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Loupedeck Review | A Thorough Review Of The Lightroom Controller Console

By Kishore Sawh on September 15th 2017

Few peripheral devices tend to cause the kind of stir we see for devices that look to offer an alternate solution to controlling Lightroom – a physical solution. That level of frenzy is typically reserved for big lens releases, but it appears that even for something as ubiquitous as Lightroom, there are legions of people who aren’t quite satisfied with its user experience, and that discontent has led to the creation of products like Palette, Pfixer, and now the most elegant of them all, Loupedeck.

Loupedeck absolutely is the most elegant of the lot. With its keyboard-esque design, free of clutter and fuss, black top and silver underside, you can see it being sold in an Apple store, and perhaps is to be expected given its Finnish origin.

Loupedeck, like Pfixer and Palette, is a piece of hardware, a physical interface with knobs, buttons, and sliders, and all of which correspond to altering a function/utilizing a tool with Adobe Lightroom. What it aims to do is make the process of editing within LR a more intuitive, precise, and fast endeavor. Looking at the layout you can’t help but think it could actually be all of that because where Loupedeck really differs is that it’s not meant to be a jack of all trades that can be used with different software, but purpose built for Adobe’s Lightroom; each dial, button and knob is dedicated to a feature within it.

Anyone who spends a lot of time in Lightroom knows it’s rather intuitive on its own, but controlling all from a mouse or trackpad isn’t always the simplest thing, as the sliders are small, and it can require a meticulous touch. The Loupedeck controller brings a tactile element to controlling Lightroom, bringing the modules off the screen and into hand.  It sounds great.

What Loupedeck Can Do

It can do a lot. Loupedeck’s interface has 58 separate buttons/knobs/wheels, and with a press of a function button you can almost double that number as the function button allows many buttons to be multi-faceted. You’re able to crop, rotate, star rate, flag, copy/paste, zoom, undo, redo, see before/after, bring up the export dialogue, toggle screen modes, and zoom.

There are also wheels that correspond to specific colors which can be used to adjust hue, saturation and luminosity, and dials that correspond to each primary feature of the Develop Module – think Exposure, Clarity, Highlights, and so on. You can also use 8 preset buttons to apply your favorite presets – though you’ll have to remember which button corresponds to which preset, which is annoying. So, that’s a long list of functions, and most of them can be controlled with precision that’s just too difficult to do with a mouse. But frankly, the praise tapers off from here.

Things to Consider

Before moving forward, it needs to be addressed that the Loupedeck isn’t cheap. At near-as-makes-no-difference $300, it’s sold as a premium product, and thus you’d expect premium build, attention to detail, and well thought-out functionality. However, in many respects I found it to be lacking.

The Hardware

The device is decently weighted and doesn’t feel flimsy on your desk, nor do the buttons or dials feel as though they’re about to pop off. The dials are also not motorized, but that’s okay; they rotate continuously so there’s no ‘end’ and that allows you to be faster, generally. Each of the dials also can be clicked by depressing them, and that acts as a reset for your adjustment, which is lovely. The rest of the build isn’t quite as admirable.

It lacks feet at the back which would be so utterly useful to elevate the Loupedeck like a keyboard, and that just makes it more difficult to navigate. Imagine typing on a flat surface and you’ll get an idea. It’s a little angled but not enough.

But this lack of attention to the underside continues with the USB cable. It has a guided groove it should be threaded through and it just doesn’t stay there, requiring frequent re-adjustment. It’s such a strange design choice it makes you wonder if there’s a functional reason for it. Then again, for $300 they’d have been much better served to make it wireless. I mean, an Intuos Pro can be had for $250, and it just feels solid, has gesture control with 2 thousand levels of sensitivity and it’s wireless.

Moving on, the most disappointing aspect to the build of the device has to be the buttons. When you push on an Apple keyboard or any good keyboard or device today, there’s authority in the button press, and generally you can hit with confidence and feedback, neither of which you get with Loupedeck.

The buttons move around when pressed and if you hit a corner of the button it may seem like you’ve registered the action but nothing will happen. It’s really poor execution here and doesn’t inspire confidence when the keys if you’re not looking right at them. You need to hit right in the center to ensure you’ll get the response, and that’s just worthy of a head shake in a $300 device that’s entirely based upon the physical interface. See example below:

Usage and Software

The Loupedeck does seem like a rather simple piece of tech, and that’s not a bad thing. The simplicity and focused purpose is a good thing, and it would seem like they have decent software which would allow for useful adjustments to be made through firmware down the line, which is something we hope they take advantage of.

Some of the issues with Loupedeck in use is that it makes you wonder precisely which users they had in mind, because there is some inconsistency with it that leaves room to wonder. For example, a nice feature is that when you select the Brush Tool you can then use the dials to adjust the brush settings. So say you paint your brush adjustment but want to adjust exposure and saturation, you can use the dials for that, which is great and precise, but you can’t do that with graduated or radial filters.

Then there’s the Before/After button which brings up the side-by-side comparison view versus the view you’d get if you hit the backslash key, which would just toggle the image on screen between what it is now and what it started as. That can’t be changed, which is unfortunate, especially when using Lightroom on smaller screens like laptops where the images are very small when placed beside one another.

But there are more curious behavior too, like the fact you can’t make any adjustments in the Library Module, so those of us who like to use the Quick Adjustments panel are just out of luck, and the device’s control is relegated to the Develop Module.

Then there’s the Rotate/Crop dial which seems like it would be brilliant for precision but then they only allow you to adjust via stepped notches/degrees, thereby removing precision altogether. Cropping is a precise endeavor and taking that away leaves you with something essentially devoid of use. Also, in my testing over months I found numerous occasions when the Crop dial wouldn’t work when it was depressed in order to execute the crop, and this wouldn’t be fixed until LR was restarted.

On the topic of precision, however, that is probably the strongest suit in Loupedeck’s hand, because the dials do have a long ‘throw’ with the exception of the Crop dial you can really fine tune. One just wishes there was a way to adjust the sensitivity of the dials. Sometimes it feels you’re turning them for ages to get where you want. Does that allow for more precision? Yes, so it’s a trade off, but hence giving the user the ability to set that sensitivity would be useful.

Verdict

If you haven’t just skipped ahead to this section I’m sure you know where I’m going with this, that Loupedeck has its merits but falls short, particularly given the price.

[REWIND: CAMERA CALIBRATION LIGHTROOM PANEL | TIPS FOR PERFECTING SKIN TONES, COLOR GRADING & PROFILE CORRECTION]

We are power Lightroom users here at SLRL, and Lightroom education and use is a bit dear to us, so I wanted to like Loupedeck and was excited for something to boost LR productivity (God knows it needs all the speed help it can get), and perhaps went in with hopes a bit too high. Can Loupedeck be good for some? Yes, and there are times when you want to really fine tune an image it would be brilliant. You really can control the sliders in a way a mouse just can’t, but the thing is, you’ll still need a mouse and keyboard – the Loupedeck is no supplement, and for many, just adds clutter and isn’t as effective.

Consider, if you wanted to use the brush, you can select it with the Loupedeck, but you’ll still need to use the mouse, which makes that dedicated button an odd choice on the designers’ end. Then let’s say you want to view Grid mode, well you’d need the mouse or keyboard again as Loupedeck just doesn’t offer that option. And that’s just it, one of the inherit problems with these kinds of devices is that it does require you to look away from the screen when you’re editing, and adds more complexity to your set-up since you need it AND a mouse and keyboard – that just slows everything down.

If you’re the type to work on one image for a while then it may not bother you as much, but for power users who look for speed, it’s problematic. It was marketed as something to help speed up a workflow, but I can’t see how it’ll really do that for most. Will you get familiar with the layout and instinctively know where certain things are? Yes, to an extent, but never completely. The spread of the buttons/dials is quite vast, and that makes it harder to dance over them and know where everything is by feel.

If you’re a strong typer and you’ve been using Lightroom for a while with a mouse and keyboard, you likely have a few hotkeys/shortcut buttons you have memorized and don’t need to look away from the screen much. If you belong to that group I can’t see Loupedeck being faster, and even if you don’t I can see Loupedeck being something you use for enjoyment and novelty but not something that will actually improve your performance.

It’s very difficult to recommend you all spend your hard earned cash on Loupedeck as it stands now. If the price point was dropped from $299 and it was wireless it would be a less jagged pill to swallow, but given my thorough time with it and the reasons above, I see it less a productivity tool and more as a novelty.

 

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.

10 Comments

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  1. Chris Newham

    Hi I get wrist pain in long edit sessions and frustration trying to more the LR sliders with the mouse so got a loupe deck and it helps in both respects.

    I agree with most of what you say but
    1: Control sensitivity – Go intothe loupedeck software at the bottom next to the done button there is a deck settings button in there you can set the knob /dial sensitivity & speed I cranked mine up from default.

    2: My software (under win64) does prompt me when there is a loupedeck update available.

    3: Support are very responsive and I have raised some feature requests aligning to some of your critisims and am told

    Zoom – they are working on a eway to move a zoomed image direct from loupedeck
    Before/after – I want the \ like you and they are working on an option for that
    Crop/rotate – Yes usless but they working on letting you use that to alter briush size when the brush is active.

    My summary is a good product I find it useful and boosts my productivity and reduces frustration but the software needs more development ot get it to amazing and the premium price is not matched totally by the hardware.

    Regards Chris.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi Chris. Like I’ve said to others, if it works for you that’s really all that matters, so I’m glad you’ve found something to help. I must say, however, that I’m in the process of reviewing Palette Gear, and right out of the box many of my complaints with Loupedeck was alleviated. 

      The build quality of Palette is so far beyond Loupedeck, it genuinely surprised me. I couldn’t grasp why Loupedeck cost $300 then, and after using Palette I’m even more perplexed. Loupedeck, to me, feels like a $50-$100 product. Palette doesn’t. Palette also has much better and more flexible mapping in Lightroom, the cropping issue doesn’t exist, operations are easier…and more that I’ll get into. It’s not flawless but for $300 seems much more appropriate. Also, I can use it with Photoshop, Premiere, and Capture One Pro also. 

      But you said it, the price is a major hindrance and a large reason I can’t recommend Loupedeck, and even more so now given the alternative. 

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  2. Manfred Winter

    I just received my Loupedeck a few days ago, and still undecided on its usefulness. But found quite a few valuable tricks and ideas here.

    One question: There are several mentions of updating the Loupedeck’s Firmware. How to do? Or is that done automatiically with App Update (Currently on v. 1.30)?

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi Manfred, I haven’t used it in a bit, but when I was, the updating process was annoying. They don’t tell you if your need an update of if there was one available. You’ve gotta go to their site and crawl through to download the software and overwrite the old one. I understand they want the site to be stylish, but it’s certainly form over function, and navigating it and even reading it is a bit annoying. You can find the update area here:
      https://loupedeck.com/setup/

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  3. Matouš Bárta

    Do you try to update your firmware? Because my Loupedeck let me adjust graduated and radial filters as well as brush. Also rotate dial goes fast in default and more precise when you are holding Fn key (everybody is complaining about it being too fast and nobody seemingly read the manual).
    Also before/after shows the last type of view you have been using. It also works different with Fn key, but it was little confusing how. The best thing about it for me is that it saves me a lot of wrist pain, because draging sliders with the mouse was tedious.
    I still think it is great tool, but also have a lot of problems with it. Before the software update it not always connect with the lightroom and sometimes I have to restart computer, before it started to work. The really cheap keyboards have better buttons and the knobs are absurdly hard to push. The copy function in previous sw version copied everything, including spot removal and brushes. In the new version they sorted this out by also copying everything, but then turning off the local adjustments. It is better, but not ideal. Main problem is, they are not Adobe and have to work with Lightroom from outside, so possibilities are limited.
    And the biggest reason why it didn`t sped up my workflow is, that no matter how fast you edit, you still heve to wait for the Lightroom to process your imputs. When editing by mouse, it wasn`t so obvious, but now i feel like I am waiting more, than working. Sometimes it even got clogged and I have to restart.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi Matous, thanks for the comment. I went back to try the radial filter as you suggested, and yes, with the new firmware it does work, so I will update that. That said, I had to uninstall and re-install the software as it was updated anyway, for it to work. As you pointed out, the software is a bit cumbersome and was originally unreliable. I gave them a pass on that one though as firmware can usually be fixed with pace.

      As per the abilities of the Fn key, those I was aware of but the problems still persist. The rotation is still stepped, and for what reason I do not know. It seems senseless. Also, the before/after doesn’t do the same thing as hitting backslash still. It does a side by side or above and below comparison. All of this still is predicated on using the Fn button, requiring more button pressing and two hands – for me this slows things down, though granted I’m very proficient at LR and using the keyboard. 

      About wrist pain. Well, someone else mentioned this and you guys have a point there for sure. It’s not something I struggle with and thus it didn’t really come into my mind, but after thinking about it I can see how this might alleviate some of that issue. I hope it works well for you, and let us know how you find it a few months down the road. Cheers

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  4. Matthew Saville

    Meanwhile, Capture One Pro 10 has fully integrated customizable keyboard shortcuts, which almost completely suppresses my desire for external hardware accessories like this.

    I’ve used multiple keyboard shortcut programs over the years, including Paddy on PC and VSCOKEYS on Mac. Since they offer full customizability, I’ve memorized a system by which I literally edit photos by typing, and it comes as naturally as typing words and sentences. The letter keys perform the bulk of increase/decrease adjustments, and the space bar goes to the next image. The number keys, and others, perform more obsure things like slight bumps to the crop angle, virtual copy creation / B&W conversion, and even the choosing of a whole develop preset.

    The only problem is, Lightroom just can’t keep up with this level of editing speed, period. No matter how insanely fast your computer is, Lightroom can’t accept editing input as fast as I can type, and so I wind hammering out a whole bunch of edits in 1-2 seconds, and then just waiting a few seconds for them all to render on the image and finally display.

    Thankfully, Capture One Pro 10’s editing is nearly instantaneous and highly responsive. Unfortunately, the increments of adjustment that the hotkeys provide are not customizable, so I find myself not using hotkeys as much anymore. Capture One has a really slick “hover and scroll” feature, plus an interesting implementation of the use of the left / right and up / down arrows, which allows you to rapidly go from photo to photo, while still keeping a particular adjustment slider “live”. Too bad Capture One doesn’et yet have full-blown Auto-Sync, as far as I can tell. I really need to sit down with a C1P10 specialist and get some questions answered, lol.

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  5. Ron Fya

    Among what  Adobe needs to do for their next major update, I really wish they will allow for custom keyboard shortcuts and allow for the possibility of more relevant ones. It would be cool for example that you when you press and hold a key corresponding to a slider, then when you drag the mouse, the slider moves accordingly. Even for the shortcuts of the basic tab only that would be great. Could be even improved more with a way to switch the correspondence of the shortcuts and the tabs.

    My 2 cents.

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  6. Erik Pawassar

    I have been using a Loupedeck for a few weeks now. I agree with the comment about the buttons – they are a little flimsy and imprecise. BUT on the whole I find that the Loupedeck is an amazing timesaver. I even find myself making simultaneous adjustments on different parameters. The whole process of making adjustments feels A LOT more efficient. Yes, you still have to switch to the tablet or mouse for the local brush etc. but that’s just unavoidable in my opinion. I am super happy with the Loupedeck and would totally recommend it to anyone who has to work through many images in LR.

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  7. Scott Mosley

    I programmed an 8 Bitdo NES style bluetooth controller that I use for rapid culling and an alternate button layout for quick WB and exposure  changes. Pretty fun. $30

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