Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis

Yes, I was looking forward to upgrade to Lightroom 6. The main factor was the performance improvement promised by Adobe. I do not have a super PC to be honest but the upgrade is always a painful exercise (read $$). I am happy with my current platforms and I will explain why. Before fully committing to Lightroom 6 however I thought I give a try and that is why I came up with a Lightroom 6: performance analysis

In my previous business life I used to work on performance analysis on Telecom hardware. I tried therefore to have a similar approach, although I do not have all of the expensive measurement tools used in my Network Engineering life. But that’s ok, I wanted to have an idea about the performances, not really about 1 second less or 2 seconds more.

Testing platform

For my photography work I travel quite a bit. I have therefore 2 platforms, the first one in my studio with a desktop computer, this is where I do most of my work when I am in Melbourne. When I am travelling however I take with me my Laptop and that is what I use in the hotel rooms. Because most of my work in 2014 has been related to Travel and Cycling, I spent a considerable amount of time on the road.

My usual process is:

  1. make the photos during the day (this is the part I love most from the day)
  2. once back at the hotel I would straight away take my laptop and download the photos (anything between 100 and 400 or more, based on the day)
  3. synchronize the folders on Lightroom with 1:1 preview (I am really after the details in my photos and any other rendering would cause a pane in the Library module)
  4. select, rate and tag the photos
  5. delete any photo which is not good
  6. rename the photos with a meaningful name
  7. if I have to deliver by the night, as it was the case for the cycling assignments, I proceed with the post-production
  8. once finished I export
  9. last step, download on shared drive, hoping the internet will cope with that

With a limited budget I preferred to allocate more money on my laptop, to take it to a similar level as my PC, although clearly the graphic card on the laptop is not as good (more on this later)

I wanted therefore to do a Lightroom 6 performance analysis on the things that annoyed me the most:

  • import process
  • export process

I never really had problems in post-production. Both computers are quite good. I preferred to work more on the RAM side, now at 16GB, than on CPU. Another upgrade soon to come is the SSD drive.

The import/export processes are a real time consuming business and you can’t really do too much

Lightroom 6 : performance analysis

I did the performance analysis on both the desktop and laptop as I am interested in both the environments. It may not be the case for everybody of course.

I started with the PC and Lightroom 5.6, my present version. I created a brand new collection without photos.

I created three folders with 100, 200 and 400 photos, that is the quantity I usually work with. I did the import of the the 100 and collected the time. I deleted (not removed) the photos to go back to a clean collection. I than did the same for the 200 and the 400 photos

I installed the evaluation copy of Lightroom 6.0 and did exactly the same. Having the same environment would mean that I compare apples with apples.

By the way, why is Lightroom 6 supposed to be quicker?

Because Lightroom 6 has the ability to use the graphics processor on your compatible video graphics card. This processor is called the GPU (graphics processor unit).

Graphic Card Lightroom 6

Graphic Card Lightroom 6

Does it make such a big difference? Is it really the main game changer?

Lightroom 6 : performance analysis >>  Sync/Import on workstation with graphic card

These are the results. The analysis is not about how long does my computer take of course LOL. It is about the difference between Lightroom 5 and Lightroom 6.

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis - Import/Sync

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis – Import/Sync

The first column identifies the number of the imported/synced photos. The other columns are  in minutes and seconds (

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis - Import/Sync

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis – Import/Sync

What is this collected data and chart telling me?

  1. the difference in performances between Lightroom 5 and 6 is quite considerably. The import/sync phase takes about 25-30% less time than with Lightroom 5.
  2. The graphic card is now an important part of my computer. It was already with Photoshop or other similar software but now it becomes king also with Lightroom, which is my main software. Adobe clearly states that the GPU will help the develop module and, in my opinion, it helps the import as well

Next action?

Buy a better graphic card. I was already thinking about it and this is probably the push I needed, beside the good excuse to use with my wife

Lightroom 6 : performance analysis >>  Export with workstation

I have moved on and worked on the export performance in a similar process. Straight to the performance results

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis - Export

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis – Export

The numbers already highlight an improvement

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis - Export

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis – Export

What is this collected data and chart telling me?

  1. the export phase is about 20-30% quicker.
  2. the more photos you export the more you save in time (percentage wise). This is not my case however if you export a massive amount of photos at time, this is clearly a winner

Lightroom 6 : performance analysis >>  Sync/Import with a Laptop

Open eyes and disbelief. My Laptop graphic card is not good enough for Lightroom 6. I have upgraded all the possible drivers but no way. Still errors.


Graphic Card Lightroom 6 not working

This is one thing you may want to check before buying Lightroom 6. There are more information in this Adobe Page.

I proceeded anyway with the test. I wanted to understand if the new Lightroom could help me anyway with my laptop performance (I was having my pot of tea and even though I suspected it was wasted time….well…why not).

Did I have any surprise in my tests?

Yes I did. Let’s keep going

So this is the new collected data. Please note that Lightroom 6 is now not using the graphic card.

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysUpgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis - Import/Syncis - Import/Sync

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis – Import/Sync

Here no surprise. Similar values

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis - Import/Sync

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis – Import/Sync

What is this collected data and chart telling me?

  1. I need to buy a new laptop with a new graphic card if I want to improve 🙁

Lightroom 6 : performance analysis >>  Export with a Laptop

Is actually the graphic card helping with the export phase? I would not expect that. It is a computational exercise. Not much graphic involved

If the export is quicker, than it would mean that Lightroom has improved using the same existing technology (the import/sync has improved because of the graphic card)

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis - Export

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis – Export

Indeed the export time is so much better!!

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis - Export

Upgrade to Lightroom 6 : performance analysis – Export

What is this collected data and chart telling me?

  1. the graphic card is not involved in the export process, as expected
  2. it may be a nice feature to have thinking back at the nights in the hotel waiting for the export phase. In saying that probably I cannot justify the Lightroom 6 price for 3-4 minutes gain.

Lightroom 6 : exported files >> is there any difference ?

At the end of these tests I was a bit suspicious that I did something wrong with the export phase. There was quite a big timing difference in the export process.

What did I do?

I went into the export folders and I checked the generated JPG from Lightroom 5 and Lightroom 6. The dimension is different, however there is not really a pattern, like bigger or smaller. The difference is around 20-40K which is really minimal in a 10M JPG file.

I opened them and checked the quality. I can’t see any difference

Of course I did not expect Adobe to fail on this step, that would have been too big.


Does it make sense to upgrade from Lightroom 5 to Lightroom 6?

This is just a performance analysis of course. In my case I would definitely go for it, at least for my desktop computer. The speed is improved a lot. Also the develop module seems quicker, although it is too difficult to do any test without any real proper tool, moreover I prefer to use my time for photography and not for testing LOL

I would upgrade also because there are few things, one on top, that will definitely make my life easier:

  1. Graduated or Radial filters. Now you can use a brush to edit the filter’s mask, adding or subtracting filter effects wherever you want. This is something I was usually doing on another software, now I can do it here, saving more time. I love this feature!
  2. HDR. I like to do some HDR photography from time to time. I usually use Photomatix. I would have  make a post just for the difference between Photomatix and Lightroom 6. In few words, the HDR feature is not something that would make me buying Lightroom. You do not have any control in the final image. But still, I have really to work with it. So it is a bit premature. One thing I noticed is that it takes quite a while to make the final image. The idea to create a dng file is actually great. That means you still have a raw photo
  3. Panoramic. I am not big into panoramic photography. I tried to use it and it looks awesome although it takes much longer than Photoshop. This is a real niche market, with photographers that would probably decide to go for a specialised software. Not a game changer in my opinion

Price wise you can choose between the Lightroom 6 or the CC solution. As in the past I guess you need to choose between the two options:

  1. you buy Lightroom 6 (US$149) and you can use it for as long as you like it, or at least till the next Lightroom version comes out and the included features interest you
  2. You subscribe to CC ($10/month) and you have both Lightroom and Photoshop. This seems a real deal to my eyes. The only problem is that Adobe will obviously increase the price soon (to good to be true otherwise) and if you do not pay, they disconnect you. I am not sure about the photos but I guess you can always download them from the cloud. The pain is that you can’t open them if you decide to leave CC. A bit confusing, although this is probably the new directions of the software companies

What to go for? There are clearly benefits and disadvantages in both solutions. It is really a personal decision.

What next

I am interested to your opinion. What do you think of the upgrade? Are you thinking to buy the new version? If you do which solution, CC or 6?

Have you already bought it? How do you like it? What do you think?


All images are Creative Commons, Non-Commercial
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Stefano Ferro
Stefano is a travel and landscape photographer with a background in cycling, movie and lifestyle photography. When in Melbourne, his hometown, you will see him cycling around at sunset or sunrise looking for the best spot for a photo of this beautiful city. It is quite amazing how much photography gear he can pack on his bike :o

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