Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Review

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15) Summary

Before I dive into conclusions that I was able to draw after using Lightroom 5 for the last couple of months (including my experience with the Public Beta), a short confession is in order. For those who don’t know, I am a big fan of Adobe Lightroom and have been using it for my business and personal work since version 3 came out. Before that, I used ACDSee Pro for my image management and Photoshop, along with its Camera RAW module for post-processing. I can’t believe how tedious such a workflow was for my work when compared to what I can now do with Lightroom alone. And I am not exaggerating – save for Brenizer method panorama merging, all my post-processing work is done with Lightroom alone. It suits me so well, that I don’t even use third-party plugins and dropped Nik’s Color Efex and Silver Efex Pro completely after moving to Lightroom 4. Those are top-notch products, too, so it should say a lot about how useful Lightroom is for me personally. Noise reduction? I used to use Nik’s Dfine and Topaz DeNoise, both of which are superb. But Lightroom’s built-in noise reduction, although a bit inferior in comparison from a technical standpoint, is actually more pleasing to my eye and suits my tolerance for digital grain very well. By no means am I suggesting you should stop using all the other post-processing applications or plugins in favor of Lightroom. What I am saying is that my expectations for Lightroom 5 and all upcoming releases were and are rather high. Perhaps too high, but only because Adobe was so good in the past for me, I expect them to only get that much better in the future. That said, as much as I am a fan of this software, I am not going to be overly gentle with my conclusions. Keep that in mind as you continue reading. Credit where credit is due – let’s start off with the good stuff.

Adobe has, once again, released a well thought-through product that is certain to make the workflow of a lot of professional photographers very efficient. I’m not going to start raving endlessly about every single feature it has and how it has helped me save time while post-processing. You may have already gotten that point if you have read my Mastering Lightroom series articles and various comparisons. Suffice to say, that with the help of the more powerful Spot Removal tool as well as the newly added Radial Filter and Upright tools, it has become even more capable than before. That is a serious achievement given how good Lightroom 4 was. The very minor, but extremely useful inclusion of the full-screen preview mode (triggered by hitting “F” key on your keyboard) is the icing on the cake. Add that to a superb control of tones and colors as well as very natural-looking noise reduction mechanism of the previous versions and you have one software tool that can replace several dedicated programs for a lot of us. It is a natural companion to anyone shooting RAW professionally or just for the fun of it. And, perhaps even more so than ever, Lightroom emphasizes speed, so that we spend less time post-processing and more time photographing. Not to mention all the new cameras that are now supported by Lightroom. What’s not to like?

I would have been perfectly happy to end this review at this point, but unfortunately the last question brings us on to the downsides of Adobe’s rightly popular image management and RAW converter tool. I did say Lightroom emphasizes speed, but perhaps clarifying this statement is in order. The emphasis on speed lies in the flexibility of available tools. For example, you can now do some advanced image “healing” with the updated Spot Removal tool and remove objects that are more complex than simple dots. And that saves you time working with Photoshop on the same image, which I personally appreciate very much. When it comes to the actual speed of operation, however, things haven’t really changed for the better. Importing is, if anything, slightly slower. The same with Exporting, which also feels to be more sluggish than before. Use that brilliant Spot Removal tool too many times on too many photographs and you may experience lag when changing adjustments or moving from one image to another. Other obvious bugs and performance issues do not make a very good impression, either. Of course, complex Spot Removal shapes are bound to eat up those resources. After all, there is quite a bit of vectoring involved, not to mention that the image is not actually changed since Lightroom applies changes non-destructively. In essence, any adjustments you perform, including the Spot Removal and the Radial Filter tools, remain as descriptions that must be read by the software. Even so, I believe that a careful optimization of how computer resources are used, as well as some database tweaking should be possible. Or perhaps Adobe needs to start utilizing some in-memory database processing features that we see in enterprise-class databases and applications today. Yes, the speed of modern computers is faster than ever, but with the software getting more and more complex, I feel that Adobe should invest some time in optimizing and tweaking it. It took Adobe a while to add full 64-bit support to Lightroom and I am not sure how well it actually utilizes multi-core CPUs and caching technologies. Probably not enough, considering how slow Lightroom can get. I believe that Multi-threading should now be a part of the Export process, so that we do not have to export multiple images in batches.

Also, we are already on Lightroom 5 and there is still no support for a collaborative environment. As of now, there is no way to use and share a single Lightroom catalog, which is counter productive for multi-person environments. Perhaps Adobe needs to roll out a new Lightroom 5 collaboration software, which would be suitable for large studios and optimized for multi-user access. I believe such software would become very popular for small and medium size businesses. I obviously would not expect it to cost the same as Lightroom 5 today, but I think it would allow Adobe to start treating Lightroom more seriously than just simple desktop software…

My last gripe is about Fujifilm X-Trans sensor support. As can be seen from the “Fujifilm X-Trans RAW Conversion” section of this review, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. That’s not to say that results are very bad, but the slight painted-on effect is still present if you examine images very closely. Fujifilm’s bundled RAW converter based on Silkypix does a much better job. I have no doubt in my mind that Adobe will eventually nail the rendering of X-Trans sensor RAW files. However, I find it strange that Fujifilm seemingly hasn’t been helping them out. Let’s face it, Silkypix may be good – I personally don’t have much experience with it. But Lightroom is more popular and will most likely remain so. Fujifilm would do themselves a favor by helping Adobe perfect the necessary algorithms.

I am quite confident in saying that the Adobe team is probably working very hard to bring much-needed improvements in operational speed, as well as fix performance issues. Even with all these caveats, Lightroom 5 is a real winner, if it is not quite as big of a step-up as we may have wanted it to be. I sure am sticking with it. All would be perfect, if it wasn’t for the slightly annoyed voice whispering in my head each time I want to import images from a CF memory card – Lightroom 5.1 update can’t come soon enough.

16) Price and Where to Buy Lightroom 5

Below are the links to purchase Lightroom 5 from our trusted partners B&H and Adorama:
B&H Purchase Links

  1. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Full Version for Mac and Windows – $139.99
  2. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Upgrade for Mac and Windows – $79
  3. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Student and Teacher Edition for Mac and Windows – $76.99

Adorama Purchase Links

  1. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Full Version for Mac and Windows – $139.99
  2. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Upgrade for Mac and Windows – $79
  3. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Student and Teacher Edition for Mac and Windows – $76.99

I hope you enjoyed this review. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5
  • Features
  • Value
  • Ease of Use
  • Speed and Performance
  • Stability

Photography Life Overall Rating

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