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Lightroom Continues Its Bad Week | Speed Tests Show 600% Slower Than Comparables

By Kishore Sawh on October 13th 2015

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It really has been a bad week for Lightroom. First, on October 5th, came the new updates to a host of CC programs, of which Lightroom was one. Because we are photographers and can (and because we’re freaks), we tend to jump to ‘upgrade’ our photo applications at the very first opportunity to do so, and we did. However, our download was like opening your favorite pack of snacks, only to find it overrun by weevils. It seemed equally filled with new and promising features, and plagued by problems. Now, an independent test by photographer Jim Harmer of Improve Photography seems to show Lightroom’s import dialogue is a total disaster – to the tune of 600% slower than its contemporaries.

Harmer, took 97 RAW images with a Fuji X-T1, loaded them onto the computer’s hard drive, and then clocked the import process when importing them into the specific programs. The applications Lightroom 6.2 was up against were Capture One, Apple Photos, and Photo Mechanic, and here’s how they did in the test:

  • Apple Photos App: 9 seconds for import and managed almost seamless full-screen viewing and browsing.
  • Photo Mechanic: 12 seconds for the same.
  • Capture One: 27 seconds for import, and a further 87 seconds for creation of full-screen previews for a total of 114 seconds.
  • Lightroom: A whopping 190 seconds to import photos, and a further behemoth 495 seconds to build full previews, for a total of 685 seconds. Ouch.

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HOWEVER, anyone would be remiss not to mention a few details here. To those of you who don’t know these applications very well, or are just slightly acquainted, you should know that Apple Photos and Photo Mechanic aren’t really in the same league (not that they aim to be) as LR and Capture One in their capabilities.

[REWIND: ADOBE UNLEASHES HOST OF UPDATES AND RELEASES FOR MOBILE & DESKTOP]

Lightroom and Capture One are complete processing apps to a standard far higher than the other two and with abilities far greater. LR is designed to work within a system, so it may be fair to suggest that Lightroom shouldn’t even be compared the others except Capture One. What’s its excuse for being so much slower than Capture One? I don’t have one, and I suspect neither do they, though another apology may be on its way. And in addition to import, I’ve found exporting images has crippled my flow recently, and I doubt it’s isolated.

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Lightroom is such a major force in photography today, that it’s almost hard to think of switching, but if performance gaps between it and competitors continue down this road, it’s not hard to remember all great civilizations fall. That would be sad, though, because Lightroom is a solid application in so many other ways and is just so good at so many other things. We are also so invested in its use that I think hardly anyone would begrudge me saying that we would rather Adobe just kept our patronage, and get it right, dammit!

About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

28 Comments

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  1. Jim Berton

    Must be Mac issues. I have PC and Canon gear. I don’t notice any differences. I have always thought the import and export features of Lightroom took way too long but i decided long ago that the develop features override the import and export speed. Just did a 885 shot import….seems the same to me….and i have had no freeze-ups.
    Maybe adobe should make a Lightroom2 for macs and mirrorless dslr wannabes. Just a thought.

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  2. Evan Chistie

    Not sure if others have experienced the same as me but I have always had performance issues since I updated to Lightroom 5. When Adobe tapped into the GPU even that did not improve on performance whether I checked or unchecked the box in preferences. Then suddenly when I updated my Mid 2011 27″ iMac to El Capitan all of those performance issues disappeared and Lightroom was the best it had ever been even though others online were having issues with El Capitan. I thought great maybe Apple & Adobe must be coordinating behind the scenes to provide increased performance with the new Apple Metal (API). I reasoned this because of the presence of Adobe at Apple’s Keynote. Now with the 6.2 update I guess I was wrong. However, I’m trying to stay loyal and will wait and see what eventuates but I have been looking at Capture One reluctantly. I do believe Adobe will come good after this episode and put more effort into Lightroom than they have in the past.

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  3. Unknown Unknown

    Get a decent camera and do the test again instead of testing it with that unsupported wannabe pro-camera crap. My pictures from the 6D appear at once.

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  4. Bill Wells

    Test were done on a mac. Suggest you re-run test on PC and you’ll see different results. A lot of software companies are reporting issues with latest OS X update/upgrade.

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  5. Jean-Philippe Thierry

    All these numbers have been generated… before the last update, meaning for this shitty release when not only import was not working. Outdated already. Btw, for those looking for alternatives to Lightroom, Darktable is a pretty neat one

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  6. Ken Marcou

    Wow, I suddenly have a problem with LR5 though. Could it be related somehow? Here’s what’s happening : I was working on some images from a shoot that was previously imported I was editing it and was converting to B+W and it was taking a while for the changes to show up while moving between them and they weren’t showing up as B+W at all in the filmstrip. Note the only thing different that my usual workflow was that I shot them tethered NOT to my usual hard drive, but rather to my laptop and only “moved them” within the catalog to the external hard drive where everything lives. Not sure how this could affect how the previews aren’t acting right.

    BUT, now I just imported a new shoot and there are NO thumbnails at all showing up either in Grid or the filmstrip. When I try to build previews the task bar just hangs at “1 0f ___”. When I go into the develop module then double click on an image, it will eventually load in there however. So weird.

    Anyone know why this is happening and how I make it work right again!? Thanks very much for any help.

    Ken

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  7. robert garfinkle

    they just put up another fix with apology

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  8. Gregory Davidson

    “Capture One: 27 seconds for import, and a further 87 seconds for creation of full-screen previews for a total of 27 seconds.”

    Total should be 114

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  9. Raoni Franco

    Please Kishore, stick to your sun-glasses/stylish bags photos. I feel childish when I open an article primarily to take a better look at the girl. The adult in me thanks you.

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    • Bill Bentley

      Ha ha. I think you speak for many, although I’m not complaining :-)

      To be fair, I think Kishore has shared as many pretty pictures of pretty girls as he has sunglasses and bags. ;-)

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    • Bill Bentley

      “Lightroom is such a major force in photography today, that it’s almost hard to think of switching,”

      So true. I downloaded the trial version of Capture One last weekend. I played with it for about an hour and then gave up.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Raoni, I will not promise a thing. I’ll be posting some more with her soon. She’s a friend of mine, of sorts, and actually hadn’t done anything like this before. More bags coming soon. Actually, you and Bill, if you guys ever want anything in particular reviewed just shoot me a message and we’ll see if it can happen. Be well guys

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  10. Robert Marriott

    We use Lightroom every day to sort out, edit and filter through wedding photos, and to be honest it’s quick at importing over the 1,000+ photos each and everytime.
    only issue I once had was when we got a new camera and it would not read the data, but just had to do an update to make it work ?

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    • J D

      I’m with you. I have been using Lightroom since version 3, and I have never experienced any delays while importing, exporting or rendering with this latest version. The most I’ve ever done was nearly 800 photos imported, 160 of those edited, exported and uploaded to dropbox in around 2.5 hours.

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  11. Paul Empson

    Had lightroom from the start.. and it keeps getting better.. and slower.. it’s the import & export that are it’s bottlenecks for me, take a break away from the desk..

    I now leave the exports until just before I want to stop for the day or when I need to go to the shops.. take a walk there & back and everything is sorted for when I get back.. I’ve had a couple of miles walk.. which is a nice change from sitting in front of monitors..

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  12. Chris Kwock

    LR is super terrible at XT-1 imports…but decent with my canon imports. It imported and rendered almost double the amount of raws from my canon way faster than it did for my XT-1 files.

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    • Jean-Francois Perreault

      As an X-T1 shooter, I’m glad this video was made. Now that the spotlight is on Adobe, maybe it’ll speed things up for them to work on this issue? :) If CO can do it, then it’s surely possible right?

      But I admit I’d like to see the same video with Canon and Nikon. Maybe we’ll see much better speed but the ratio between CO and Lr will be the same?

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  13. Colin Woods

    If you do get fed up with LR to the point of trialling another program, don’t forget DxO Optics. It’s great, does superb RAW conversions and gets better with each iteration. It never gets the publicity it deserves which is a shame as it’s a great product.

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    • Raoni Franco

      I gave DxO Optics a try early this year and was able to get really good raw conversions indeed. The noise reduction was also very good. But I felt like the whole process of using it was too slow, like fine tunning the adjustments and navigating throught the interface. Any chance you experience anything similar? My Imac is a little old but handles everything else really well.

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    • Colin Woods

      Yes, its a slower process. I don’t shoot professionally so its OK. In fact the time I spend in DxO is time that I don’t spend in Photoshop, so it comes out to be about the same time for me. If I were a wedding tog who had to deal with thousands of shots then DxO probably wouldn’t be my first choice.

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    • Colin Woods

      To clarify what I meant, its slower to use as a piece of software, nothing to do with computer power. That said, it does drag its feet when processing files a bit sometimes, but never to the point where I would call it slow.

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    • Raoni Franco

      Ok Colin, thanks for the feedback. Sometimes I cover events and DxO is not agile enough to bake all those cookies. But for individual pieces it’s awesome. Cheers!

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    • Huntley Paton

      I am a Lightroom fanatic but I also use DXO for specific things — namely, low-light situations in which dealing with noise is the main priority or challenge. DXO’s PRIME noise-reduction process is astonishing, it really nukes noise and produces beautiful files. The downside is, the program is SLOW. The other night I shot a play in a dark theater, and had to shoot at ridiculous ISO. I chose about 250 raw files to process through DXO as a batch (creating new files as jpegs, TIFFS, or DNGs, your choice). It took about 45-50 seconds per photo, which is typical. The results are incredible, I couldn’t duplicate it another way, but again, because of the time element, I only use DXO when I really need it. If I shoot a football game in daylight and have 1,200 files to go through, cull and polish, I stay completely in Lightroom because the noise isn’t an issue. But there are times when DXO is almost magic and I’ll always keep it in my back pocket.

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  14. Stephen Laird

    So… Any chance of a Capture One Preset System?

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  15. David Blanchard

    Frankly I never noticed the speed degradation. But, what I got was crashes, and most totally out of the blue. The update fixed the crashes.

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  16. Ben Perrin

    I’m not sure where you learned math from but 87 + 27 does not equal 27. Also I don’t think import is the part that most people care about (I could be wrong). It’s speed whilst editing that is important. Not saying that lightroom is great in that regard either.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Oh Ben, you are too sharp for me. Was a moment of disconnect between hand and brain. Cheers

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    • Ben Perrin

      Haha. I have many pre-coffee moments so I can’t have a go at you. I was supposed to insert a winky face or something so that you knew I was just teasing.

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