Review: Adobe Lightroom Classic CC (Apple iMac)

The New Adobe Lightroom Classic CC has surely improved, but it could still do much more

In light (pun intended) of the new changes that Adobe is announcing today at Adobe Max, we got the chance to play with the new Adobe Lightroom Classic CC to put it through its paces. For a while now, photographers have been complaining about Lightroom. While most haven’t moved away the way that I have to Capture One, they kept trudging through it. Lightroom has been suffering from performance issues for a long time due to changing technology, algorithms, cloud sync, etc. Then consider that cameras have file sizes that have been getting bigger and bigger. Of course, Adobe needs to keep up. Today’s announcement gives us the latest version of Lightroom: Adobe Lightroom Classic CC. This is more or less the Lightroom that you’ve known and loved for years. But there are some changes that are pretty subtle and that arguably most photographers may not use or really notice.

The Big Changes to Adobe Lightroom Classic CC

The following is an excerpt from the Adobe Lightroom Classic CC press release:

As many of our customers know, Lightroom Classic (originally Lightroom) was born to help you manage your photography workflows and bring your images to life with a fleet of editing capabilities. But while the palette of Lightroom features grew, our performance detracted from these gains. So we took stock of where you were feeling the most performance anxieties, and dedicated this launch primarily to addressing these issues. The concerns that we gathered centered around optimizing Lightroom Classic’s import and editing workflows.

Here are some improvements we’ve made:
– Application launch time
– Preview generation
– Import selection workflow with “Embedded & Sidecar” preview option Switching between Library and Develop Module
– Moving from photo to photo in the Develop Module
– Responsive brushing

We have also added new tools to make precise color and tone-based selections for local adjustments. You can now use the adjustment brush, radial, or graduated filters to define a rough mask, then refine the selection via the new range masking options found at the bottom of each local adjustment panel. This serves as a nice complement to meet your masking needs with the already existing auto mask feature in place.

While it was no small feat to carve out the foundations of these performance gains, we know we still have a lot of work ahead of us. For instance, we are working to optimize the performance of higher powered processing systems and higher resolution monitors. At the same time, we will continue to provide new image editing features that will help you pack more of a punch in a shorter period of time so that you can focus on what you love to do — taking incredible, awe-inspiring images.

Features

What photographers have really been asking for for a while now are just performance updates. For example, Lightroom was slow as molasses to export images and to render the previews. If you’re a Fujifilm X series camera user or if you’re a high megapixel camera user, this was probably a thorn in your side. Before I go on, I’m going to cite that I’m using a 2015 iMac with 32GB of RAM, 4GHZ processor, and the works. It’s a 27 inch display. So on my beast of a machine, I’m surely seeing these performance updates. Adobe is claiming that Adobe Lightroom Classic CC has a faster application time start. Of course, part of this is correlated to how large your catalog is. In my tests, which you’ll find in the nearly hour long video review towards the end of this review, I found that Lightroom took around 10 seconds or so to start up. That still isn’t as fast as Capture One Pro in my experience. But I’ll give Adobe the benefit of the doubt because of the Cloud service system being enabled.

Photographers have also been asking for faster preview generation. That’s surely there. When testing images from the Nikon D850, Fujifilm GFX 50s, Fujifilm X-T20, etc, the files loaded up and appeared pretty quickly. When you zoom into an image at 100% is when and where you’ll really see this performance upgrade. It’s faster especially for Fujifilm’s files. While there are so many other camera systems out there, the X Trans Sensor has always been tough for Adobe Lightroom to render. They just take longer, and then Adobe fixes them, then things change, then they fix it, and for the first time in a really long time do we really have a pretty significant performance update. An added benefit is that if you close Adobe Lightroom Classic CC and then reopen it, your images will usually remain rendered fully.

To really give this a test, I started a brand new catalog and reimported a number of folders and images. Adobe Lightroom Classic CC did a great job with the rendering. On import, you also have preview options on the top right side. Embedded and Sidecar is the new option being added into Adobe Lightroom Classic CC. For the few days that I’ve had to test Adobe Lightroom Classic CC it seems perfectly fine but I’m not sure how the long term effects will play out.

All of this is of course tied into moving from photo to photo in the develop module. From image to image, you often needed to let the photos render. But after they do the first time around, you don’t need that to happen again anymore. It’s really nice. Again though, Capture One Pro does this and has done this for a while; but it’s nice to see that Adobe Lightroom Classic CC is taking measures to improve and keep their lucrative customers on the Creative Cloud business model happy.

Editing

The biggest new change for Adobe Lightroom Classic CC comes with local adjustments. Adobe has added a bit more of fine tuning to the way that masks work. As a result the graduated filter, adjustment brush, and radial filter have all bad this change applied to them. These fine adjustments allow photographers to modify their images and the masks by adjusting certain parameters. For example with the color refinement, you can click and drag a box around someone’s face to really get the options and the color within the scene that you want. This will, theoretically apply that to the entire mask. In my experience, this is trickier to use than they made it look in the demo. In some ways, it even goes against the way that editing works in Adobe Lightroom. For example, masks have the same basic adjustments that any image have except that Adobe Lightroom Classic CC applies that adjustments to a specific area. In the image above, I used a graduated filter to make the entire top of the photo blue. But as you’ll see in my longer video review below, that was a bit difficult to work with.

You’ll also see that many of these changes were available already for a really long time now. But this is more or less just another way of doing what was already available. Adobe has done this before with the Dehaze tool. I mean, when you look at it all that it’s doing is boosting the clarity and increasing the contrast. And that truly makes sense to do it in another fashion vs just using those specific sliders. While Adobe showed off a few pretty cool options in their demo to me, I didn’t really feel like they were aesthetically necessary vs using the tools that were already available.

But of course, that’s just me 🙂

Adobe Lightroom Classic CC Full Video Review

If you cannot see the video above, head on over to see it on YouTube. And while you’re at it, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Conclusions

The new Adobe Lightroom Classic CC is a remarkable overall improvement. It gives photographers what they really wanted on top of giving photographers a feature that they may probably never use as the icing on the cake. Lots of photographers are bound to be happy. And indeed, they should be: Adobe has done a great job with the improvements here. While Adobe is catering to the lower end audience with the new Lightroom CC though, I genuinely feel like there also needs to be a higher end version of Adobe Lightroom available. If you’ve ever used Capture One Pro then you understand their completely different way of approaching an image vs Lightrooms. You also appreciate their RAW processor a lot more. If Adobe did this, I’d be infinitely more grateful as I abhor Photoshop and what it’s become over the years.

And with that said, I genuinely hope that Adobe doesn’t do what Apple has done and forget about the professional photographers who helped build their platform.

Adobe Lightroom Classic CC receives five out of five stars, mostly for the performance boosts.