Hands-On First Look with a New Lightroom Update that Promises Faster Speeds

Hands-On First Look with a New Lightroom Update that Promises Faster Speeds

Adobe touted much faster speeds with the release of Lightroom Classic CC (essentially, Lightroom 7). However, results seemed inconsistent. Even so, these early inconsistencies seem to have gone away with subsequent updates and bug fixes. And thankfully, Adobe will soon release another update to Lightroom that promises even better speed increases. We’ve been playing around with it for a few days to get a better idea of what to expect.

Lighroom 7.1 fixed many of the original release’s bugs (at least on my own system) and provided a much smoother overall experience. When going back to older pre-7 versions, Lightroom definitely feels slower.

But Lightroom 7.2, which I’ve been testing for about a week, now, promises even further gains. Adobe said tasks such as exporting images could benefit from 20- to 65-percent speed increases. Those numbers included before-and-after export times of 20 and 28 seconds, respectively, for exporting 28 Hasselblad files on a 10-core iMac Pro. In other tests, 100 full-resolution, heavily edited raw images were exported to DNGs in 32 seconds compared to 102 seconds on a 16-core Windows 10 system with a 2.8 GHz Intel i9 processor. And this was all done in real-world testing scenarios. Lightroom should also be faster in other areas such as import and preview generation, walking of images in Loupe view, rendering of adjustments in Develop, and batch merge operations of HDR and panoramic images.

After extensive testing, I was able to replicate similar gains, but not in every circumstance. I have seen perfectly consistent, roughly 10-percent to 15-percent increases in export speeds (as well as in general “snappiness”) on my fully loaded 2015 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro regardless of settings, but higher increases can be found under the right conditions. An export of 22 Nikon D750 raw images from Lightroom to a folder of JPEGs on my Desktop took two minutes 16 seconds in Lightroom 7.1 while it only took one minute 58 seconds for a 14-percent gain. A similar export of both Hasselblad 100-megapixel raw files and Nikon 24-megapixel files took four minutes 47 seconds in Lightroom 7.1 and only four minutes 14 seconds in Lightroom 7.2 for a gain of over 12 percent. Several dozen similar tests yielded similar results, but all at JPEG image quality 90-100.

As soon as I dropped the quality down to 85 to match Adobe’s tests, I saw the performance jump in Lightroom 7.2. An export of those same 22 images from the first test mentioned above took two minutes in Lightroom 7.2 — a full 30-percent less time than the two minutes 52 seconds it took with Lightroom 7.1. However, one might notice the export times for JPEG quality at 85 look about the same as the exports at 90-100 quality when exported with Lightroom 7.2 in each circumstance. It’s simply that the time did not go up when compressing the files further in 7.2 as opposed to in 7.1. So in this case, it seems some major gains were made in the efficiency of compression, but not necessarily as much in the overall export time. Still, if you are saving your files with even mild compression, Lightroom 7.2 certainly represents a major improvement in export times that will positively impact your post-production time.

Adobe's new Lightroom 7.2 release is due sometime next month and will feature some major performance improvements thanks to various CPU and memory optimizations. Higher-performance systems will notice the most significant gains, but even mid-ranged machines will be faster at import/export and more.

Adobe also mentioned that systems that will benefit the most from this update will be those with more than 12 GB of RAM or with processors that feature eight or more cores. Additionally, while both platforms will see a gain, Windows machines should see more of a benefit than Macs. According to Adobe, this is because Windows machines suffered slightly more than Mac computers did from a problem of slower performance while working on a catalog in a single session over longer periods of time, and this issue has been resolved.

While I was not able to test on a Windows machine over a long period of time, I was able to test and compare Lightroom 7.1 and 7.2 on a monster 17-inch HP ZBook with a 3.1 GHz Xeon processor and 64 GB of RAM. While the computer didn’t break a sweat churning through 32 Nikon D850 files of 46 megapixels each, it didn’t seem to care too much about which version of Lightroom I used. Lightroom 7.1 took care of the job in one minute 25 seconds while Lightroom 7.2 was just a tad faster with a time of one minute 21 seconds, representing a four-percent improvement. However, this was on a brand new machine with no other applications or files installed, let alone any background processes or several dozen Chrome tabs to keep running.

My tests with greater JPEG compression could not, however, trip up the HP laptop whatsoever. All the speeds remained almost identical to the tests done at higher-quality JPEG export settings. Needless to say, it seems Adobe at least rid Lightroom of some major inefficiencies when it came to compressing JPEGs. And the interface and general improvements across the board should also help convince people to download the free update when it becomes available later next month.

Regardless of your own speed increases, Adobe also promises other enhancements that are in the works and that should also continue to mitigate slow performance issues, which have been a chief complaint of users for years. We're getting closer and closer to imports actually being finished by the time we return with that cup of coffee.

The Lightroom 7.2 update will come out in just a few short weeks, which should give Adobe some time to hopefully figure out why our tests were not always showing the same improvements as their systems were showing in every scenario. But either way, ten to 15 percent is still a great across-the-board improvement alongside the superb time savings during heavy-compression exports that I’d be happy to see on any release.

Are these the areas in which you wanted to see performance improvements? Where else would you like to see more improvements to Lightroom or the rest of the Adobe Creative Cloud ecosystem?

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Previous comments
David Love's picture

The last update talked about speed boost, I noticed it for like a day but once you start editing, it goes out the window. Leave Lightroom open too long and it gets worse and worse. Now that Photoshop has been updated to fit 4k screens it feels snappier so hopefully they will pass this on to Lightroom. Problem is they don't start from scratch, they just keep bloating their programs with any new feature they can to try and lure people in, and then end up with a hot mess that they have to clean up over time. Keep your new feature that beginners will love and focus on speed that advanced people can use. Time is money, so you have my money, now give me my time.

Adam Ottke's picture

It's this slower performance over time that Lightroom has also specifically addressed, so look forward to that being solved in a big way later next month with 7.2.

dred lew's picture

They did start from scratch, that’s the new LR CC. It has none of the issues LR Classic has but it’s also not fully featured, yet. It takes time to fully replace a whole application. Until then, take your pick: speed or features.

David Love's picture

So either speed up the bloated version or use the speedy version until they add the bloated features that makes it slow like the other? And moving more into the cloud where eventually Adobe wants all your raw files sitting on their servers so you can pay $20 extra month just to access your own files doesn't work for me.

For me the biggest issue is that LR still doesn't support PSB files. With modern high resolution cameras Photoshop files easily grow bigger than 4GB. All my panoramas are at least 12 GB in file size.

The feature request in Adobe's forum is over 6 years old and the topic is still active with no reaction whatsoever: https://feedback.photoshop.com/photoshop_family/topics/lightroom_support...


Adam Ottke's picture

I'll agree with that. Pretty sad...

Aaron Priest's picture

I shoot a lot of gigapans. PSB support in LR wouldn't help me until the Camera RAW engine supports more than 512 megapixels. I just save a flattened TIFF that is under 512MP (or 65,535px on the longest side, whichever comes first) and tag PSB in the keywords in LR. That way I get the cataloging and features I want of LR, but I've left a note to myself that I have a larger original with layers if a client needs an image larger than 512MP.

Yeah, I know that trick.

Here is mine:
I usually make a TIFF file of smaller resolution that has a smart object inside which links to the big PSB file. Therefore it auto updates (kind of) if I change something in the PSB file.
The TIFF file is then imported into LR.

But they should at least support to view and catalogue PSB files... I mean. It's 2018. It's their own file format.

michael williamson's picture

i did not see anything about tethering. how is that?

Yes, lightroom is slow, but if you really want to speed up your workflow, you need to be using Pfixer or something similar to map all of your adjustment sliders and brushes to a keyboard or external device. If you are still manually moving sliders around with your mouse then I pity you. What an incredible waste of time.

If you are interested, Pfixer is the best, now that RPG Keys and VSCO keys are no longer available. Motibodo is also an option, but its less customizable. You can also map LR functions to a gaming mouse. For example, I have two buttons on my Logitech G700s by my thumb that i use for image navigation, which frees up my left hand to adjust exposure, white balance, contrast, local brush presets, etc.