Quick Look: Lightroom 2.6 for iPhone

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I’ve had a few days with this newest Lightroom Mobile update, and I’m still on the fence about whether it’s a net improvement. The previous UI wasn’t scaling well for new editing features, so you had to do a lot of scrolling before you could go from basic exposure controls to something more advanced, like Dehaze. This v2.6 update to Lightroom has re-designed the editing interface from the ground up, making for much faster, tiered access.

One definite plus to this new design is that editing, on the whole, feels much faster. There’s a horizontal for Light, Color, Effects, and Optics controls. That’s just four categories for controls, as opposed to the seven different sections available in the previous version of Lightroom.

The trick here is that the categories are now tiered. If you tap on Light, you’ll see standard sliders for exposure and contrast first. However, if you tap one level deeper, you can start to adjust the tone curves for whites, highlights, shadows, and blacks. This means that getting to the tone curve and split toning still takes about as long as it did before. However, that’s not the case for other controls, like Dehaze and Vignetting. These are now grouped together under the Effects category, which makes them much easier to apply.

I do think the reorganization of Lightroom is a plus for the editing experience, but I’m not sure I love the new setup for rating and rejecting photos. I really loved the old “Speed Review” gesture for flagging, and it made sense to me that it was an optional gesture. You could use it if you found it useful, or you could turn it off if you found it too easy to trigger. In Lightroom 2.6, the whole concept of Speed Reviews is gone. You now activate a Rate & Review mode along the top of the screen, which activates a filmstrip of pictures and a control bar for flagging and starring photos. It feels simpler and more straightforward, but it lacks the speed and flexibility that I enjoyed so much in previous versions of Lightroom. Lightroom 2.6 seems to want to enforce the idea of rating and reviewing first, and then getting down to editing. This may be a bit like how iOS 7’s beta was launched with a super-thin font that was lovely and minimal, but difficult to read, and ultimately corrected in the release version of iOS 7. I’m hoping that a future version of Lightroom will bring back the Speed Review as an option.

One feature I am intrigued by is the new Info section of Lightroom Mobile. It’s here that I can add a title, caption, and copyright information to each photos (alongside the star and flag buttons). This seems like the perfect section to add keywords to, which is an organizational feature that I’ve been dying to see in Lightroom Mobile. I don’t like creating too many Collections (a.k.a. albums), so I make heavy use of keywords in the desktop version of Lightroom to subdivide pictures. Adding and filtering by keywords has to come to Lightroom Mobile eventually, and I think the Info tab is where that feature might live.

Lightroom 2.6 actually feels a lot like iOS 7 did when it was first released. Adobe has talked about setting the stage for future features, and while I don’t love this very first iteration of the interface, it looks like it’s setting the stage for a lot more power in Lightroom Mobile down the line.

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