Archive for August, 2008

Lightroom 2.0 is 20% slower, still buggy

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Summer is a busy time for photographers like me, especially when it comes to weddings. Since the Lightroom update arrived in the mail, I have been using it to process several thousand photos. My verdict: Lightroom 2 is worth it. If you have not experienced this software, it is about time now.

But I came across a couple of “issues” that I would like to share with you. Just so that you are not surprised when you encounter any of these on your computer after the install.

1) Export is about 20% slower than Lightroom 1.4.1

Yep. Lightroom 2 is slower. Definitely. Same system, same workstyle, same disk space, yet the export takes about 20% longer than in Lightroom 1.4.1. On Saturday I had a wedding with 498 shots to be exported (70% from the 1ds II, 30% from the 1d II N), a total of 6,343,441,920 Pixel to be processed. This took 88 minutes on my Intel Core Duo T2300E system with 1 GB of memory on a clean Windows XP SP2 machine only used for image processing. This laptop is certainly not a beast any more, but still a well performing machine. 6.3 billion pixels in 88 minutes – that’s about 1.20 Megapixels per second. Lightroom 1.4.1 did a similar job (764 photos, 75% from the 1ds II, 25% from the 1d II N) at a speed of 1.51 Megapixel per second.

Interestingly, LR 1.3 was exporting at 1.29 Megapixel per second which is pretty close to the 1.20 Megapixel that I see with LR 2.0. Coincidence?

I read somewhere that Lightroom export performance is “largely disk bound”. I think this is partly true, but why should the application be seriously slower on the same system? I imagine that this may be related to the new correction brush and gradient filters simply requiring more computing power. Or the code base of LR 2 is an older, less performant version of LR 1.x.

2) Crop rotate bug

A nasty one. I go to “Develop” mode and click the cropping tool. Then unlock the aspect ratio, crop and rotate the image to whatever I have in mind. Then I go to the next image, never touched before. I notice that the aspect ratio appears to be unlocked from the previous image. I lock it – it says now “original” aspect ratio. But when I try to crop/rotate the image, the aspect ratio of the previous image is used despite clearly being not the original aspect ratio. Only by selecting first “Custom” from the drop down list and then “Original” again will give you the correct original aspect ratio. Bah.

3) Display bug

I edit a couple of hundred images in Develop mode and all of a sudden I am unable to zoom into the image 1:1. I can still see the small preview, but the program won’t load the high resolution image. It just shows a large grey rectangle where the image should be. Work around: Shut down Lightroom and re-start it. (This workaround points to some kind of memory leak in the software. We have seen this in the early versions of version 1, and it got fixed, I think in the 1.1 or 1.2 release.) I’m not a programmer, but I can tell you that 1.4.1 was behaving better in this regard.

4) Lightroom is slooooooow and sometimes even hangs

Not only export is slower (see above), but also using the various tools. The new correction brush reacts too slow; same goes for the gradient filter tool. Not good. Sometimes it takes ages to move from one image to the next; then the hard disk indicator flashes like mad, but nothing happens. This is definitely worse than Lightroom 1.4.1!

In rare cases, the software even “hangs” completely, i.e. it does not respond to user actions at all. Just the sandclock shows. (This happened to me after innocently clicking into the “Exposure” field in Develop mode to make an entry.) You can shoot down the software with Ctrl-Alt-Del, then re-start the system and launch Lightroom again. The software has forgotten where you were when you terminated it, but all the changes are there! At least, that’s not too bad.

I’ve also noticed that sometimes the application won’t start at all. Well, it does start and shows the last image you have been working on, but then the harddisk LED will flash and flash and flash forever. The application is so performance greedy by then that you even have a hard time shooting it down manually. Geez, never seen such behaviour before.

5) Some exported JPEG can not be displayed in Windows file viewer

Huh? The other day I did a quick export of five images to JPEG, all from the same camera, all from the same day, all from the same batch export, yet one of those five JPEGs would not display in Windows File Viewer? I did the export again with the same silly result. Only opening the image in Photoshop and then saving as JPEG solved the issue. Weird. Do I now have to check all JPEGs whether they can be opened by File Viewer?

6) Installed Lightroom Versions Clash

After you have successfully upgraded to LR2, I strongly suggest to remove Lightroom 1.4.1 from your system. I had some weird clashes between the different versions, e.g. inserting a USB card reader with a memory card opened 1.4.1 instead of 2.0! As the interfaces really look similar, I used the import dialogue only to find after a while that it was importing to the wrong software version. Yep, I know – the top left corner mentions the version number, yet I did not really pay attention to it because it was clear to me that it would launch the newest version. Go figure. (Un-installing is also said to increase performance. Need to double-check this myth.)

7) The re-appearance of the TAB problem

Occasionally, using the TAB key in Develop mode will hide the side panels instead of jumping to the next entry field. It happens to me frequently after the Saturation field, when trying to navigate to the HSL/Color/Grayscale section. This was an issue (though much worse) until version 1.2. Could it be that Adobe started to use parts of 1.2 code as base for Lightroom 2?

8) Color temperature setting is still not read correctly

I run all my cameras at a fixed color temperature of 5800 K. I shoot RAW, so I do not really care about this setting. But when I import the photos into Lightroom, the software can not detect the color temperature of the cameras correctly. This is not a new bug. I experienced it with Lightroom 1.4.1 as well. (And yes, I do agree that it is just a minor flaw. With Lightroom, it’s easy to apply the same color temperature to all the images. Yet it gives you something to think about, especially when you are using “auto white balance” on your camera.)

9) Fills your disk faster than you can say “F…”

Not really a bug, but probably not exactly a feature either. After only three weeks of using Lightroom 2.0, I was baffled to see that the folder Lightroom 2 Catalog Previews.lrcat is practically stuffed with files. Right now, Windows tells me: 25,384 files in 21,902 folders, taking up 10.1 GB on the disk. And in most of these countless folder I see exactly one single file? 10 GB is waay too much IMO. Adobe should provide automated tools to reduce that junk to a suitable size. Tell you what: I’m not going to buy a new machine just because Lightroom is too dumb to use the existing space efficiently.

* * *

The members of the Adobe Lightroom user-to-user forum mention tons of other issues, ranging from install problems (install was almost flawless on my system) to weird crashes (I have not experienced any bad crashes, e.g. blue screens, so far). So I guess your mileage may vary.

P.S.: A very good review of all the new features can be found at ArsTechnica.

Lightroom 2 – seriously improved

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

I admit it: I love the new Lightroom 2. Despite its bizarre international pricing, the software is good. Very good.

Install was flawless, well almost flawless. The only flaw was that the software forgot that I wanted an English installation and installed in German (I had selected “English” during the install.) I could change this setting in the program options later. Other than that, I do see improvements across the board.

One of the key improvements is certainly the new adjustment brush that can be applied to the image. Especially the Soften Skin function is worth gold (and the price for the upgrade). It does exactly what the name implies – it softens the skin of the person on the image. Tiny blemishes and skin problems will be reduced significantly without giving the person that dreaded doll-like look. The skin structure remains visible, just softened. You can adjust the size of the brush and its location, even after it has been applied, as well as a couple of other parameters. Then let the brush do its magic.

Here is an example from a wedding I photographed on negative film in 2005 (as per the wish of the couple). The negatives were OK, but the standard scans that came with the film were simply awful. Wrong colors, dirt, dust – in a word: unusable. But look what Lightroom can do with such an image.

Lightroom Soften Skin
Screenshot of Lightroom’s “Soften Skin” function applied to two areas of the face. If the user points to one of the applied brush marks, Lightroom will show the area that will be affected by the tool.
Photo: Mark Zanzig

Christine right before her wedding
Mark Zanzig

Lightroom 2 – International pricing is a joke

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

So, Adobe finally released Version 2 of Lightroom. Adobe’s Tom Hoggarty has put together the official list of improvements at the Lightroom Journal.

I ordered Lightroom 2 on Friday but I have not seen the software yet, so I can not yet comment on the software quality of this release, or the coolness of the new features.

But as an international customer I can say that I feel ripped off by Adobe. The announcement on the official page read Upgrade to Lightroom 2 for $99. This is a price tag that is an “almost fair price”, considering that the software by now should be bug free (this time, really) and stuffed with new exciting features. I was ready to shell out the money for it. But I was surprised when I realized that Adobe won’t sell the software to me at $99. They won’t sell because I am from Germany. Huh?

As an international customer you are forced to buy at your respective local Adobe online store. And these stores -despite belonging to Adobe- can apparently set their own prices for each market. And for Germany the net price (ex VAT) is 99 Euros which converts to $154.20! That’s a hefty 55.8% markup for no (zero) additional value. I get the same software with the same functionality. I would even take a plain English version as I have no need for translated user interface. Still Adobe squeezes another $55 from me, and I can hear a devilish laughter coming from the Silicon Valley HQ.

This is grossly unfair. By the way, my complaint is not about the money. It is about the feeling of being ripped off, which certainly is not a good feeling. And I am not the only one feeling this way. This thread at the official Adobe user-to-user forum is quite eye opening if you ask me. While we’re at it, maybe Adobe also finds a way to sell Lightroom to users from Iceland?

One thing is certain: Unless Adobe changes its international pricing policy, I will refrain from buying any other upgrade from them. Photoshop has reached its end-of-life by now; further useful updates are not necessary any longer. Lightroom has a more powerful competitor in Apple’s Aperture. Too bad you need Apple hardware for this. But the next time Adobe wants money for a Lightroom update, I’ll switch to Apple. Please take my word for it. :-)

P.S.: Lightroom 2 review follows as soon as the package has been delivered.