Computer (www.apple.com)
Power Mac G5 starts at $1799 plus monitor but if your imaging needs
are modest an eMac costs just $799 including a 17" monitor.
WalMart sells some eMachine computers for Microsoft Windows for $600
(plus monitor) but if ya want cheap, I'll give you cheap. For
the terminally thrifty or geeky, the Linare PC (www.walmart.com)
is $199.95 and includes 1.3Ghz AMD Duron microprocessor chip, 128MB
RAM (Random Access memory), 30GB hard and
CD-ROM drives, Ethernet interconnectivity, mouse, keyboard, and speakers.
What's the punch line? It runs Linux. (See sidebar.) While laptops
may be fast and work well for some on-the-go imagers, their limited
expandability limits their usefulness in the digital darkroom.
Linare PC from Walmart.com costs $199.95 and includes 1.3Ghz
AMD Duron microprocessor chip, 128MB RAM, 30GB hard and
CD-ROM drives, Ethernet interconnectivity, and runs the
Linux operating system.
Some Specs To Consider
The formula for building a successful digital darkroom computer is simple:
fast processor, big hard drive, scads of RAM, and a quick video card that
can handle lots of colors. If you're shooting with a digital SLR,
you'll need a recordable DVD drive. CDs are nice but unless you
have Fort Knox-like storage, a single recordable DVD disc will hold almost
seven CDs worth of image files in the same space.
How fast a processor? How big a hard drive? There's a simple answer:
How much can you afford? For Mac OS users with hefty budgets, that means
working with a Dual 2Ghz Power Mac with prices starting at $2999. For
Microsoft Windows, stop looking at all the usual hardware suspects. Instead,
take a look at what gamers, graphic designers, and video producers--real
a computer that is powerful, portable and expandable, take
a look at Voodoo PC's Doll.
The gamer's hot rod of
choice is the Canadian-made Voodoo (www.voodoopc.com)
computers whose merely fast Rage machine costs $1700, while their high-performance
model, the Rage F:50, starts at $3350. Take a look at Alienware (www.alienware.com),
a Florida-based company that offers fast, rugged computers designed specifically
for digital content creators. Falcon Northwest (www.falcon-nw.com)
Talon 6.0 costs $995 and has a 2.8Ghz AMD AthalonXP+333Mhz FSB processor,
80GB hard drive, 512MB RAM, and 16x DVD. OK, it lacks a recordable DVD
drive. Add one. But there's more to it than specs; with mass produced
computers, only one of 100 is pulled from the line for testing. All Falcon's
computers are individually tested and are given a three-day burn in before
Operating System Dos
As far as operating system choices go, don't be swayed by traditional
geeky rationale; it doesn't hold water any more.
Don't get the kind of computer your kids use at school. Let 'em
have their own, otherwise all you'll be able to do is fight with
them to get on.
Don't get the kind of computer you use at work. Unless your work
is photography, it won't always translate into a computer that's
usable for digital imaging.
of the gamer's hot rods of choice is the Canadian-made
Voodoo computers whose fast Rage machine costs $1700, while
their high-performance model, the Rage F:50, starts at $3350.
Don't get the kind of
computer 90 percent of the corporations in America use; they're
not photographers either.
Do get a computer that photographers use and like.
Do get a computer that allows you to do simple, easy and inexpensive color
Do get a computer that you can afford and one you understand how to use.
If you spend all your time troubleshooting software and hardware problems
that's less time you'll have to make images. And isn't
that what got you into photography in the first place? (If you like to
tinker, buy an old British car. That's what I did.)
PC Vs. Mac
The Mac OS vs. Windows comparisons are like the classic Nikon versus Canon
debate. My Dad was a "Chevy man," but other than one Blazer,
I've owned more Fords than any other domestic make. Make up your
own mind based on what you know, not what you hear--or even read.
is a Florida-based company that offers fast, rugged computers
designed specifically for the digital content creation,
such as this striking purple Plasma model.
In your quest for the perfect
digital imaging computer, don't lose sight of what imaging is all
about: What do you need in order for you to get the best quality images
that you can afford? Just as a truly great photographer can create wonderful
images no matter what kind of camera he or she uses, the quality of a
person's digital photographs isn't measured by what kind of
computer they use.
Linux, Linus, But No
Once upon a time, there was a brilliant findlandssvensk (Swedish speaking
Finnish) college student named Linus (pronounced Lee-nus) Torvalds who
was born in Helsinki, Finland. He wrote the kernel, or essential part
of the operating system, for Linux. It was his implementation of Unix,
written without proprietary code that has been made available to the world,
essentially free, as part of the open source movement. Open source is
a method of licensing and distributing software that encourages people
to copy and modify computer code freely. Implementations of Linux are
available for much less than the cost of a simple upgrade from Mac OS
X 10.0.3 to 10.0.3. Today, a Google search for Linux yielded a total number
of 93,600,000 hits. A similar search for "George Bush," which
I guess also included W's daddy, only yielded 2,610,000 hits.
Advanced Micro Devices
Apple Computer, Inc.
Northwest has been around a long time producing intense
computers that really fly.