Friday, 3 April 2009

Lightroom: nearly but not quite

Regular readers will probably be aware that I've been a long-term Lightzone user but recently have been writing about Lightroom.

Lightroom has almost completely taken over my photo-editing and management duties. It has many features to commend it - simple to use, pretty quick for most tasks, great organising features and solid printing system. However, it is just a few notches short of being quite all there.

First, as Kjell has noticed, are the problems with local adjustments. I'm sure that'll get fixed in time. Most of the time I only want small amounts of local adjustment for which it's great.
Next, and a big one for me, is the handling of sharpening. I use high radius, low amount (hiraloam) sharpening on a lot (if not, most) of my work for local contrast enhancement. I find Lightroom is not so good for that - clarity is a bit heavy-handed and I can't fine tune its effect. And I'm not enamoured of the sharpening tool in the details section. Again, not the control I'm used to with USM (or PWP's excellent advanced sharpen). This is particularly bad for scans (which usually take much more aggressive sharpening). I'm finding I have to take most images elsewhere for sharpening adjustments.
I'd also like to have support for advanced plug-in in the way Photoshop does. I've tweaked my workflow to deal with this but it does mean some back-and-forth.

I could add a list of other things I'd like to see, but then it would move Lightroom away from the things that make it good.

So what about Lightzone? Well, I do still use it but for limited applications. It is still has the best shadow recovery tools anywhere. The ability to do selective white balance is invaluable as is the ability to white balance processed files. I still it has the best masking system around especially after I discovered the clunk that is Lightroom masking. And Lightzone is still my favourite black and white converter: selective masking by area, colour, tone means I can apply multiple filter effects in lots of subtle ways. There are a couple of B&W things I do that I can't do any other place.
But Lightzone is quite rough around the edges: generally slow, memory inefficient and a host of other niggles. Development doesn't seem to be going anywhere and they are lagging behind the competition.

I think my perfect editing tool would have the layering and tools of Lightzone, integrated into the Lightroom workflow. Now that would be a powerful product. No, I don't think using Lightzone as an external editor from Lightroom fixes that. It would be nice to have a develop panel in Lightroom for Lightzone, running it as an engine underneath, controlled from the same xml file format that Lightroom uses. That would get me to the core differentiator in Lightzone (the adjustments engine) without having to suffer the niggles.


  1. It looks like Bibble 5 may be what you want, if it is ever released.

  2. It's been a while since I looked at Bibble. Even Bibble 4 looks pretty good. If Bible 5 gets released, I might try a copy, see if it comes close to that middle way I'm looking for.


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