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Adobe Lightroom mobile: A strong start, but still a work-in-progress

Melissa J. Perenson | April 17, 2014
For as many image editing and organizing apps as we've seen on iOS, none has come close to rivaling what you can do on your computer. Until now. Adobe Lightroom, long the gold standard for desktop digital image workflow, now brings its core capabilities to iOS in a companion app, Lightroom mobile 1.0 for iPad (and soon iPhone). In so doing, Adobe successfully reimagines Lightroom for touch. But as this 1.0 version shows, Lightroom mobile has much room to grow, both in features and in resolving first version hiccups.

Enter a collection, and you'll see image thumbnails crammed side-by-side on the display. Tap any image to view it; tap again to bring up basic image information, the histogram, and the navigation chrome, with its four navigation buttons at bottom and its upload and share button at top right. One of these buttons brings up a filmstrip view of all images, so you don't have to go back a screen to find another image; the next two run through the gamut of adjustable controls; and the final one provides cropping and image rotation.

I really liked the overall presentation and operation of Lightroom mobile. I found it mostly efficient and finger friendly. As I scanned through my images, I appreciated that I could see, at a glance, the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and resolution of an image at a glance. I also appreciated the fluid, touch interface; the touch and the gestures made selecting, editing, cropping, and sharing images a breeze. For example, tap and hold an image, then assign a rating by a simple finger flick to reject, unflag, or pick an image. The touch interface is a good start, and hopefully we'll see some of this cross over to the PC version soon, given the prevalence of touch on Windows 8.x tablets and laptops.

The editing engine covers all of the components in the Basic panel of the Lightroom Develop module. There are two edit menus, accessible via the navigation chrome beneath an image. One handles tone, color, and exposure; another effects and filters. Both menus offer editing options in a horizontal scrollbar; then, tap on a selection to call up a touch-friendly slider adjustment. Once you've edited an image, you can output the image to Twitter or Facebook, or send it via email.

As much as I could do in Lightroom mobile — and do more easily than on Lightroom on my laptop — I found myself wanting more. Yes, it was super-easy to make tweaks, but sometimes I wished I could easily enter a starting value instead of dragging my finger along the slider. I also wanted a way to add a custom crop and output resolution, which would be useful for images destined for use on the Web. I also wanted a more easily accessible way to apply my adjustments from a previous image to the current one. (Right now you have to tap on one of the two edits menus, then scroll to the far right, far more motions than should be required for a simple operation that you'd want to initiate before attempting additional edits to further tweak the settings for a given image.)


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