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Nikon D800/e vs My Computer

At the end of 2011, I was so gung-ho about the upcoming Nikon D800/e that I was actually drooling every time it was mention, Pavlov-dog style. My original post brushed off, quite cavalierly, any mention of the file size. After all, my computer was “mostly” state of the art, less than one year old and My long term storage solution is an external storage device, the Drobo FS with 15 TB of storage, that should handle it, right?

Now, a little over 3 months with the Nikon D800 and I am singing a different tune. Alright, just to be fair, I have two Nikon D800’s, one traditional (which my wife uses) and one “E” which is mine. All mine.. My precioussss … oh, sorry.. That just slipped out.

Anyway, back to the point… I am going to need to upgrade parts of my hardware solution. I am going to try to point out the problem areas and what I think I need to do to upgrade to get the maximum out of my workflow. Let’s start at one end and work towards the other.


In camera, (both of them) we are set to 14 bit Lossless compressed NEF files only. We only shoot RAW here and as a result, we typically end up with 42-50mb files coming straight out of the camera. At first glance these don’t seem too large and, in general, importing these files from the SD card and organizing them in Lightroom fine.

Lightroom and Photoshop

Where we start to run into problems is the development module in Lightroom and Photoshop. In Lightroom, we are generally fine, but you can see the system slow down, trying to open a modified file (by Lightroom) is where I really run into problems.

Everything starts out fine, at around 4 to 5 layers, I start to get bogged down, sometimes taking a minute or two to open the next layer, and forget blurring. Might as well go have lunch. After much investigation using Windows Task Manager, it appears that Photoshop has taken nearly two Gig of ram, and for some reason I can not understand Lightroom is running nearly a gig all by itself. Photoshop shows the documents size near 1 gig, and perhaps, Lightroom has to hold on to that size as well. I don’t understand why that would be, I am not sure how it works under the covers.

Nor do I understand why the Photoshop file is so large. Assuming that an Adjustment layer contains as much information as the original layer, it should take 30 layers to gobble up so much memory. Well, I don’t know how Photoshop does it’s magic, what I do know is that I don’t have enough ram to go around.

Well, I suppose the point is that they get big fast, my little 4 gig (ram) machine isn’t really build for that kind of processing. Truth be told, I recall a bit of a slow down from time to time using files from my D7000, but I thought the Nikon D800/e files would only be slightly worse.

Local Storage

My laptop only has a 150 GB hard drive, it’s not terribly large, but moving files from laptop to External Storage (Drobo) routinely happened at the end of every month. And it was never an issue, I could, in fact, forget for a couple months without really concerning myself. Now, however, I find myself backing up ever 3 weeks to a month without fail or I get the dreaded “Out of Space” error. And this is with aggressively pruning my images after import.

I suppose this shouldn’t be too surprising, with 64 GB SD/CD cards, two full set of images and that pretty much takes care of my hard drive. And that is not take into account all the other stuff already on my laptop

External Storage

Well, the Drobo is still fine, but the image library is growing by the day (2.7 TB) and growing.. I will need to go back through my early years and delete a bunch of my early work (a.k.a crap). I am sure that will clear up a bit of space. I can upgrade the 3 TB drives to 4 TB drives, which will net me an additional 4TB total, which I will likely do over the next year, once the price starts dropping on those drives.

The Down side with the Drobo is working with remote files tends to cause its own slowness, which requires me to move any image (not currently on my laptop) to my laptop for processing.


As a solution, I have decided to update to the new Mac Book Pro with Retina Display 500GB SSD drives and 16 GB Ram. The SSD hard drive should supply the much needed additional space and increase disk response times, as well as, faster boot times. The Ram, well, I think 16 GB speaks for itself.

I am looking for any alternate suggestion. Otherwise, I will purchase this and write a short review of my results/opinions.


I have gotten a couple of immediate emails chastising me for only moving my images to “long term” storage once a month. Just so everyone can relax, yes, I do automatic nightly back ups for ALL my computers, should the laptop’s hard drive fail, everything is safe. I only move the files once a month because I am (most likely) still working on those files in some manner and still need them on my laptop.

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