Recently, Adobe sent out a survey to users inquiring about their most common performance gripes in relation to Lightroom's notoriously sluggish behavior, even on high spec computers. Today, Adobe has released a new update to Lightroom that is meant to address some of these performance concerns. We quickly installed it to see if any of Adobe's claims are true.
What Sort of Performance Was Targeted?
Lightroom has a huge variety of performance related issues that many users are always quick to point out. If you are hoping for all of them to be fixed with one magical update a week after Adobe finally even admitted that there were issues through its survey, you are in for a disappointment. This particular update targets improvements related to GPU use when working with images. This means that, no, we won't be seeing any improved speed when switching modules, importing images, exporting images, or when rendering previews. Personally, I pray Adobe is hard at work on additional fixes to address these things. Most of all I'd love to see a vast increase in preview rendering as I am exhausted by constantly seeing the "loading" message when trying to cull and make selections (even if I pre-render my previews).
But, enough about what Adobe didn't fix and let's focus on what we did get. The GPU related fixes are designed to target panning, zooming, and using local adjustment brushes, which I put through the paces on my high spec iMac to see how each performed in comparison to the older version of Lightroom.
I'm happy to report that after significant testing with a variety of images and file types that I am experiencing a noticeable improvement in performance when panning and zooming. Unfortunately, the most severe bottleneck does remain, the slow load time for rendering the previews, as I am still finding myself waiting on a blurry "loading" screen when I first zoom in. Once the loading completes, the zoom and panning performance is considerably faster than I have ever experienced before in Lightroom. Testing with a 36.6-megapixel raw image file I'm able to zoom and pan without any lag or choppiness which was never the case a week ago.
While I do feel the adjustment brush has experienced a notable increase in speed, I personally still find it somewhat sluggish when compared to using brushes in Photoshop. When "scribbling" with the adjustment brush the adjustment being drawn to the screen feels like it is a hint delayed, which is certainly much better than before but also not good enough yet. The spot removal brush seems to be a big winner from this update as I was able to add 30 or 40 spot adjustments without seeing a significant loss in performance. In the previous version of Lightroom, I had considered this tool useless for correcting more than a couple blemishes as each additional spot seemed to drag performance down considerably. Like the adjustment brush though, the spot removal brush still leaves considerable room for additional improvement.
What Else is in This Update?
In addition to the claimed performance fixes, Adobe also addressed several known Lightroom bugs that only affected a small percent of the user base. You can find the full list of bugs fixed over on the Adobe website. The update also includes a camera raw update adding support for the Canon 6D Mark II, Canon Rebel SL2, Nikon D7500, and Leica TL2. The update also includes a variety of updated lens profiles along with several new color matching profiles for a variety of cameras.
Does this update solve the Lightroom performance woes? Unfortunately not. Does the update improve the situation? Absolutely. For years Adobe has largely ignored the most common performance grips in regard to Lightroom which has driven many of us to alternate image management tools. It is refreshing to see Adobe finally accepting that the performance issues are real and is making a real effort to fix them. Perhaps, for many, this update is "too little, too late," but it is certainly a step in the right direction with the hope that it is the first of many performance fixes that we will see in the coming months. If you have had a chance to try the new version of Lightroom let me know what your experience was like in the comments below.