How to build a powerful computer for photo editing

One of the neverending stories in the world of photography, is the Mac vs Windows debate. Well, this is not a fanboy post from either side to fuel that debate. This is a post for those looking for advice on how to get or build (DIY) a powerful workstation for editing photos in Photoshop CC, Capture One and Lightroom. I have used both platforms, and just want to share my honest opinions, as well as give you some advice and my parts list for building a pretty powerful beast of a machine for editing photos.

I’m a full time photographer, and I need a powerful machine for processing, editing and retouching. That’s my job. My files are mainly from the awesome Fujifilm X-T2 and X-Pro2 cameras, plus the Nikon D810. I also want a computer that is future proof and can handle files from things like the brand new GFX 50S digital medium format camera from Fujifilm, and upwards to 100MP files. Doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

I started selling images professionally in the mid nineties. Back then we had something called film. It didn’t move, so it wasn’t that kind of film. I started scanning and working on digital files somewhere around 2001, and then in 2005 I went fully digital with Hasselblad medium format digital and Nikon cameras. It was a brave new world!

In the old days, I actually worked in the IT business. Both on the tech side and several years as a project manager. So I was used to Windows and computers in general, and I knew it really well. Well enough to hate it actually. I tried Macs briefly every now and then, but all my software licenses where on Windows, and buying new licenses for Mac was out of the question (back in the days cross platform licenses wasn’t cheap). But all my friends and colleagues always told me, get a Mac! Ditch Windows. Especially whenever I had Windows or computer problems. Macs just work, people said.

The switch to Mac
So February 2016, my workstation was ready for an upgrade. At least that was how I felt. My three year old Dell was getting “old”, and all the Mac-nagging from people around me had finally sunken in. So I went all in and bought a maximum speced iMac 27″ 5K Retina, plus an Eizo CG247 to get a two screen solution. People told me that would be a powerful machine, so I really had great expectations. Some of them where fulfilled, others not.

Mac OS vs Windows
I came from Windows 7 (never wanted Win8). First of all, I loved using El Capitan. Suddenly my computer worked seamlessly together with my iPad and iPhones, and I really liked a lot of the things in the Mac OS. But it wasn’t very stable to be honest. I experienced a lot of random reboots and odd errors that you can find documented by plenty of users in different Mac user forums. Quite often the machine had rebooted, even though it seemed only to be in sleep mode. Apple actually took it back for repair and changed the motherboard. From what I heard it was related to El Capitan and that particular series of iMacs (a friend had an identical machine with all the same problems). Changing the motherboard fixed most of the reboots. Not all, but most.

I worked on this Mac daily for 6 months, and I know enough now to say that the saying “Macs just work!” isn’t true. Many had also told me that you don’t need to know much about computers to run a Mac. Well surprise, you do. I had to fix plenty of things like backups making the iMac reboot, laggy sliders in Photoshop while working with a Wacom Intous Pro, ICC profiles going mad when dragging an image from the built in screen to monitor number two, my wifi printer loosing its connection to the iMac a couple of times a week (had to uninstall and reinstall 5-6 times before it worked again every single time), plus a bunch of other stuff. So the Mac world wasn’t any better at all. The Wacom issue was reported to both Adobe or Wacom, but they never solved it in a satisfactory way. So Macs have trouble. PCs have trouble. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

This was perhaps one of my main reasons for upgrading. I had always heard how fast the Mac OSes where, and how well tuned these machines where for graphic applications. Well, the speed of my brand new top speced iMac was quite disappointing to be honest. Even the three year old Dell I sold was much faster. And when I’m talking about speed, I mean loading images, processing rawfiles out of programs like Capture One/Adobe Camera Raw/Lightroom, working with several open files in Photoshop at once, preferably while having programs like Capture One, Bridge and Photo Mechanic running in the background. None of these things met my expectations, and they where actually not any faster than my old machine. Some of them where much slower. Even tools like working with sliders in Capture One or using the patch tool in Photoshop was slower on the iMac vs my old Dell (it was a well speced Dell). Opening Bridge to render rawfiles does take some time on both Mac and Windows. But on the iMac, if I tried resizing or moving the Bridge window while it was working, the iMac seemed in desperate need of both oxygen and a defibrillator. Not impressive at all.


Having a true M.2 Nvme drive can give you some amazing speed. Even with this “old one”. The new 960 is even faster.


From PC to Mac and back
So after about 4 months of daily usage, I really felt that the Mac let me down in too many areas. And all those people telling you “Once you go Mac, you never go back” isn’t necessarily right. It all depends what you really want. Something that looks good, or a beast that helps you do the job. I decided on the latter. So I spent the next two months doing tons of research parallell to working on the Mac. I contacted retouching agencies abroad, and talked to a lot of people that you truly can call powerusers. Then six months after I had bought my first Mac, I ordered all the parts to build my own Windows 10 based computer. I could have had someone else assemble the parts, but I wanted to see if it really was as easy as everyone told me. And it was.

Lower cost
The good thing is that with all the parts, I ended up getting my own custom PC for less than 2/3 of the price of the iMac. Fair enough, the iMac has a 5K Retina screen included in the price, but that new Windows machine is in a totally different league than any Mac out there. So it really is cheap in comparison. And to say that whis new computer is stable and fast is really a big understatement. It runs around any Mac in circles. And Windows 10 is extremely stable and reliable.

Stability and speed
It has now been running 24/7 since the beginning of September, and not one single glitch. No restarts. No bluescreens. No hiccups or strange things. Nothing. Nada. Zip. And it’s fast. Blistering fast! It takes 10 (!) seconds to load 22 Nikon D810 16bit TIFF files from Bridge into Photoshop on it. And I can work smooth and fast on an image while having all the other 21 open. Why 22?! Well I had a folder with 22 files and tested. It could have been 20 or 30. But I had 22, so I tried with those. I also tried those same 22 on the iMac, and it took about 25-30 seconds to open them, but having all of them open wasn’t even an option. You could notice Photoshop and other programs slowing down when I had 4-5 of those files open in Photoshop.

Here you can see the motherboard with the Samsung 950 PRO drive on it. Hovering out of focus over things are the Qudra graphics card so I can get 10 bit color with my Eizo CG277.

But of course, speed is relative. A colleague showed me his brand new top speced Mac a couple of weeks ago. It was blistering fast, and everything was instant he said. He wanted to show me how fast things where in Lightroom, Photoshop and Capture One. But what he showed me is not what I would call instant. When he double clicked a file to zoom 100% into it in Capture One, it took about a second, maybe one and a half even. Mine was more or less instant. His Lightroom to took some time rendering an image sharp, but that’s what he called instant. So he was a bit surprised to find out that his definition of instant differed from mine. For me, instant is when things happen at the same time you click the mouse button or press the key. No time lag. None at all. Instant, as in, well, instant… And now I’ve got instant. A small note on that, is that Lightroom isn’t instant, and compared to for instance Capture One it isn’t particularly fast at all. So I never got to the level of instant with Lightroom. I got quite a bit faster results than him, but far from instant. Both Lightroom and Adobe seems immune to better and faster hardware. No matter what you throw at them, they’re still quite slow. And that’s sad. I use Adobe Bridge in my daily work, and I love it, except that you can have a three course meal during the time Bridge uses to render sharp previews from a days shoot. I really hope Adobe puts some resources into making Bridge much faster!

Keep your cool! Here you can see the cooling for the processor, and also one of the cabinet fans in the background.
I also put two fans in the front. The top one came with the cabinet, and I added the bottom one a little later. Turned out it wasn’t really necessary…

What you need vs what you want
For me it’s not about “I love Mac, and I hate Windows” or vice versa. I want a computer that is as fast and stable as I can get it, and I need to get my job done. Both Mac and Windows have their strengths and flaws. Choose whatever suits you best. But having said that, I have never had such a stable computer as this one running Windows 10 since going digital in 2001. Never had a faster one either.

Here’s the power supply, and you can also see the M2000 graphics card, and the processor cooling system. Cool, huh?!

How difficult is it?
That’s the most obvious question many ask. I have never built one myself. But it’s really just a puzzle with very few parts. There are videos online that will take you through this step by step. I worked quite slowly I think, and I used one day. Started in the morning, fired it up in the evening.

Here are the two ordinary SSD drives. The one on the left is for temp files and scratch drive for Photoshop, and the right one is the one where I have the files when they are still in progress.

My parts list
So finally, here’s my parts list for building that fast and reliable machine I’ve been talking about here. I know that the motherbpoard and my main bootdrive is out in new versions, so forgive me for posting this such a “long” time after I built it. I just like to make sure things work properly before giving other people advice. But I built this with a 3-5 year perspective in mind, so I’m not that slow either. I think this machine will indeed have a long lifespan, because I can easily upgrade parts should I want to. You can’t do that with a Mac. Not easily anyway. I’ll also comment on why I chose that particular item in the list:

Fractal Design Define R5 Sort. A silent cabinet with lots of room and flexibility for whatever you want to do.

Power supply
Corsair RM750i. Gives enough power for what I need, and can handle more if I decide to add more parts that need power later.

Asus Z170-Deluxe Socket-1151. I needed a motherboard that could handle a fast M.2 Nvme SSD disk as bootdisk. This motherboard also has wifi (5GHz) and bluetooth. I’m not sure if it has been discontinued, but if so, the successor will probably be even better. The next time I want a motherboard that can handle at least two M.2 Nvme disks.

Intel Core i7-6700K Skylake. You can get processors with more cores, but there isn’t much to gain with Photoshop. Anything above 4 cores doesn’t really give you much improvement in Photoshop speedwise. At least as of now. This may change if Adobe recodes Photoshop to utilize more cores.

Processor cooling
Noctua NH-D15S. I thought about water cooling, but after getting some advice, this radiator fan would be more than enough. And I see my temperatures are extremely low, so it works great and really does the job.

Cabinet cooling
The cabinet comes installed with two fans of the Dynamic GP-14 White type. One in the front and one in the back. Everything worked great with only those two. But I got a bit carried away and curious, so I bought two more GP-14 fans, and put one extra in the front and one on the side. I did it “just to see”, and to give some extra cooling for the M.2 drive if needed (they can get hot). But if I had bothered to check the temperatures in the motherboard setup menu, I would have seen that everything was very cool and low temp already. So two extra fans was a waste of money really. I have disabled the side fan, but I kept the extra one in front. And it’s so cold inside that cabinet I can chill my beer in there if I want to.

Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR4 32GB (2 x 16GB) 2400MHz. I may put in another set of these later, but so far I haven’t had any issues running out of memory. The jump from 16GB to 32GB really helps, but I don’t think I’ll gain much by going to 64GB. Maybe for those working a lot with video.

Graphics card
PNY Quadro M2000 4GB GDDR5 (also called Nvidia Quadro). After having used Eizo Color Edge monitors for over ten years, I really don’t want anything else. In my opinion they are simply the best for accurate colors. I have a CG277 with a built in calibration device. The Eizo CG series handles 10 bit color, but what many doesn’t know, is that you need a graphics card that also can handle 10 bit color. And the only cards that can do that are Nvidia Quadro cards as far as I know. Now I understand why Dell always insisted on building my earlier computers with Quadro cards.

Samsung 950 PRO 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD. This is a drive that is about 5 times faster than an ordinary SSD. You can see from my test that I get read and write speeds that are quite extreme, and that’s why I needed a motherboard that could handle a true M.2 Nvme drive like this for bootdisk. I have all my programs installed here, plus that it serves as scratchdisk for Photoshop. Because of the extreme speed, it can handle this without any problems. Had this disk been an ordinary SSD, I wouldn’t have used it for both programs, scratch and system temp files. PS! Since I bought this, it has been replaced by the even better 960 PRO with even higher read/write speeds. PPS! If you want to use this kind of drive for bootdisk, make sure the motherboard you choose can handle that.

Crucial MX300 750GB 2.5″ SSD. This is the drive where new jobs are copied to. I create sessions here in Capture One, and I work on the files further in Photoshop. That means fast processing speeds out of rawconverters, loading in and out of Photoshop etc.

Temp and scratchdisk
Samsung 750 EVO 500GB 2.5″ SSD. Photoshop use this drive for scratch disk (as well as the C: drive), and I have set Adobe Camera Raw, Bridge and PhotoMechanic to use it for their temp-/ cachefiles.

Datadrive (local archive)
WD Desktop Black 4TB 3.5″. This is an ordinary 7200RPM spin drive. When I have delivered a job to the client, and it’s ready for archiving but I still want it close at hand, it sits on this drive for about 4-6 months (that’s my plan) before it only lives on my three external backups (Jottaclod service for online backup, plus two identical harddrives located in different places).

External backups
G-Technology 4TB G-DRIVE external USB3.0 harddrive. Very fast external drives! Much faster than the WD MyPassport I also use when I need to carry something in my pocket. Sold through the Apple store, and I think these are great value. I also use online backup via the Norwegian service Jottacloud. Works great.

Creative Gigaworks T20 Series II. Just to play some music while working.

Keyboard and mouse
Logitech MX800 Combo wireless. Works just fine.

Windows 10 64bit Home. So happy I decided to go for Windows 10.

Eizo CG277W. Built in calibration device and 10 bit color. Awesome monitor! See more info about it on the paragraph about the graphics card.

So back where I started. The R5 cabinet is a joy to use. And it’s very silent! Very easy to build your own machine with that as a base. To the right you can see the side fan I added later, that I really didn’t need, so I’m going to remove that. You see the power supply, the motherboard and the two processor fans. The white fan to the left of the processor fans is the rear cabinet fan that’s already in the cabinet. Bottom right you se my only 7200RPM (4TB) spindrive that I use for local archive after jobs have been delivered.

67 thoughts on “How to build a powerful computer for photo editing

  1. I just got myself a new Asus gaming laptop a couple of weeks ago running Windows 10. I’m enjoying 10, having used Win 7 on all my machines up till this point. This new machine is a beast – it’s not halfway as formidable as yours, but it’s responsive, robust, and capable enough for me to develop stills and video without weeping, something that has been happening for the past couple of years. I’ve been researching laptops for the past year, so I thoroughly appreciated this post… and I gotta say, damn, those fans!

    1. Hahaha! I knew it. I just knew it! You’re a gamergirl, eh?! Cool! I’ve heard great things about those new Asus laptops. I was actually this close to buying one myself, since my laptop needs an upgrade. But I have a Surface Pro 4 on test instead. I suspect that one fits my needs better. Like tethering those Fujis and doing some light stuff out in the field. And you’re right. Damn those fans, hahaha!


      1. Hehe, no, I’m not a gamer, but I always buy gaming laptops because of the grunt (especially these days where I dabble in video). This time around I got this one: It’s got good specs for the money. The screen isn’t the greatest, but it can chew through some heavy tasks without too much of a hiccup so it’s a workable compromise. It doesn’t have such impressive fans though 😉

      2. What?? You’re not a gamer like I thought?! Sigh… Then I’m not allowed to come out and play with you… JK. Wow! That Asus really packs some seriuos punch. And it looks good too. What is it you don’t like about the screen? But don’t you worry about those fans. You can have one of mine. I’ll unscrew it today and send it to you. Just attach it to your Asus with a couple of rounds of gaffertape (I’ll include a roll of that as well) and you’re aaaaaall good. :p

      3. I’m in love with those Mac retina screens – this one is decent at best, although it’s way better than my last one (until 3 weeks ago I was working on 1366 x 768 max resolution on very faded colors – it is maddening when using Premiere in particular). On those fans…. I might end up packing a fan and some gaffa tape at some point. Gotta keep up with the cool kids 😉

      4. Ouch… 1366 sucks….. There’s hardly any room between the toolbar and the status bar in most programs. Cool kids gaff! That’s for sure! :p

      5. Exactly! Some phones probably have more resolution than my old computer did for the last 4 years, hehehe.

  2. That’s a great article you wrote here. My custom built pc is almost 7 years old and starts to slow down for quite some time now when using PS and LR. Working in LR isn’t much fun anymore. My pc has to be replaced one day and I think it’s best I start from scratch, using your article as a guide. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks a lot Serge, glad you like it! Don’t hesitate to ask if you need some more advice or input. I’ll help if I can.


  3. I went Mac in 2005 and have not looked back since. However, having said that I am starting to see the glitches that you mentioned. My last MacPro was back in 2009 I think then went the MacBook Pro way. I see a dilution in their OSX to cater for iPhone/iPad interface that I am not a fan.

    Your article on this Windows 10 based setup may tickle my fancy to build one myself. As also for me it is about stability and “longevity”. Thanks for a great write up and I may just do what you have done and go back to Windows. They have indeed closed the gap since 2005!

    1. Thanks! For me, stability, reliability and speed are very important. And when I compare my personal experiences on Mac, as well as what some of my colleagues do on their Macs, Windows 10 on a computer setup like this wins in every area. But if Macs could perform better, I’d choose that. I’m not into that Mac vs Win “war”, I just need the best tool for getting my job done. Glad you liked it, thanks!


  4. Awesome article Eivind. I also switched to fujifilm and loving it. Came across your site while doing a search on tethering using fujifilm.

    This article is fascinating. Are you at all able to do a benchmark test using geekbench and sharing the results? It would be awesome to see what your build is pushing. Geekbench is unique in that whatever result you get can be directly compared to another computer. For instance, if your score is 20000, and mine is 10000, your pc would then be double the spead. My current system (hp8570w elite book) gives me 15000 points in geekbench. Depending on the performance increase you are getting. I might bite the bullet and upgrade myself. Thanks!

    1. Hi Herman! Thanks a million, really glad you liked the article. I downloaded and ran the Geekbench in tryout mode, and I got a CPU score of 19667. That was with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Bridge, eM Client mailprogram, Norton Security and Jottacloud online backup system running in the background. I don’t know if that affects the Geekbench score. I’m very happy with my build, and real life performance is absolutely stunning. And another note; this machine has now been running 24/7 for 9 months (I never turn it off), without a single glitch. Not one restart, not one bluescreen, not a single little complaint from Windows or any of the other programs. I’ve never seen a system as stable as this in my life. Touch wood…

      Eivind Rohne /

  5. Thank you *VERY* much for posting this article. I was planning to buy a iMac 5k, but hesitating, many comments showed the speed could be dissapointing. So I stepped in your footprints and now I am building almost the exact PC. From your recipe, saved me a lot of time researching AND I’would never have started it in the first place. I never build a PC (well, soldered a 6502 based kit together a long time ago) but often have changed cards and HD’s etc. Your photographs are also helpful. I’ll let you know when it’s ready. Up till now it’s fun (and educating).

    1. Thank you so much Gerard! I’m so glad you found the article helpful, and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it after you’re up an running. I’ve never had such a stable machine or operating system ever. It’s been on 24/7 since I built it, and I’m extremely happy with it.


  6. Hi Eivind, thanks for the great article! I am presently running Capture One on a heavily-upgraded 2009 Mac Pro with 12 cores at 3.06 GHz, 48GB RAM, SATA 3 SSDs, and multiple GPUs, and it just doesn’t cut it for editing Nikon D800 files. I am presently working on a build similar to yours, but want to have some reassurance that the result will be acceptable. My CPUs have higher multi-core performance than yours, but I realize that there are other aspects of my system that are much slower. You mention that most actions in Capture One occur immediately. Is this with D810 files? Are you referring to actions such as rotation and keystone correction “nudged” with the keyboard? It’s little things like this that add a lot of time to my workflow.

    1. Hi Matt! Thanks, really glad you lied the article. Speed and snappiness is always difficult to explain in writing, so I made a quick speed-demo now that I uploaded to my YouTube channel. You can find it here:

      I used Fujifilm X-T2 files (24MP) for that speed-demo, but I’ve put heaps of Nikon D810 files through C1 on this computer too, and the Capture One performance is extremely good also with those files. Hope this helps!

      Eivind /

  7. Well, it took me about a week to build the PC, but the delay was mainly caused by unusal heavy eruptions of summerweather – that also triggered tidal waves of beer. The assembling itself took only a few hours (and some hours of prestudy, to polish my rusty PC knowledge. These factories really spoil us nowadays with their nice matching cabinets and motherboards: for every cable there was a connector.
    Pity I stepped in the notorious USB3 trap: I plugged in the one “at the bottom” and there it will have to stay, instead of the more convenient one “at the side” that you have chosen.
    Then I goofed with the memory: I memorised A1 B1, but it had to be A2 B2 – luckily the luxurious two digit display showed me that error with the corresponding code.
    In the end, when connecting the screen, I thought I was sending something through the USB connector to the monitor, but it was meant for a printer: and that caused so much trouble that Win10 had to re-phoenix itself from the rubble!
    One thing that keeps gnawing me is: should I set the M2 connector of the Samsung SSD to eSATA or PCIe ?
    Anyway, it’s an incredible fast mchine. With Capture One fast zooming in takes about a quarter of a second before it’s complete, is that the same on your system? I also installed Magix Video Pro X and it runs *very* smooth.
    Technical details: it’s almost the same as your receipt, except:
    Corsair 850, two Samsung EVO’s 500 GB in stead of one being the Crucial MX300.
    Plus I plugged in a firewire card for my old Sony DV cam. For the monitor I have chosen the EIZO CX 271, as I am not a professional but a prosumer (if I may use that bad excuse for buying expensive toys). I have also considered a Mugen 5 PCGH cooler, but the cooler in your receipt has slightly better figures (and I wanted my PC to look like yours). If you like it I can send you a picture or two.
    For now, thanks again, building and using this (not really cheap) PC is big, big fun.

    1. Hahaha! Tidal waves of beers are the worst when combined with building a computer…

      And about the M2 to eSATA or PCIe; I don’t remember, but I can check. But do you mean the physical M2 connector plug; where to plug it in on the motherboard, or do you mean wich setting to use in the boot menu of the computer?

      Yes, Capture One is blistering fast here too. Zooming in or out is what I would call instant, so I have no chance of timing it at all. Did you see the speed-demo I posted on my YouTube channel a few days ago?

      And all Eizo screens are a dream to work with, and I know many that use the CX271, so you definetely made a good choice there. It’s a great screen!

      And definetely send some pictures! Would really love to see them. And I’m thrilled you enjoy your new build. Congrats!


      1. Summer delay again… I saw your speed-demo on Youtube and immediately tried it out myself on Capture One – it IS fast. My my PSE 12 however does it’s processing in somewhat slower “wall-painter” horizontal strokes, perhaps that software isn’t able to profit from the hardware, should I subscribe to Photoshop CC ?
        And yes, my question on the M2 thing was how to set the bootmenu.
        Glad you approve of the CX271, I am very happy with that screen. I plug in a second, DVI monitor to the PNY Quadro now and then to use as a “camerascreen” for video editing – old Hi8 and DV, resolution not so critical there 😉
        If you can tell me where to drop two pictures I will send them.
        Repeating myself: it is a joy to use this PC.
        Regards, Gerard

      2. Good to hear it’s fast Gerard! I haven’t tried running Elements on it though, so I cannot comment on the speed with that one, but Photoshop CC is very fast. With one exception. Adobe Bridge. Everything else I use runs at blistering speeds, but Bridge just seem to get slower and slower with every update. And the frustrating thing is that it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of processors or fast disks you throw at it, it’s still performing like a turtle…

        I checked my BIOS boot menu now. I went to the Advanced Mode (F7), and in the item «Onboard Devices Configuration», it says: «SATA Mode Configuration: [SATA Express][M.2]», and the dropdown menu to the right of this reads «SATA Express». I have measured the speed of my M.2 drive with the Samsung Magician software, and I get read speeds a little over 2500MB/s, and write speeds a little over 1500 MB/s.

        You can just email them to me, at erohne|at|


  8. Great post!
    I´m looking for a photo/video processing computer. However, I can´t find actual graphic card recommendations for C1 v 10. I intended to use GeForce GTX 1060, but PhaseOne have no recommendations higher than GTX 970. Dated June 22 2016, but the entire Open CL recommendation – KB 1720 – is dated Mars 2017! Very confusing…

    1. Thanks Anders, glad you liked it!

      Have you tried contacting C1 support and asked them about more recent graphic card recommendations like the GTX1060? They usually reply pretty fast. For me the choice (NVidia Quadro) was more or less given since I need a card with 10 bit color ability for my monitor (Eizo CG277).


      1. Thanks for your answer!

        After careful consideration, I have ordered an AMD RX580 card. Not 10 bit, but as far as I understand well suited for Open CL. Both my main photo editor (Capture One) and my video editor (Movie Edit Pro) supports OCL.
        But it isn´t easy to find facts. Manufacturer´s official tables and charts are mostly unupdated and you have to search around to find serious users who can answer your questions.
        And, most stuff on the web is about gaming, something I am totally uninterested in.

        Thank you for your work and spreading real life photo facts!

      2. Yeah, I know… Finding and comparing facts and specs about these things is not easy. And sometimes when you think you have found the best solution, you stumble upon an even better one by accident. Usually after you’ve bought something, haha!


  9. Hello Eivind,

    Thank you for your informative post. I have a question for you, but first a little backgrund:
    After buying an Eizo ColorEdge CX270 monitor (used, on the cheap), I discovered that even though my laptop has a DisplayPort, it can deliver neither the resolution nor the 10 bit depth per color that the monitor is capable of. So, the “cheap” monitor is now becoming expensive: I need a new computer too!

    After a bit of research, I ordered a computer with fast CPU and a good graphics card (GeForce GTX 1060). However, now I see in your post (and further investigation on the net affirms it) that the graphics card is not going to deliver 10 bit per color in OpenGL which Photoshop uses, only in DirectX which is used for gaming, not photography…

    My question is:
    What practical difference is there between using a 8 bit and 10 bit per color chain? I mean – apart from that we can take an artificial gradient and see no steps, banding etc.

    What we see on a true 10-bit/color setup, practically nobody else will see, since everyone else has 8-bit/color setups. Advantages for print will most likely be less important than matching the printer output to the monitor image I expect…

    In short, I am deciding whether I should return the computer I ordered…

    1. Hi Lars! Thanks, glad you liked the post. Personally, I never run any monitor at a resolution different than its native one. I’m just not happy with the results when images are downscaled/downsampled to a lower resolution than the monitor is capable of. The CX270 is capable of 2560×1440, so I would definetely get some hardware that is capable of that. But that’s me. And when it comes to 8 bit vs 10 bit, many would probably call that nitpicking. I have used Eizo CG monitors with 10 bit Quadro cards for many years, and have probably gotten used to seeing all those fine color gradations and nuances in my images. So when I plugged a brand new Eizo CG into a machine that could “only” do 8 bits last year, I actually was very disappointed. I didn’t feel I got the image quality that I expected from the monitor, so after 6 months of “misery” I went back to another custom build with a 10 bit card. Having said that, I know many people, both photographers and retouchers, that deliver high end results, and they have 8 bit displays. But I think of it like this: If I buy a high end monitor like the Eizos are, I want to push every bit (no pun intended) of quality out of them. Well, out of all components in the workflow actually. Cameras, lenses, software etc.

      Not sure if that was of any help, but just my two cents…


      1. Hi Eivind,

        Thanks for your elaborate answer.

        We completely agree that the output resolution (pixel dimensions) should be set to the native resolution of the monitor. Sending 1920×1080 to the 2560×1440 monitor with upscaling makes a blurry image (useless for photography in my opinion). My concern is and was only bit depth.

        Since I have never seen a computer-monitor chain with true 30-bit output (10-bit/color), I don’t know what I’m missing. I will probably have to see it to know it. However, after reading your answer and further consideration, I am inclined to keep the computer I ordered.

        I expect it is satisfying to see the fine tonal gradations while working in Photoshop, but since there is no image viewing software (that I know of) capable of displaying the extra bits, I won’t benefit as much getting a Quadro (or FirePro) graphics card.

        Another issue I have been thinking about is that if I don’t see the artifacts caused by even a good 8-bit display (when editing in my 10-bit/color setup), then I won’t be “warned” about what everyone else will see (while I’m editing).

        I feel confident though, that when (or should I say if?) 30-bit viewing software is available, then I will upgrade the graphics card (or even the entire computer, if it takes several years).

        Best regards,

      2. Hi again Lars! I think you’ll be very happy with the new computer, and the GeForce GTX 1060 card is great. After having been on 10 bit for so long, it just felt like a step backwards for me. You know, all this great hardware and cameras really just turns us into spoiled brats, haha! It’s like having a fast car. You get depressed if you buy a slower one, but it really doesn’t matter that much.


  10. Hi Eivind,

    Thanks for your very interesting post. I have a couple of questions for you. I’m running a 4 year old PC with an i7-3610QM processor, an SSD and 16GB of RAM. The processor, according to CPUbenchmark website, is about 70% of the processing power of your i7-6700K processor and my SSD is on a SATA 1 interface that limits to 300MB/s.

    On my system Lightroom takes about 5 seconds to display a 24MP D750 raw file at 1:1 when moving from one image to the next. You’re saying your system takes less than half a second to do the same thing. I’m curious what would cause a 10 to 1 speed difference when the processors are not that different in performance. The SSDs are arguably 10 to 1 different in speed as yours is M.2 and mine is SATA but as the RAW file is only 30MB I’m struggling to see that that would be so relevant.

    So I guess my questions are a) have I understood you correctly and does Lightroom really display a 1:1 image when you change between photos in less than a second? And b) do you think there’s something specific in the way you have Lightroom setup on your system that is making it so quick?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.


    1. Hi Phil! Glad you liked the post. I don’t have Lightroom installed on my main computer anymore, so I can’t redo the test. But I see that I probably could have been a bit more clear and specific when describing this in the blogpost. Because Lightroom is slow. Very slow if you ask me. The same with Adobe Bridge. You can have a three course meal while waiting for Bridge to render sharp previews from files after a long days shoot. So I didn’t get to the level of instant with Lightroom, but I got it quite a bit faster than the machine my colleague called instant. With Capture One I got to instant while he had around 1 second speeds waiting for everything to be sharp. And Photoshop is extremely fast. But like I said, Lightroom is slow. I’ll see if I can re-write the text a bit so I don’t cause any confusion.


      1. Hi Eivind,

        Thanks for your prompt reply. That does make me feel a bit better. As you so rightly say Lightroom is very slow especially on rendering 1:1 images, I’m not quite sure how it manages to take so long. I’m OK in Photoshop too, most things are more than quick enough it’s just reviewing images and swapping from one to another in Lightroom that is a bit slower than I’d really like. Maybe Capture One is the way forward, I take it you prefer it as you no long use Lightroom?


      2. Hi again Phil,

        I guess Lightroom has just become bigger, more complex and slower over the years. Best thing would be is you ask me, was to press Del and start coding it again from scratch. :p The main reason I switched to Capture One is because it’s so much better working at working with color, and the control you have over it. And the technical file quality out of it is superior to LR/ACR. And it’s much speedier as well. A nice bonus. I did a simple test with comparing the speed of Lightroom and Capture one with tethering on my YouTube channel, and LR is shockingly slow compared to C1 with that too. I’ve heard people complaining that they don’t switch because they find C1 hard(er) to use. But hey, it’s a different program, so you just have to learn it. And learning new stuff can always seem a bit daunting, but Phase One has somw awesome tutorials and webinars on their YouTube channel, that is an out of this world resource for learning about C1 and post work in general. I actually work much faster (and with better results) than I ever did in Adobe Camera Raw.


  11. Hi, Eivind,
    after several years with Mac, I am also going back to Windows. May I ask how did you manage with the file systems in your HD’s going back and forth from the two OS? At present I have all my drives formatted with Mac OS Extended and I need to decide what to do during the transition and at the end.

    1. Hi Ario! This is probably the worst method ever, but I was tired when I did it, so here’s what I did: I used a couple of 4TB G-Tech drives. One of them I formatted with exFat on the Mac, and the other drive as NTFS on my Windows machine (I had already decided not to use exFat on my Windows machine). Then I copied everything overnight from the Mac to the exFat G-Tech, and when that was done, I copied that same drive onto my new machine. Then I made a new manual backup of everything on the Windows machine to the other NTFS G-Tech disk, plus one more backup to a 3TB WD disk I had available, and then an online backup as well. After all was safely spread across two external drives and online, I formatted the exFat G-Tech to NTFS as well, and got rid of the Mac. Still baffled by the gazillion number of .DSxxxxx files etc left over from the Mac. I have deleted over 100.000 (yes, believe it or not…!!) of those .DSxxxxx files from disk both on my main machine and external drives. If you ask me, the Mac OS really leaves a mess of different files around.


  12. Hi Eivind,
    thanks a lot, for the time being I have just made a copy of all my files on disks formatted with exFat ( I am still waiting my Windows machine). I am not so sure about the next step i.e. staying with exFat or move totally or partially to NTFS; exFat will give me the possibility to use also a Mac (if needed) but I will probably miss something not using NTFS which I am not able to quantify, at this stage.
    All the best,

    1. Just happy to help Ario! I debated back and forth between NTFS and exFat, but I decided to go for NTFS and I’m happy with that decision.

  13. Great article. I did try iMac too but I went back to the windows 10 with my new custom build pc. iMac is the only image but is far from being superb as people saying. Also, you forgot to mention that to upgrade iMac is nearly impossible to compare what you can upgrade in pc build machine.

    1. Thanks, glad you liked it! And yes, you’re definetely right. I actually “upgraded” the iMac I had with an extra SSD disk, but since you cannot do anything inside it yourself (except changing RAM modules), I had to use an external disk and plug in into the USB3.0 port…. Basically a piece of fancy furniture, but I need a powerful workstation, and there’s no other serious option than a PC.


  14. Wondering how you determine whether a graphics card supports 10bit colors. I try to find this info, but it is not easy.

    1. Hi Jeroen! No this piece of the puzzle wasn’t easy, and I almost missed it, but I found out about this during my research period, and the info was available on the Eizo website where they talk about graphics card that support 10 bit color to get the max out of their monitors.


  15. Right on,excellent well balanced approach!
    Very informative with lots of good follow up question answers.
    Persnally im doing a pc build for photography.
    Ive built my own before but for $can100 i can get the parts assembled and get the system burned in.
    These days thats my preference.
    Going with a good motherboard cpu duo and running the m.2 drives get total thumbs up from me,your approach is bang on!
    The video card/ monitor approach intriqued me and now im leaning towards what you wrote about in your build.
    1 thing… if its done right in my experience these system builds work flawlessly.
    On another note its also intriguing about your fuji film cameras!.
    I started in film on nikkormat ft2 cameras and did the gamut through digital the last 14years.or motto is if it works for u and produces the images you and your clients like…no more said about how a person gets there…. pc mac too
    Right now im into m4/3 olympus but really miss my low light full frame to stop action in the dark, thats just me.
    Anyhow was doing research on my computer build and google brought up your article.
    A big thank you for the time and effort to produce it as i found it very helpful

    1. Thanks Evan, I’m really glad you liked the artcile! And at that price I can totally understand you letting them assemble and test it for you.

      I’ve never tested the m4/3 Olympus system, but is the problem that you can’t go high enough on the ISO, or that high ISO isn’t good enough with it? I seldom need to go above ISO6400 with my cameras, but I find the image quality more than good enough. I used to shoot with the D3s when I shot high ISO work with Nikon, and with that camera I could go way higher than with the Fujis, but I rarely did.


  16. Awesome post Eivind Røhne, it really helpful and very informative. Thank you!

    Though I still use older iMac 27″ (for photography) and Mac mini with Sony Bravia 40″ as a monitor (for other) — I may just do what you have done and go back to Windows in the future…

  17. Thanks for this excellent post Eivind! You mention that in the future you would like to have two m2. pci-e drives, and I was wondering what you would set them up to do?

    1. Thanks, so glad you liked the post! The first thing I would test if I could run two M2 Nvme drives, would be to have the second as my workdrive for images and video. I know that loading files probably isn’t where a speedy drive would shine the most, but still, it’s not uncommon for my files to be around 2-4 GB each, and saving a few seconds here and there all adds to the overall feeling of speed. And if I where to build this machine now, I’d use the new Samsung 960 PRO of course (instead of the “old” 950 that I have), since the new one it quite a bit faster.


  18. Hello Mr Rohne
    I found your sugaru video helpful and well done, thanks. On searching your wordpress site I found the article on building your own computer also well done and even handed between the two dominate OS. What I looked for but did not find is your “tool” for importing the files which is often a bottle neck, what card readers are you using and does that mother board support USB-C thunderbolt or is not relevant because of the UHS cards you currently use are 5/10 USB speed types. Thanks for having a english readable web pages as I have no Norwegian skills at all.

    Terence Dodge

    1. Hi Terence! So glad you liked both the Sugru video, and my post on building a workstation. When importing files, I just drag and drop them from the memory card into the correct folder (a session folder since I use Capture One as my raw converter). I use a USB 3.0 card reader from Kingston by the way, and it’s connected to a USB 3 port. More than fast enough for my needs, and I often empty 2-3 full 64GB SD cards after each shoot. My motherboard does support USB-C, but I only use it for an external G-Tech 4TB drive (local backup).

      Hope that helps, but please let me know if you have any more questions.


  19. Hello there,
    I just found this post. Its a couple years old. In your opinion is it still a valid list?

    1. Hi Tony! Yes, I would say that these specs and this component list would still give pretty good performance today for image editing today. However, I did rebuild my machine earlier this year, to get it more up to speed with video editing. The changes I made are these:

      I’ve upgraded to the Intel i9-9900K processor, and an Asus ROG Strix Z-190 E Gaming motherboard (because of the new processor). I also switched to the Nvidia Quadro P2000 graphics card. I still have the same M.2 Nvme system disk, but I now have 3 SSD drives (1TB for pictures, 750GB for video and the same 500GB from my previous build as my scratch disk). I also have the same 4TB spin drive for local archive, plus I found a 1TB spin drive lying around so I put in inside the machine to keep what I call my image- and videoassets on (comp images, fonts, LUTs, sound effects etc etc etc). I also changed to the Fractal Design R6 cabinet to get USB-C ports.

      Hope that helps!


  20. Thank you very much. Ive had Macs since the 512 and Im really getting tired of them not caring about pros. Two of us are really interested in your information. I hope to save a little money with a different monitor though.
    thanks mate

    1. My pleasure, and I’m just happy to help Tony! Good luck with your build, and let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you guys.


  21. I thought I should return here and update myself regarding the 10-bit / color chain from Photoshop to computer to display. Nvidia has provided another type of driver for several of their graphics cards called “Studio Driver”:

    The Studio Driver supports a 10bit/color output that WORKS WITH PHOTOSHOP (and possibly other Adobe programs). Luckily the graphics card I got with my computer (GeForce GTX 1060) is compatible with this driver, and I have now installed it and checked that it does in fact deliver 10-bit / color signal from Photoshop to my Eizo ColorEdge display (via DisplayPort).

    This means that when buying / building a new computer in the future, we don’t need to buy the expensive Quadro (and other similar) graphics cards in order to get the smooth tonality that a 30-bit (10-bit/color) system can offer.

    1. Hi Lars! Yes, that’s correct, and it works great with all programs that utilize 10 bit colors as far as I know. Nvidia released the studio driver with 10 bit support for their other cards around May 2019 I think. So, I switched my graphics cards to the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti instead of the Quadro series, since I needed more GPU power and RAM for video editing.


  22. That’s a great article you wrote here. My custom-built PC is almost 5 years old and starts to slow down for quite some-time now when using Adobe Photoshop and Search Adobe Lightroom. Working in Adobe Lightroom isn’t much fun anymore. My PC has to be replaced one day and I think it’s best I start from scratch, using your article as a guide. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, I’m so glad you found the article useful! I have made quite a few changes to that build since it was written, both to speed up my workflow with images, and also because I have started editing and delivering more and more video. I haven’t had time to write an updated article though, but it’s on my list. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help if you decide to make a new build.


  23. Hi Eivind,

    This post has got a lot of interest over the last 3 years. I take it you don’t use Adobe Lightroom any more? I ask because I’m still dithering over buying a new PC and the one area where I’d like to see an improvement is toggling between photos in the develop module at 1:1 zoom. I’ve recently acquired a Fujifilm X-T2 and it’s a great camera but it takes Lightroom around 8 seconds to render a 1:1 view of a RAW file from it in the develop module. I think the problem is that this operation is probably single threaded so no matter how faster processor one uses single threaded performance hasn’t change by much in the last 6 or 7 years, maybe a 60% increase but that’s about it.

    I wondered if you do still use Lightroom whether you could give me a guide as to how long this operation takes on your system?

    Best Regards,


    1. Hi Phil! Thanks for checking out this post. I’ve never been a Lightroom user at all actually. I’ve only used LR for testing and comparing things like tethering and general performance. The main reason for not using LR, is the catalogue structure. It just doesn’t fit my way preferred workflow. I prefer what is called sessions in Capture One, where each job lives in a user defined folder structure (parent folder for each job and subfolders beneath containing everything). That means I can copy a single session folder (with its subfolders) on a USB stick or external harddrive, double click it on a different computer and keep on working. I’m actuelly not sure if it’s possible to get blistering fast performance in LR, and Capture One just performs way faster if you ask me.

      I don’t have LR installed on my system, so I can not check how my build performs. But I have colleagues who has shown me how their LR is “blistering fast” on pretty hefty computers (both PC and Mac), and still zooming in and out of 100% takes 1-2 seconds. But, it does come down to what you are used to. To them, 1-2 seconds obviously is blistering fast, since they have been used to way longer rendering time (for instance 8 seconds like you mention). But for me, 1-2 seconds is still way too slow. When I zoom into 100% (1:1) in Capture One on my machine, rendering a sharp image is instant. No delay/lag at all. Even on 62MP raw files. Capture One has always been that fast for me, even with the build I go through in this post. But I have made some changes to my build since then. Here’s a quick update:

      – I upgraded both my motherboard and my processor (i9 9900K)
      – I now use an Nvidia RTX 2080Ti graphics card since I do a lot of 4K video as well
      – The system disk is still the same Nvme drive as in the post, but I now use 4 fast SSD drives: 1 for regular images, 1 for drone images, 1 for working with video and 1 as a tempdisk. In addition, I have two regular 7200 spindrives; one as a local archive (jobs that have been delivered live there for 5-6 months before I delete them and only keep external backups), and one for video media files.

      One very important thing is that Fujifilm uses X-Trans pattern raw files and not Bayer, and X-Trans seems to slow down LR and Bridge quite heavily. Even Bridge renders previews of 62MP bayer raw files way faster than it does with 16MP X-Trans files. X-Trans is probably a more complex thing to demozaic than bayer, but since Capture One haven’t got the same issue, it should be solvable. But I don’t think faster hardware can get you far enough, I think the whole thing needs more efficient programming by Adobe.


  24. Thanks Eivind,

    I appreciate your detailed response. The summary being Lightroom is slow, Adobe ought to rewrite it and it’s at its worst with X-trans RAW files! The Lightroom catalogue system certainly does have its short comings but I like the fact you can quickly and easily search for a tag worded photo from years ago. It’s not a feature I use all the time but it’s really useful when I do need it. Maybe I’ll have to give Capture One a go sometime I’ve certainly heard good reports of it and by all accounts it gives better image quality with Fuji X-trans sensors.

    Thanks again for your help.



    1. No problem Phil! I totally see the benefit of having a catalogue with searchable images, so I understand why many choose to use LR in order to have that functionality. Capture One also have catalogues, but I haven’t tried it, so I don’t know how good it is compared to LR. I have thought about testing it though, since it would be a nice thing to have for my family photos (but I don’t need it for work).


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