Adobe Lightroom is known to be a disappointingly slow post-processing tool, especially when it comes to basic operations such as importing, preview generation and image culling, as well as more advanced operations that involve using features such as spot healing. Adobe’s development team is aware of these issues and the company says that it is committed in delivering updates that will make Lightroom faster. The latest version of Lightroom Classic CC 7.2 has been delivered a couple of days ago and it seems like this release is mostly focused on improving Lightroom performance. I decided to see how much faster Lightroom has actually gotten by measuring its performance on a typical laptop, as well as on a desktop PC. Let’s take a look at how Lightroom 6 and CC 7.1 stack up against the most current version CC 7.2.
I wanted to examine Lightroom performance in two different environments – when using an Apple MacBook Pro (Late 2016 Model with Core i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB Storage) and when using a Desktop PC (i7-6700K Skylake, 64 GB of RAM and 1 TB SSD Storage). The idea was to put three versions of Lightroom to test – Lightroom 6.14 (Last), CC 7.1 and CC 7.2 to see what differences there are when performing three measurable tasks: Import Speed, 1:1 Preview Generation, HDR Stitching, Panorama Stitching and Image Export. Unfortunately, although I really wanted to test Lightroom’s develop performance, there was no way to perform measurable results with consistent data.
To perform the tests, I loaded 500 RAW files from Fuji GFX 50S and Fuji X-T1. For 1:1 Previews and Exports, I only worked with a total of 50 RAW images from the GFX 50S (since it would have taken forever to extract all images). For export, I used JPEG 85% Quality, 2048 pixel long resolution and Output Sharpening set to “High”. For each test I created a brand new Lightroom catalog to make sure that I was starting out clean. Let’s take a look at the comparison of Lightroom 6.14, 7.1 and 7.2 when using the Apple MacBook Pro:
1) Lightroom CC 7.1 vs 7.2 Performance on Apple MacBook Pro
|Apple MacBook Pro 2017||Lightroom 6.14||Lightroom CC 7.1||% Change||Lightroom CC 7.2||% Faster|
|Import 500 Images||151 sec||140 sec||7.9%||148 sec||-5.4%|
|Generate 1:1 Previews (50 RAW Images)||392 sec||210 sec||86.6%||174 sec||20.7%|
|HDR Stitch (3 RAW Images)||17sec||18 sec||-5.5%||15 sec||20.0%|
|Panorama Stitch (12 RAW Images)||188 sec||178 sec||5.6%||231 sec||22.9%|
|RAW to JPEG Export||131 sec||125 sec||4.8%||101 sec||23.8%|
There is definitely a noticeable difference in import speed between Lightroom 6.14 and CC 7.1. However, I found the same process to actually take a bit longer on the new CC 7.2 when using the MacBook Pro. When it comes to generating 1:1 previews, I saw a noticeable boost in performance when going from Lightroom 6.14 to CC 7.1. And with CC 7.2, the process completes even 21% faster, which is impressive. Although there wasn’t much difference in RAW export between Lightroom 6.14 and CC 7.1, there was definitely a change from CC 7.1 to 7.2 – the MacBook Pro was able to export files around 24% faster. Stitching HDR images was also a little faster.
However, I noticed reduced Panorama stitching performance when going from Lightroom CC 7.1 to 7.2. I am guessing that the amount of memory was the culprit here – with 12x 45 MP images from the Nikon D850, the laptop might have struggled with allocating enough RAM for the stitching process. Strangely, Lightroom CC 7.1 was actually the fastest in making panoramas on this machine.
Let’s now take a look at how the results differed in a desktop environment. This time, I’m also including Lightroom 6.14 in the comparison:
2) Lightroom CC 7.1 vs 7.2 Performance on Desktop PC
|Desktop PC||Lightroom 6.14||Lightroom CC 7.1||% Change||Lightroom CC 7.2||% Faster|
|Import 500 Images||110 sec||49 sec||124.5%||51 sec||-3.9%|
|Generate 1:1 Previews (50 RAW Images)||483 sec||416 sec||16.1%||275 sec||51.3%|
|HDR Stitch (3 RAW Images)||13 sec||12 sec||8.3%||12 sec||0%|
|Panorama Stitch (12 RAW Images)||179 sec||178 sec||0%||66 sec||169.7%|
|RAW to JPEG Export||157 sec||153 sec||2.60%||89 sec||71.9%|
Based on the above numbers, Lightroom 6.14 is clearly the slowest of the bunch. Its import speed was abysmal compared to CC 7.1 – it was over twice slower. There is little difference in 1:1 preview generation, HDR and Panorama stitching between Lightroom 6.14 and CC 7.1, and practically no difference when exporting images. However, when comparing Lightroom 6.14 and CC 7.1 to the latest 7.2 release, the differences are very clear – preview generation was 51% faster, a large 12 image panorama stitch was a whopping 169.7% faster and the export speed also improved by 72% – big differences indeed. It is worth noting that Lightroom CC 7.2 used more CPU resources compared to 7.1 or 6.14 during the above operations.
3) Lightroom CC 7.1 vs 7.2 Performance on Apple iMac Pro
To test the performance of Lightroom 7.1 vs 7.2, I used the most basic version of the iMac Pro with an 8-core Intel Xeon W CPU, 32 GB of RAM and 1 TB storage. I didn’t bother testing Lightroom 6 on the iMac Pro, because I figured few people would be buying Lightroom 6 for this new machine, since there will never be another update to LR6 anyway. However, it was fun to see how fast the iMac Pro is and how it would do in 7.1 compared to 7.2.
|Apple iMac Pro||Lightroom CC 7.1||Lightroom CC 7.2||% Faster|
|Import 500 Images||182 sec||180 sec||1.1%|
|Generate 1:1 Previews (50 RAW Images)||122 sec||77 sec||58.4%|
|HDR Stitch (3 RAW Images)||13 sec||11 sec||18.2%|
|Panorama Stitch (12 RAW Images)||98 sec||82 sec||19.5%|
|RAW to JPEG Export||90 sec||53 sec||69.8%|
Aside from the unusually long amount of time it took to import images when compared to the MacBook Pro and the Windows PC (although all imports were made from local to local drive), you can see that the iMac Pro is an impressively fast machine overall. It was hard to believe that some of the processes took over 2.5x the speed with Lightroom 7.2 when compared to my desktop, but that’s understandable, given that the iMac Pro has a much beefier CPU and much faster storage. The only benchmark where my desktop excelled at was when stitching panoramas – it turns out that RAM is the most important piece of hardware when doing large panoramas.
Once again, we can clearly see that Adobe certainly optimized its Lightroom 7.2 code to work much better compared to 7.1. There were benefits across the board, especially when generating 1:1 previews and exporting images.
All of the above means that depending on your hardware setup, you will experience different levels of performance improvements. It is clear that for panorama stitching, you need as much RAM as possible to get Lightroom to stitch faster. And it looks like the more CPU cores you have, the bigger the advantage too.
4) Post-Processing and Overall Responsiveness
Sadly, since it is difficult to perform exactly the same post-processing tasks in Lightroom between different environments, I was not able to perform any measurable tests. I tried editing an image with 7.1 and then tried to edit the same image in 7.2 and I did not see any differences in performance. While it is nice to see Adobe improve preview generation and export performance, many of us Lightroom users would love to see performance improvements in the Develop module – that’s where the biggest pain lies. Unfortunately, even when using a fast computer, Lightroom can get very sluggish when doing image editing. It would be nice to see superior performance when using the Adjustment Brush, Spot Healing, Lens Corrections and other tools. I would also love to see Adobe take better advantage of GPU acceleration, so that more processing load could be passed on to a dedicated GPU, for those of us who have fast GPU cards.
Overall, Adobe is certainly heading in the right direction with these updates, but we would love to see more performance improvements, especially when doing post-processing work in the Develop module.