Well, Lightroom it was and Lightroom it is

Over the past few days I’ve been looking at potential alternatives to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for my RAW processing and photo editing needs. It’s not that there’s a lot wrong with Lightroom, really. I’ve been using the applications, particularly those on iOS with satisfaction. With the renewal of my annual subscription coming up, I wanted to see what else is out there, at this point.

A few friends and acquaintances helped me with some recommendations and I took time to test them:

  • Capture One Fujifilm surprised me with a decent UI and a significantly better rendering of Fujifilm RAF files than Lightroom. I’d read about that but didn’t think the difference would be this stark. Adobe should really do their homework there. Sadly, the macOS app was slow, slower than Lightroom. While that was disappointing, the complete lack of an iOS application disqualified it for me.
  • Next up, I gave Affinity Photo a try and this app really shone for a number of reasons, including a very responsive user interface. The RAW renderer wasn’t as good for Fujifilm files as Lightroom’s, though. But the more important reason why I didn’t go deeper into it was the fact that this application is simply too much for my needs. It’s much closer to Photoshop than to Lightroom or Aperture (R.I.P Aperture 😢) and that’s overkill for me.
  • The last one in the pack, Pixelmator Photo, has no macOS application. I can forgive that but it doesn’t read Fujifilm RAF files at all, which would mean I’d have to convert everything into DNG first. That’s a non-starter. It’s also an app that feels very similar to Affinity Photo. Since I have a licence for it anyway (as I do for every app the Pixelmator team have produced), it stays on my iPad for situations where Lightroom is too limited for a specific task.

It was good to see what the market currently offers and what I found was a) solid choices for different sets of needs and b) the realisation that Lightroom still fits my requirements best by

  • having good, responsive iOS applications,
  • an okay macOS offering,
  • solid synchronisation of data and editing progress,
  • decent if not perfect rendering of Fujifilm RAF files,
  • and 1 TB of storage space, which works out as a very usable puzzle piece in my photo backup strategy.

If I had one wish for the Lightroom apps, it would be for Adobe to bring back geotagging. I miss this dearly from the classic Lightroom app.

Alex Hoffmann @mangochutney