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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.

What's clearly missing from Lightroom mobile is the Detail module, which allowed adjustments such as sharpening, lens correction, and noise reduction. The app lacks curves and histogram adjustments, as well.

Real-world syncing

Sadly, even experienced Lightroom users will find the syncing interface very much a weak link in Lightroom mobile. In my use of Lightroom in a variety of real-world environments, with varying speeds and types of Internet connections, I encountered several issues with Lightroom mobile.

I discussed my experiences at length with Adobe, but as of this writing Adobe had not identified what caused the problem. My educated suspicion is that Lightroom mobile had difficulty navigating inconsistent or interrupted Internet connections, such as those that I experienced at a hotel, and at a sporting venue.

Another disappointment: Images aren't automatically available for viewing offline. This requires an extra step, for each album, and then requires you wait for the images to download. I'd have preferred to see it as part of the initial sync, just so it was part of the sync itself, not anything else.

When you do save a collection to the iPad, you're not saving the original RAW, JPEG, or TIFF file, but rather Adobe's Smart Preview version. If you shoot RAW, Lightroom's Smart Previews reduces resolution to 2560 pixels on the long edge, and the file size to 95 to 97 percent of the original image (to 1MB to 2MB). JPEG images get reduced to 80 to 85 percent of their original size (to about 1.5MB).

Bottom line

It's hard to find an app these days that shakes up the status quo, but Lightroom mobile achieves just that for digital imaging on the iPad. It's the first app that makes me feel the iPad can be a serious, useful companion in the image editing and selection process. That said, the syncing issues I experienced were very frustrating, some interface choices confound, and many features just don't go far enough to satisfy. Still, in spite of its limitations and flaws, Lightroom mobile is the new must-have app for photographers and photo enthusiasts alike.

 

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