If you have tuned into SLR Lounge recently, you know we have been working with Newegg to do quite a bit of computer building and performance testing in Lightroom. Well, we are finished testing, we have used Lightroom 5 for quite a while now, and in this video we are going to give you our official review of Adobe Lightroom 5.

Watch the Video of SLR Lounge Official Lightroom 5 Review

What We Like

Improved Healing Brush
Lightroom 5 boasts several new features that are major improvements on Lightroom 4. Starting from my favorite, we have a much-improved Advanced Healing Brush which allows us to heal more than just simple spots as we could in previous generations of Lightroom. The new healing tool works more like Photoshop’s Heal Brush, allowing you to heal in any shape that you want.


In addition, the we have a new visualization tool that can be used to help us identify and remove dust. However, as we previously demonstrated, while this tool is an improvement over having no visualization tool, it is still not where we want it to be. When zoomed in to the visualize dust, it can be very difficult to differentiate dust from just background noise.



New Radial Filter Local Adjustment Tool
Another favorite of mine is the new Radial Filter local area adjustment tool which allows us to create other localized effects such as dodging and burning in a radial pattern. The Radial Tool allows you to make your adjustments to the area within the radial selection, or to the area excluded from the radial selection. It is a wonderful and easy-to-use tool for creating a subtle burn effect around your subject, just to help draw attention into an image.

Prior to Lightroom 5, you would have to manually create this type of radial vignettes with the Local Adjustment Brush Tool.


Smart Previews
Lightroom 5 also includes a new type of image preview called Smart Previews. Smart Previews allow you to work on images even when the images themselves may not be present. This can be extremely useful if you store images on an external drive or a NAS device while keeping your catalog on your local drive.

With Smart Previews, you can work on the images wherever you like. Then when you are connected to the image drive, the adjustments are applied to the image files and you are able to export. For those that share catalogs, or use post production service companies, this can be a major benefit.


Automatic Perspective Correction Tool
The last major improvement is an extremely powerful Automatic Perspective Correction tool which will allow Lightroom to make automatic horizon, line and other perspective adjustments by analyzing the image metadata and the image itself. This is a wonderful addition especially for landscape and architectural photographers.


Other Minor Improvements
Other minor improvements include the ability to have videos in slideshows, a better book creation process with custom layouts, lab color value readout, new loupe and crop overlays and guides, support for PNG files and a new true full-screen mode.

What We Don’t Like

Under-Utilization of System Resources and Worse Speed Performance

Despite all of these rather nice improvements and additions in Lightroom 5, there are some serious concerns that we have with the core Lightroom raw processing engine. When it came to performance, we had high hopes that Lightroom 5 would be able to use additional system resources in order to speed up performance. Instead, not only is there little to no improvement in speed and functionality over Lightroom 4, but as we discovered in our Lightroom 4 vs Lightroom 5 Hardware Test article, Lightroom 5 is actually 5-10% slower than Lightroom 4 in preview rendering, file export and image-to-image Develop module lag.

Here is the video of that hardware test in case you haven’t seen it.

Smart Previews Do Not Improve Image-to-Image Lag
We also found out that using Smart Preview and 1:1 Preview together or by themselves do not consistently result in faster performance. Despite performing the test multiple times on several different machines, rendering Smart Previews decreased image-to-image lag only some of the time.

Less Stable than Lightroom 4
Of course, not everyone process large volume of images like we do, so the minor slowdown may not be noticeable for most users. However, the stability issues may be a bigger problem. We speculate that Adobe rushed the release of Lightroom 5 in order to coincide with the new Adobe Creative Cloud. As a result, what we have in Lightroom 5 is a program that is only marginally more stable than the Lightroom 5 Beta. On each of our production machines, under heavy production use, Adobe Lightroom 5 crashes about once an hour if not more. So, at least once an hour Lightroom 5 will quit out, and you have to jump back in, find the last image where you left off and continue working.

While we haven’t had any data lost or any catalogs go corrupt from this, it is a major irritation in a piece of software that was released as “retail” and not beta. We have even tried all of the various fixes to resetting preferences and clearing out cache settings, updating the ui.dll hotfix, and even contacted Adobe Help Support. So far, nothing has fixed the problem.


In conclusion, Adobe Lightroom 5 has a few wonderful new features in its updates to the Healing Tool, Radial Filter, Smart Previews, Perspective Correction and so forth. But, these are all offset by a slight decrease in performance and a lack of overall stability. For that reason, we can only give the Adobe Lightroom 5 a 3-out-of-5 stars.

For $79 it is still worth upgrading to in order to access the new functionality and tools, however we would recommend that unless you absolutely need these new tools, wait until an update is released to improve Lightroom 5’s stability. In the meanwhile, all of your presets for Lightroom 5 and Lightroom 4 are compatible with each other, so there is no need to jump from Lightroom 4 until things are working just a bit smoother.