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Almost feels like a point release, but at least no Creative Cloud
on 22 June 2013
There's a few nice features in Lightroom 5, such as radial gradients, some new correction tools (the upright tool to fix perspective, and an updated spot removal tool that allows brush strokes to define the spot area), but there's really not much to get too excited about here. This is a much smaller step forward than the step from LR3>LR4.
Worse, stuff like smart previews (allows you to work with a stand-in file of longest edge ~2500 pixels if the drive containing the actual image is disconnected) are just a wasted feature: why didn't they allow this for all images, so that people like me with 24MP and higher images could work on the stand-in file to increase performance (a 6000x4000 24MP file has x6 the pixels as the 2500x1666 preview, so real-time actions would be six (!) times faster if applied to the smart preview and then applied to the actual file later).
Oh, and Photoshop/Premiere now has CUDA and OpenCL support, but Lightroom still doesn't have either. An LR no-show feature that sticks out like a sore thumb. According to SLR lounge benchmarks, the fastest recent version of LR is LR3. Both LR4 and LR5 have more functionality, but neither version is optimised to current hardware to make full use of it.
On my 'general computing' machine (Core 2 quad Q6600, overclocked to 3.6GHz, 8GB Windows 7 Pro, Radeon 6870, traditional HDD), LR 5 can consistently get 80-100% CPU loading and 4-5GB memory usage, which is pretty well loaded, and a good return on the hardware. On my faster 'real time video editing' machine (i7 980X, overclocked to 4Ghz, 24GB fast memory, Windows 8 Pro, NVidia GTX770, Samsung 840 Pro SSD and WD velociraptors/WD blacks for traditional HDDs), the CPU never gets more than about 50% usage (even when LR has several concurrent jobs running that should be well loading even a fast i7). This implies to me that LR doesn't know about logical CPUs (it only uses physical ones), meaning if you upgraded from an Intel i5 to an i7, you've wasted your money with LR. That's a lot of expensive and underutilised kit - if I didnt also use the faster machine in Premiere, the upgrade between the two would have been mostly wasted on Lightroom 5!
With that in mind, CUDA/OpenCL and better optimised threaded support for modern CPUs (such as i7s) is becoming a bit more than a minor failing - Adobe really need to sit back and optimise the codebase rather than throwing out new candy all the time!
Recommended for LR3 users who get the LR4 process engine and a bit of new stuff thrown in. Grudgingly recommended for LR4 users who want to get the latest releases of Camera RAW, which will be important if you expect to buy a new, currently-unreleased camera model in the next 18 months. Equally grudgingly recommended to Photoshop CC users who need to update LR for round-tripping files between the two.
If you are none of these categories and already have LR4, I'd suggest LR5 is really just an 'LR4.5' point release: some new workflow tools, some minor tweaks (e.g. export seems faster than LR4) and expected updates to keep up with CC, but nothing you can't really live without if you are not already committed to the LR5 beta. Lack of hardware support for OpenCL and CUDA is a disappointment (given that it could have put laptop users on a par with desktop users for responsiveness), but lack of proper multi-threaded optimisation for a pro graphic editing application in 2013 is plain lazy, and I expect/hope this is being held back for LR6.
Don't get me wrong, Lightroom is a very powerful and well designed application and every digital photographer should have a copy: if you don't have Lightroom at all then this is clearly a 5 star must-have. It's just that if like me, you already have LR4 then you may want to miss this release.
On the plus side, its still FAR cheaper than Photoshop, and you are not required to subscribe to that awful Creative Cloud nonsense!
*** Update Nov 2013 ***
Having used DxO optics Pro 9 since this review, I can add that although Adobe have it cracked on workflow, the quality of their core editing tools leaves a lot to be desired when considering the competition. If it wasn't for the lack of the adjustment brush and other 'workflow tools' in DxO, I'd be over to DxO in a shot. The noise reduction on DxO 9 has to be seen to be believed: turns your APS-C into a full frame low light demon! Also, the exporting is optimised for multicore (100% utilisation on my 12 logical core i7). At the moment I'm having to add noise reduction/lens/perspective calibration in DxO (As all three are FAR better in DxO over LR5), then export from there into LR as .dng, then edit in LR. C'mon Adobe, you're getting left behind on the core technical quality of the results!