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on June 11, 2013
I've used both Aperture and Lightroom for several years. I was originally an Aperture user, who kept kept trying out Lightroom (LR) every time there was a new version out, but giving up and going back to Aperture. I switched permanently to LR about six months ago, and recently upgraded to LR5. With this review I wanted to give a balanced comparison of the pros and cons between the two programs. At the bottom, I also have some thoughts on the LR4 -> LR5 upgrade.

Aperture is an Apple product and only runs on a Mac; LR is available for both OS X and Windows.

Overall, Aperture and LR are eerily similar. (Aperture came out a few months before LR did, and it looks like both Adobe and Apple have copied each other extensively since then.) The vast majority of their features are shared by both. They are both designed to manage large libraries of photos -- 100,000+ images is not a problem at all. Their editing tools are both much stronger than simpler programs, such as iPhoto. They both have batch processing, where edits to one image can be applied to a series of photos automatically. Both have 'Smart Collections,' where you can make a virtual library based on various arbitrary criteria. Both have full support for viewing and editing the EXIF and IPTC metadata behind your images. They have similar features for rating images: 1-5 stars, and you can easily compare two photos side-by-side. Both do non-destructive editing, and both are very good with RAW files. You can tag with GPS data easily in either one. Both have broadly similar import and export capabilities. Both allow you to 'brush' on your edits locally (e.g., paint a region to adjust it to higher contrast -- not just make global adjustments). Both have robust support for metadata such as keywords, ratings, comments, and flags.

Originally I was drawn to Aperture because of its very smooth interface. It's refined and easy to move around, with a very Mac-like polished feel. It's fast and responsive, and the times that I had use LR it seemed to be slow with a clunky interface. However, I eventually became frustrated with a couple of tools that Aperture has that don't work very well (in particular, the noise reduction and sharpening, and limitation in painting on local adjustments). I switched over to LR and although it still clunky in places, it works well and I'm very happy with it.

In this review I'm going to go through some of the pros and cons of each one.

Library Management
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In Aperture, I find it very easy to manage and navigate through my photo collection. When you open it up, you get a full-screen grid view of your folders (with a thumbnail on each), and then by moving the mouse over each folder, you can quickly scan through them and see all the images in the folder without opening them. Super nice, super easy to jog your memory for what's in a shoot without opening it. In LR, the only way to get to a folder is to navigate to its directory in a tiny sub-window (alphabetic order only, and the names are often truncated, so you are wondering what folder 'Beach_J.....R13' really is). I'd love to see Adobe put together a much better Library module to let you scan your photos

Database
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LR and Aperture use very different philosophies about how to manage files. Aperture's is very much along the philosophy of iTunes: it has an internal `black box' database structure and file structure that only it needs to know about. It will import your photos, put them into its database, and then you can edit them and move them around in different collections yourself. But you do not need to know physically the names of individual directories and subdirectories. LR's philosophy, on the other hand, is that it is essentially an indexer of files that you put onto your drive. You put them there, you tell LR where they are, and it'll keep track of them for you. But if you move or rename a file without LR knowing about it, it will get confused. Personally I like Apple's system better. I don't care where on my hard drive my photos are -- file management is the computer's job, not mine. Apple's system runs the risk that it might get corrupted and you'd have to hunt its database to find your raw files. I suppose that's theoretically a risk, but I've never had the problem myself.

Here is one example of where LR's file management can get you in trouble. Let's say you have two large folders in LR, with thousands of images. You decide to merge these folders and put all the pictures together into one. You'd think you could just drag all of them from one folder to the other. And you can... until LR complains that some of the photos have the same name. (Assuming you take a lot of photos, you'll end up with multiple photos named DSC_1412.NEF eventually, since the camera recycles names.) You might think that LR would keep track of this itself, or offer to rename the files. But no... in order to merge these directories, you need to manually rename those files -- perhaps thousands of them! -- so there are no duplicated file names. (LR will rename things for you automatically when you import, but not when you copy.) Come on... keeping track of filenames and directory structures is the sort of work that computers were invented for.

Smart Collections / Smart Albums: Both programs let you create virtual groups of images selected by some criteria -- say, all the five-star rated images in your 'Alaska' folder. I use these all the time, in particular for down-selecting to my 'best of' edits. Aperture has one big feature that I miss in LR, which is the ability to resort the order within the Smart Album. Aperture lets you re-order them as you'd like, and remembers that order, even as you delete some and bring in new ones. LR simply doesn't -- it brings up a window to tell me "You cannot change the order of images in a Smart Collection." OK Adobe -- rather than telling me I can't do something, why not just let me do it?

Interface
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Aperture's interface is faster, smoother, slicker, and more Mac-like. It requires less clicking and is more seamless to do simple navigation and editing.

I find LR's interface to be rather awkward. There is an explicit distinction in LR between looking at your photos ('Library module') and editing them ('Develop module'). It takes an explicit step, and a delay of a second or so, to switch between these. Once you have, the screen redraws, and many of the keyboard shortcuts change wildly (e.g., "\" -- toggles between before-after in Develop, but brings up a filter tool in Library). I've gotten used to the mode-switching, but it still feels awfully clunky. Want to change contrast? Go to Develop. Edit the caption? Back to Library. Add a vignette, back to Develop... add a keyword, back to Library. Copy settings from *one* photo you can do in Develop, but to apply them to multiple photos you have to be in Library. Crop -- that's Develop. Export photos, Library. Rotate by a few degrees, Develop. Rotate by 90 degrees, Library! Rate photos -- either Library *or* Develop.
Bizarrely, LR does actually allow you to do *some* editing while in Library, but using a smaller set of button-based controls instead of the full set of sliders in Develop. Adobe -- if you're going to put half of the controls there in a limited way, why not just put them all there? This seems really stupid. Better yet, abandon this whole artificial separation between Library and Develop. Make all of the controls work all the time. When you're editing photos from a shoot, you really do go back and forth continually, and it feels awkward and clunky every time.

Even the basics of the user interface are different in the different modules. Looking an an images and want to move to the next / previous one using the `filmstrip' viewer? You can do that with a two-finger scroll in Library mode. But in Develop -- with the screen looking exactly the same -- that gesture is ignored totally.

In contrast to all this, Aperture is much more seamless. You're always looking at your photos, and you can edit them, delete them, resort them, everything, right there in one window.

Undo is a little non-intuitive in LR. Let's say you delete a photo from a collection, then scroll ahead a few photos. If you hit Undo, you'd think that would undo your delete, right? No! What Undo will do is undo the 'Go to Next Photo' command -- it'll just scroll you backwards a few shots... as if you couldn't do that yourself? In order to actually undo that deletion, you need keep hitting Undo. I was using LR for over a year before I realized that LR's Undo stack was more than one level deep (thanks to a comment below!)

Some of LR's icons are awfully small and hard to figure out. For instance, there are six different icons relating to flagging / rejecting images, and it really takes some squinting to figure out what they are supposed to be -- I mean, one has a tiny 'x' in it, one is dotted with a tiny check mark, and one is an outline with no marks, and then three more are tilted -- and then whether the flag is active or not is shown by whether it is a subtly different shade of dark grey or light grey. And speaking of greys, when you have a grid of images on the screen, even figuring out which picture is the 'active' one is often hard -- LR has at least FIVE different levels of grey backgrounds, which it uses for highlighting the current image, other also-selected images, all images on the page, the image the mouse is hovering over, and images in a stack. You will often actually see all five highlight levels at the same time, and it's really hard to find which one is which. Please Adobe, give up on the zoo of greys! Just let me outline the current image with a big red frame that I can't miss.

LR has some UI quirks. If you flag and delete the photo you're on now, it'll move you all the way back to the beginning of your folder. Many times if you go to a new folder, you'll also end up at the beginning again -- not where you were before. If you change thumbnail sizes when in grid view, the current image will often move off the screen, rather than stay centered. Small things like this are annoying and Apple really gets them better.

Aperture's sliders are easier to use. They're wider than LR's which allows finer control, and they have +- buttons on each end to allow you to easily bump up or down the level in tiny increments without having to nudge the sliders in single-pixel movements. It's a nice touch that I wish LR had.

Aperture's full-screen mode is better for editing than LR's. In LR, all of the controls disappear, although if you remember the keyboard shortcuts, you can make a few primitive edits. Aperture allows you to bring up a translucent panel with the full editing palette.


Editing tools
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The main reason that I switched over to LR was because of its superior editing tools -- specifically, Noise Reduction and Sharpening. Aperture has these, but they are truly awful. Neither makes much of a difference to your images -- they simply don't work. LR's are terrific: they do a good job, and they have a good range (from zero to 'far too much', so you can find a good middle ground for each photo). In Aperture I ended up using the 'NIK Color Efx' plug-in to do my sharpening and noise reduction. That's fine -- those work well -- but they're extra software to buy, and they are not easily undoable, unlike the built-in edits.

Both have very good control over your lighting and histogram. Both let you crank up the brightness in the shadows. LR's shadow algorithms are better; Aperture's shadow controls are more likely to leave halos.

LR has a very useful slider called 'Clarity.' It is essentially a mid-tone contrast control, and often brings out great detail that you'd otherwise not see in 'featureless' monotone regions. It's good for clouds and rocks, but it'll mess up faces pretty bad. I use it frequently, though in small doses. Aperture doesn't have anything like it (well, it does have a slider labeled 'Mid Contrast', but it seems to work just like the regular Contrast slider). The effect is similar to NIK's 'Pro Contrast' filter.

Local edits: Both Aperture and LR let you 'paint' on various adjustments locally, using brushes. But Aperture's painting tools for adjusting exposure are really limited. You can only go up/down by ~1 EV. While that may sound like a lot, if you're trying to darken a sky to match a subject, it's barely anything. You will run into this limitation *all the time*. It's super annoying, and really limits what I can do with Aperture. LR lets you paint on exposure adjustment of up to +- 5 EV. It's incredibly more useful, both for landscapes and really anything where you want to darken the background to focus on the subject. LR also allows more flexibility in changing your local edits after you've made them, and in grouping them together (e.g., if you want to lighten a dark corner, *and* change its color balance, *and* drop the noise, and then make the same adjustments to a different region on another photo, LR makes it very easy to do all this).

Lens corrections: Vignette and geometric distortion (pincushion, barrel). Aperture doesn't do these at all. LR does them well. They are not done by default on import, but you can easily set up a 'user preset' to do them. At first I thought these were silly in LR, because I could rarely see the difference that geometric distortion makes. But plenty of lenses do vignette, and having automatic correction for a lens defect like this is clearly an advantage. While using Aperture, several year ago I bought DXOptics to do distortion and perspective corrections. It works, but it's a standalone package and I found it too much work to be worth it for the occasional use with Aperture. Photoshop will do these too. But LR is easier and faster.

Chromatic aberration (color fringing). Both Aperture and LR do these. They both work well.

** Between Chromatic Aberration and the Vignette / Distortion correction, you really can make up for a lot of lens defects, and give that $100 kit lens a lot of the characteristics that you used to have to but a $2000 lens for. And note that you can *increase* distortion as well as reduce it. Want a fisheye look from your regular rectilinear lens? Just crank down the Scale & Distortion sliders in the Lens Corrections / Manual panel.

LR5 adds the 'Upright' mode, which lets you automatically un-distort things like buildings, and bring them back into normal perspective. LR4 had these same controls, but they were very slow and non-automatic, and they're much more useful now in LR5. I'm sure these will be useful to some people; getting things upright for me is not a big deal (hey, I like them skewed...). When I have played with them they guess right about 50% of the time.

Gradients: LR will let you easily apply a gradient -- for instance, to bring the exposure of the sky and foreground more in line with each other. This simulates the use of a physical neutral density (ND) grad filter. Assuming you're shooting in RAW which gives you a lot of dynamic range, it's cheaper and more flexible than an ND grad too in most cases. Aperture doesn't have anything like this. You can in theory paint in the EV adjustments, but the range allowed by Aperture is so limited that it's almost useless. LR 5 also adds radial gradients, which you can think of a vignette which is centered on something *not* at the center of your frame. I use this all the time to subtly draw the eye to the subject and mute the background. In Aperture if you have the NIK plugins you can use one called 'Darken / Lighten Center'. While I usually use these gradients to adjust the exposure, you can use them for anything. (Want the contrast to increase from one corner to another for a special effect? Or want the white balance to smoothly change across your image since the lighting color in your room is not uniform? Not a problem.)

File handling
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RAW files: I find they both work well. I use a Nikon D4 and a Nikon D700. In both cases when you import a RAW file it's going to need some tweaking to get it to look like the in-camera JPEG. But that's the whole point: there are a lot of different ways to convert the RAW file to an image. Both programs do this fine. Both let you apply an arbitrary set of adjustments to your RAW file on import -- so if you know you want everything bumped in contrast with a bit of negative exposure compensation applied, it's not a problem.

Importing: LR won't delete images from your memory card after importing. You have to do it manually. Adobe claims that's a data safety issue, but I have good backups and to me it's annoying: I'm much more likely to get in trouble by being in the field with 10 GB of old images on a memory card I forgot to delete, than by having a drive fail and lose my pics. Also, since you will end up formatting your memory cards after every import, it means you can't give them meaningful custom names ("Card 3", etc). Aperture will delete files after import if you tell it to.

External editors. Both of them work with Photoshop (Elements, CS6) or other external editors just fine. No difference. I use the NIK tools, and PS CS6. I use Photoshop for removing objects I don't want, stitching panoramas, adding labels, overlaying images, that kind of thing. I don't use NIK nearly as much in LR as I had to in Aperture to make up for its intrinsic limitations.

Email export. If you want to e-mail a photo from LR, the program brings up a window where you can enter the subject, destination (if you remember their exact address -- it won't auto-complete it for you!), etc. Then you hit Send, and then it copies all this info to the Mac's built-in mail program, where you can edit it, and hit Send *again*, and it's sent. Why not just bring up a regular Mail window in the first place (like Aperture and most other programs do)?

Quick import and Export. Often times I find I want to take one image and put it on my Desktop for use elsewhere, or conversely take file from the Desktop and bring it into my current library. In Aperture, you just drag the image and it's there. One drag, in or out, and you're done. In LR, dragging the file in or out does *nothing* -- the software just ignores it. So, to get a single image in, you need to go through the whole import process, which must be at least 20 mouse clicks. Same for exporting. Come on Adobe -- make the simple stuff simple!

Extras: Face Recognition, Facebook, GPS, Books, Photo Stream
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Aperture has a face recognition module where it will help you classify your images based on who is in them. LR doesn't have anything like this. I've spent many hours typing in names to Aperture in order to tag people properly. It does a good job of picking out faces in a picture, but a very poor job of guessing who it is. I find it is far, far faster to go through a folder in LR and manually tag names using keywords, than use Aperture's semi-automated face tagger. Good try Apple, but it's just not there.

Facebook: LR's built-in Facebook support is pretty weak. I use a plugin from Jeff Friedl for better Facebook support. It's not very slick and has a million different confusing options, but once you get it set up properly it'll work better than the built in one. Except it doesn't let you post on your wall (only to an album) and the developer doesn't know why. Aperture's built-in FB support is smoother, but stupidly, captions you've entered in Aperture don't export as captions to Facebook. (I filed a bug report on this years ago with Apple, but no change except for Apple telling me they know about my request.) Captions do export properly using LR.

Maps: They both import .gpx files and will make nice maps showing your path, etc. I use a Bad Elf GPS; you can also make similar .gpx paths with many iPhone apps such as MotionX. LR regularly crashes for me in the Maps module when reading GPS tracks. I never lose any work but it takes a minute to restart it and get my brain back on track.

Books: They both make books. I've bought several from Apple and they are very nice. The print quality is a step down from a glossy coffee-table book, but they are still enjoyable. You can customize the format easily. LR makes books too but I haven't used it. Both will output as PDF so you can print them at any capable print shop.

Photo Stream: Aperture integrates nicely with the Photo Stream from your iPhone etc. However, it is not too hard to set up LR to automatically grab your Photo Stream photos as well, using Automator on the Mac. Search for a post called "How to integrate iCloud Photo Stream with Adobe Lightroom."

Upgrades and Purchase Policies
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I kept waiting for Apple to push out some updates for Aperture. The last upgrade with any changes to the editing palette was 3.3 back in mid-2011, which added only minor updates to the white balance tool. There have been minor incremental upgrades to support new camera models, or share libraries with iPhoto, but no new editing features (like fixing the sharpening and noise reduction). That makes it feel pretty abandoned. Adobe has a much more aggressive upgrade schedule, with regular new releases.

Free trials: You can download the LR trial and use it for a month for free. Aperture is cheaper, but has no free trial period.

Subscription: I got LR through Adobe's Creative Cloud. A one-year membership (at the student/teacher level) was around the price of LR alone. It gives me free upgrades, like LR5, plus lets me use Photoshop CS6 and a bunch of other stuff, so for me it was a good deal. Lots of people dislike Adobe's move to a subscription-only plan (announced in the spring of 2013). But whether you like the subscription model or not doesn't matter, since *LR itself remains available as a standalone package* (I mean, that's why you're reading a review of it for sale right here). LR is in Creative Cloud if you happen to have that, but you don't have to.

Stability: They're both stable and crash only rarely (except the Maps module in LR, which must crash 50% of the time I use it -- which is fortunately just once per shoot, so it's not actually a big deal). Once you've made edits on an image and moved to another, all your changes are automatically saved. I've never lost anything on either one.

Conclusion
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Aperture is better at:
o User interface
o Library navigation
o Library management (though part of this is my personal preference)
o Price

Lightroom is better at:
o Editing tools. These are photo programs, and this is what really matters.
o Everything else!

Lightroom 5
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Regarding the LR4 -> LR5 upgrade, feature-wise this one is pretty slim. It adds:

o Better spot removal -- for instance, much better at taking out power lines and misplaced blades of grass than before. Despite what Adobe says, this is no Photoshop: PS's `Content-Aware Healing Brush' works far far better than LR's spot removal tool. That being said, it is certainly helpful to have another tool in LR for this.

o A new radial gradient tool (useful if you want it, but not something everyone will use). You can always simulate this by painting in the gradient with a brush. For me, I use this all the time and it's very nice.

o Automatic perspective control, to make your sideways-looking buildings upright again. Not a biggie for me, but some people will want it. Among other things, this will give you some of the look of a tilt-shift lens (that is, buildings with walls that go up and down), without the price.

o You can edit your files while away from your external hard drive (essentially, your edits are made on thumbnails, and synced later with the RAW files). For some people, this feature will be huge. For me, I already have a massive hard drive on my laptop for photos, so this one doesn't matter.

o Seems faster to me in navigating through the library and loading full-resolution images.

Unless you're really needing one of these new features, you can probably stick with LR4.

o [Update August-2013] LR5 will import PNG files, which was not possible in LR4. These are often used for charts or screen grabs -- e.g., on the iPhone's Photo Stream, photos are JPG images but screen-shots are PNG. In LR4 the screen-shots were ignored totally when importing a photo stream, which was certainly annoying. Adobe didn't publicize this feature heavily so I didn't realize it until I saw PNG files in my library now. Good to have it.

o [Update October 2013] Apple has released Aperture 3.5. It adds support for new cameras, and fixes some bugs. No new features, and no improvements to its ever-more-inadequate editing tools. On the other hand, I am really impressed with Adobe's continual product improvement... there have been updates to LR4/5 every few months, with both bug fixes and new features.

If you've found this helpful, please click below! And post if you have any questions -- I'll answer them.
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VINE VOICEon June 25, 2013
Format: Software|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've been using Lightroom since the 1.0 betas were out, and I've seen the software grow over that time. LR 3.0 was the breakout version, practically demanding photographers to buy it. LR 4.0 brought to the table around 90% of the things you'd need Photoshop for. Lightroom 5 offers some minor improvements over Lightroom 4 that offer some valuable tools but might not be a justifiable upgrade for some. Photography is my hobby, and I got used to just throwing photos in folders and uploading them in a haphazard fashion. Lightroom brought to the table a discipline regarding my own workflow, so when I take my photos, I import them into Lightroom and control the entire process from input to export - whether it's to Smugmug (or another service), to print or to PDF/books.

If you're new to Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, despite the name, isn't Photoshop. It does photographic editing, but the program is a DAM - a digital asset manager. All of your photos are edited non-destructively and you can always revert to any step in the process. Lightroom is a powerful library, so you can organize your photos into collections, virtual collections and catalog/keyword/rank your photos as you wish. I can easily add geolocation information to my photos (either from a GPS or drop/drag on a map.) The software supports tons of camera RAW formats along with JPG and TIFF. I can take my photos, edit them, and export them to a slideshow, to the web, to a photo hosting site like Flickr or Smugmug, upload them to Facebook, or even create a book to be published. I can even make a video out of my photos. Lightroom over the years has saved me countless hours editing photos by allowing me to batch edit photos. Before, if I had sensor dust or "junk" on my lens, I'd get frustrated because there's no way I'm going to edit several hundred photos and fix it in all of them. Now, it's a few minutes to clean them all.

Lightroom 5 offers a few features, some of which you may or may not use. The most impressive to me is the use of Smart Previews, which allows you to "edit" photos while they're offline. This would be probably the best laptop users, who'd need to do edits on photos that are on external drives that are not plugged in or available. Selective adjustment is quite nice. In previous versions of Lightroom, it felt like I was trying to do surgery on my photos using a chainsaw. Now, it's with a scalpel. Noise reduction and lens correction have been improved upon, and I can improve tilted images and make them look stunning. For someone who loves taking photos of architecture, it's put my photos on another level. I haven't noticed any performance slowdowns or increases over Lightroom 4. For Windows users running Windows 7/8 32bit, you're going to be frustrated because Lightroom loves to eat up memory. On my Mac - not really a problem.

Would I recommend Lightroom to any digital SLR user? Wholeheartedly - but there's a caveat: Lightroom requires learning to get the full potential out of it. I'd recommend the Luminous Landscape series of Lightroom videos along with a good book (Scott Kelby is my preference) to go through. It took me a while to learn to get organized and learn how to use Lightroom. If you have Lightroom 3 or below, this is a worthwhile upgrade. As for Lightroom 4 users - the upgrade is decent but it's almost tempting to skip this and wait for the next Lightroom release - but still a great purchase. I do highly recommend watching Adobe TV videos about Lightroom to learn best practices and other tips. Sure, Lightroom is daunting, especially if you're new to photo editing/digital asset management, but learning the software will bring in massive benefits - whether photography is your livelihood or hobby.
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***EDIT*** June 11, 2013: After heavy use of the program, beyond the initial download, installation, and initial use, I offer the following- The interface has no major changes other than the addition of the new features. If you are familiar with LR4, you know it was sluggish. LR5 is much faster (tested on same machine as LR4). The speed difference was very noticeable. Importing is also much faster (again, tested on same machine). On first install, it converts your existing catalog (after giving you a dialogue box) and saves your old catalog files. Backups also seem much faster. The new features work very well in my opinion. However, the content aware feature is not quite as good as content aware in Photoshop CS6. But, more than good enough for most needs. I will update again if anything changes.

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ORIGINAL REVIEW
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This is a first impression look at Adobe Lightroom 5.0 (public release, not the BETA). I am an Adobe Cloud Subscriber and downloaded Lightroom version 5.0 immediately upon release and installed it on my system ("free" with Cloud Membership). My usage and application is in the context of a freelance professional photographer who shoots (for fee) on a part-time basis. I manage two catalogs with Lightroom. Cutting to the chase, I believe Lightroom 5.0 is a worthwhile upgrade (especially at the upgrade price of $79) because it will add features that will help keep you out of Photoshop, which will speed your workflow and reduce frustration (unless you are a full time post-processing Photoshop master). Arguably, this version of Lightroom will appeal to advanced hobbyists and all pro's, while beginners and others not yet at the advanced hobbyist level will probably continue to choose other less expensive, if not free, editing software. Important note, with LR5, Adobe dropped support for Windows Vista and OS X 10.6.8 and earlier versions.

The download and install was painless using my Adobe Application Manager included with the Creative Suite. I elected to setup Lightroom 5.0 while retaining version 4.0 during my transition. Of course, I first backed up both catalogs to multiple locations before initiating the install. I imported my LR4 catalogs into LR5 and was provided the option for additional backups of the old files. Importing my first catalog file of about 7,000 files and 164GB took over an hour and twenty minutes on a Win 7 64 bit machine w/16gb ram and Core i5 processor). Personally, I am ok with that. I encountered no stability issues, Windows freeze, or any other issues.

Much has already been written about the features of LR4 and the Beta features of the LR5. So, I will not write a dissertation in this regard. I will cover some of the more anticipated (by me) features I believe may influence a LR 4 user choice to upgrade. First off, the Lightroom Interface largely remains the same except for the addition of new tools/features. One of the most anticipated changes is the spot healing/ clone tool change to more closely replicate the feature found in Photoshop CS6 using Content Aware. You can still use the Spot Removal tool just as you always have, one click at a time, or use it by dragging over irregular shapes. This is important to me because I found myself regularly moving from LR4 to Photoshop to use that tool since the LR4 tool did not allow for irregular shapes (it was a limited to a "spot" tool). This feature enhancement alone will save me a lot of time and I found it worked very well. By no means is Content Aware, either in Photoshop CS6 or LR5, a miracle tools like many non-users believe. You need to have decent data to work with and preferably with a repeating irregular background such as sand or grass for seam transition. Another feature that will interest many users of LR4, and that I found worked very well, is the Radial Filter feature, which operates like the Graduated Filter but using a circular mask rather than linear (which works great for non centered vignetting). However, this mask protects the area within the circle and all changes are made outside the circle, providing the same selective editing tools as before (slider options for white balance, exposure, sharpening, noise and moiré removal). Automatic image leveling is also a new feature that could prove to be a major time saver, but on a couple of uses, it seemed prone to error and some corrections result in significant cropping of the image (it does not create pixels to fill resulting blank space from the correction). These features alone make it a worthwhile upgrade for me. But also note, I already paid for the upgrade as part of my cloud subscription. But, even so, I would fork out the $79 for the upgrade if I did not already have it.

Adobe chose to do very little with its Slideshow capabilities in my opinion. I find this surprising and disappointing. There is very little ability to customize the slideshow and I would call it bare bones since many users will use another program for creating slideshows. You can add music and mix video and stills, but there is very little text capability. While Adobe did virtually nothing to the Slideshow, it did add "Smart Previews" for off line image editing. The major point of "Smart Previews" is the ability of the user to make changes to image files that are catalogued, but not available; for example, the drive containing the files is not available. Changes made to an image file offline are later associated once the file comes back online. While pros will surely benefit from this feature, I doubt most users other than pros will benefit directly (think hobbyist). I simply do not anticipate a need for this feature at my level of shooting. Now, if someone else was doing my post-processing and we were collaborating, I could see the application. However, that type of workflow is normally relegated to the pro level. Also worth noting is Lightroom 5 did not get the new Photoshop Camera Shake Reduction (Photoshop Creative Cloud feature), which I find odd- though it appears Adobe is reserving some features to only the Cloud subscription. The Camera Shake feature can make those slightly soft images tack sharp, though it cannot recover images beyond slightly being soft.

Keeping in mind that this is a review after a few hours use, overall I found the speed of Lightroom 5 to be a little faster than LR4, including the importing of RAW image files from a Nikon D300s (would love to hear how it works for D800 users). The entire interface and every module seemed snappier on the same system I used for LR4. Sure, generating the 1:1 previews can slow you down. But once done, I can cycle through them very fast. Though I never had problems with the stability of LR4, I feel compelled to mention I tried to get LR5 to crash with no luck.

For advanced users and most certainly any weeding shooter, Lightroom is a required tool of the trade and an upgrade will probably make great sense. In my humble opinion, Lightroom is likely not the best option for casual or even hobbyist shooters. I know too many casual users who purchased Lighroom only to let it sit unused after a few attempts with many reporting high levels of frustration for various reasons. There is an associated learning curve to begin with and most of what any level of shooter, other than Pro's, will ever need can be found in Adobe Photoshop Elements at a lower cost and ease of use. I know a lot of serious shooters who are very happy with the free photo editing software out there (think GIMP). But, with the lower initial and upgrade cost, tighter integration of sharing and publication features, video, and possibly the slideshow aspect (though I still consider it weak), I can see the lines getting very blurry even for end users at the beginner stage of photography. I predict most will choose Lightroom.
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on December 14, 2013
I really wanted to like Lightroom, I have read so many good reviews. But I have not been able to adjust to Lightroom's method of handling files. I don't like the fact that I have to import photos into a library before I can do anything. It's not easy to open a group of RAW files, edit them and then save them as JPEGs. After using the program for a while. I now understand that Lightroom is not designed to do that, but that's how it's done in every other photo editing software I have used. Some of the tools are really good (lens correction) others are awful; it has the worst cropping tool I have ever used (you move the photo around not the crop area?) I'm sure it's a very good program for the price, it just doesn't work for me. I should have spent more time with the trial version before I bought it. I kept trying to use it, but I always ended up going back to Nikon's Capture NX2, because it works better for me. After three months, I finally gave up and uninstalled Lightroom today. I want to be clear, I'm not saying it's a bad product or that there's anything wrong with it, Lightroom just doesn't work for me.
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Format: Software|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Have been in and out of Lightroom so many times in the past that I'm almost ashamed to admit it. It was with a bit of caution that I decided to try the newest incantation to see how well the Adobe magic would work, and if the improvements were really there.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 is a step up over both Lightroom 3 and Lightroom 4, and from this user's viewpoint is proof that evolution does improve the breed. It's said that there are "over 400 tweaks" in this new version according to Adobe, and though I've just begun to scratch the surface, they do seem to be there. For the moment, this review will focus on just the basic highlights as I've found them but please remember that this is purely a subjective opinion.

◆ Likes:

+ Clean install on PC; reasonably fast, no issues encountered
+ 1-click adjustments; works with multiple images, a time saver
+ Excellent noise reduction; fixes high-ISO images, selective when needed
+ Image sharpening; truly excellent and hard to beat when needed
+ Image straightening; works with a single click, detects horizons
+ Nondestructive; original images are not altered, changes reversable
+ Good black-and-white conversions; excellent grayscale results
+ Solid library management; relatively easy to control and track
+ Impressive RAW file support; many updates available

◆ On the Fence:

± Steep learning curve; may frustrate new users

◆ Concerns:

- Will we be forced to use Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription service in the future?

◆ In Use:

Installation was smooth and easy. This version is compatible with PCs running Windows 7 or higher, or Macs running OS X 10.7 or 10.8. Though this was initially intended to go on my MacBook Pro, a hardware glitch prevented it, so it was installed to my Dual-Core Pentium Windows 7 PC (64-bit SP1) with 4GB RAM, so it exceeded the published requirements.

It should be noted that for the last couple of years, I have "standardized" image viewing and management with Nikon ViewNX 2 (Ver 2.7.6), which as an all-in-one browsing/editing software package, has served me well. This is also linked Nikon Capture NX 2.4.3, along with the freeware app PhotoFiltre 6.5.3 for quick and dirty edits on the fly. But it's the Nikon ViewNX 2 software that I've used for photo file management. Old habits die hard.

Should also note that I manually backed up all of my images to a separate Seagate Expansion 2 TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive that has been in service for a year. This is highly recommended to any who are considering a move to this or any other software package that can alter images.

Using Lightroom 5 proved to be both enjoyable and frustrating. It was enjoyable in terms of image manipulation from a single source, and there were similarities in terms of file management to my ViewNX 2 software. Where it became somewhat frustrating was in learning some of the new tweaks and tools available. A little patience and past experience with Adobe Photoshop CS5 helped, but it could be somewhat intimidating for new users, who may wish to consider Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 as a simpler and lower cost product for easy photo editing with excellent results.

Regarding the learning curve with Lightroom 5, it's highly recommended to pick up a good third-party reference. Scott's Kelby's new The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Book for Digital Photographers is a true 5-star resource for beginners and those with experience alike. Friends have recommended Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 - The Missing FAQ by Victoria Bampton, and from what I've seen, can agree. It's one thing to try and poke around and learn by trial and error, but sometimes time is money, and resources such as these can speed up the process.

As far as managing and backing up image databases go, photographer/author Mike Hagen's Thousands of Images, Now What: Painlessly Organize, Save, and Back Up Your Digital Photos has proven to be an invaluable resource since I picked it up last year. This book is one that can be an invaluable solution for anyone who has ever lost a digital image or three within the depths of their hard drive.

◆ Summary:

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 offers a surprising array of tools for the photographer, and it's truly an all-in-one solution to those who take photography seriously. Rumors abound regarding making Lightroom an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription-only product or option, and that's of some concern to this user, but as it stands this is a solid 4½-star product. As far as solid functionality goes, Lightroom 5 is ready for prime time, but there's a learning curve. From first hand experience, you can beat that learning curve with Scott's Kelby's Lightroom 5 book noted above. It goes hand in hand with the Adobe Lightroom 5 application.

JW ▪ 7/22/2013; Updated 11/29/2013
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on July 30, 2013
Format: Software|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Being relatively new to DSLR photography this is my first experience with Lightroom software. Previously I had used point-and-shoot cameras and made adjustments with Photoshop Elements, which I liked a lot. I resisted Lightroom because I thought PS Elements did everything I could possibly need - I was wrong.

Having joined a digital photography club in an attempt to learn more about my camera, I was surprised at how universally the other, more experienced members, loved and recommended Lightroom. In addition to being a superior tool for organizing photos, Lightroom also allows you to do some nice editing and seems to handle edits to my Canon RAW files better than Elements did. There is also an option to take the files I've been working on in Lightroom and "Edit In" another program, so I can finish them off in Elements. Or, I can just use my favorite filters in Lightroom directly.

In addition to editing, Lightroom makes it easy to watermark your photos and publish them to the internet, including Facebook.

Maybe my favorite feature in Lightroom is the ability to tether the camera to the PC while I'm doing a shoot and see the images in full size. With a full size image on the screen it's so much easier to see if I need to make changes in lighting, position, filters, etc.

Learning and using Lightroom was not intuitive for me, even as someone with years of experience using Adobe's Photoshop Elements. However, there are some fantastic free video tutorials on the Adobe website that can walk you through how to do the basic functions. For experienced Lightroom users there is also a video with detailed outlines of six new features and improvements in Lightroom 5.

Highly recommended to anyone who is trying to move beyond basic point-and-shoot photography and basic edits.
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on July 22, 2014
This is the review I wish I'd seen when I first got into serious photo editing (post processing). I started with Photoshop Elements (PSE) and moved onto Lightroom. In retrospect, I wish I'd done it the other way around.

If you're just starting out or using a point and shoot camera, many free editing tools are available. Picasa from Google or iPhoto are good places to start. If you've got a better camera and are shooting RAW (and you should), you'll need a better tool to process your files. RAW files have none of the in-camera processing that JPG files do. Shooting RAW will give you the best image, if you take the time to process it yourself.

Both Lightroom and PSE are complicated programs. It will take a while to become proficient with them. Buy a book, take a class or both.

Almost every serious photographer uses Lightroom. It has an exceptional organizing system for keeping track of your photos. The develop module lets you make most all of the adjustments to your photos, so long a you are working with a single image. The key thing about Lightroom is workflow. The tools in Lightroom are set up so that you can work very quickly. When I switched from PSE, I found that I could process my images in a small fraction of the time I had spent in PSE. It also doesn't modify the original photo file, but keeps it as the original with a series of adjustments applied. This saves a tremendous amount of time writing to the disk. It saves disk space as well, since you need only one photo file and can have any number of virtual versions. Each version uses only a tiny amount of disk space.

PSE has the advantage that you can work with multiple images, layers and graphic elements. So if you want to do digital scrapbooking, add graphics or text to your photo, add an object from one photo to another photo, or do retouching that requires layers, you'll need PSE. However, for simple photo editing, it is much more cumbersome. Every version of a photo requires saving a new copy, requiring time and disk space. The tools are also much more cumbersome.

So here's my advice. Start with Lightroom. If you need to do any of the things that only PSE does, add PSE at a later date. You can set Lightroom up to link to the PSE editor. That way you can do your basic processing in Lightroom and then pass those photos to PSE to complete the job. I use Lightroom for at least 95% of my work, with only about 5% or less needing to use PSE.

By the way, the current version of Photoshop (the professional version of PSE) is only available as a subscription service from Adobe. It is probably best left to professional retouchers and graphic artists. It is very complex and less user friendly than PSE. Unless you are a pro, PSE is a much easier and more affordable option with surprisingly powerful tools. I spoken with some professional photographers that hire outside contractors when they need Photoshop work. Even they don't want to spend the time required.
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on September 15, 2013
I've been a Photoshop Elements user for many years. When Lightroom came out, I initially had a difficult time deciding where it fit, as I was trying to place it between PSE and Photoshop.

Lightroom is a really terrific photo manager and retoucher, and while there is a learning curve from PSE, it is much easier for simple retouching - and much easier for some complex filtering and enhancements. It handles RAW files in a much more 'integrated' fashion than PSE, making it much simpler to stay in RAW file mode. The free demo is worth taking a look at if you're on the fence.
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on June 16, 2013
June 16, 2013: Wait for first bug correction if you plan to run on OS X.

I upgraded from LR 4 to LR 5 on Friday. I loaded 800+ images Friday and Saturday to my large catalog (over 120,000 images).

Later Saturday night LR 5 crashed when trying to save Metadata for multiple images. When restarted, it had lost the catalog entries for all of the 800+ new images. I imported again, this time "in place". It did find the xmp side-car files, so my edits were not lost. But I had to render all 800+ previews again.

Today, it again had problems saving Metadata on LR 5 imported images. And then it crashed when doing a Red-Eye Correction.

I am reverting back to LR 4 until Adobe issues the first LR 5 bug update.

5 stars for features (it is faster than LR 4); 1 star for being buggy.

June 17, 2013 update: A Customer Advocate from Adobe contacted me. He has requested copies of various files so their software engineers can investigate what is causing the crashes. I will post updates as this moves forward. I am impressed by Adobe's interest in tracking down any remaining bugs in their program.
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on December 17, 2014
I love this application. I'm a photography novice and didn't want the more complicated full version. Right now, I'm not interested in manipulating images artistically, but only enhancing them and correcting flaws. Lightroom does this very well and has MANY tools you can use to this end. In fact, it provide so many tools, I'm still learning what they are, a couple months later. Before, I was using iPhoto's built-in editor and this of course blows that out of the water.

Adobe has video tutorials on their website, which have been very helpful in getting the full use out of Lightroom. Initially, I was only interested in using it as an editor, not as an organizer, but now I'm seeing how useful it can be to organize all my photos, instead of using iPhoto. Figuring out how to use the organizing tools was where those video tutorials came in really handy. I can't stand iPhoto now and am trying to move all my photos out of there. I have so much fun using Lightroom and have been able to salvage lots of images that I thought were blah, or were horribly underexposed due to bad camera settings.

The Before and After images I attached show the potential of what you can do. This is an extreme example - the initial image was badly underexposed, so the after image is still flawed with a lot of noise. Still the edited version is a vast improvement.

Beginner's TIP: You'll get more out of it if you shoot in RAW files
review image review image
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