Test Results: Lightroom imports 600% slower than the competition (Video)

My Facebook, Twitter, and blog comments have been lighting up over the last week since Adobe released version 6.2.  The outrage from photographers paying monthly for software that crashes at least every 5 minutes has been electric!

But in this post I'll set aside the crashing issues (that still are NOT fixed in the patch released after 6.2).  I'd like to focus on the dramatically poorer performance in Lightroom 6 vs the competition: Photo Mechanic, Capture One, and the Photos app from Apple.

My question is if I should be looking at alternatives to Lightroom to improve the culling process, which has progressively gotten slower with each version of Lightroom over the last 18 months.

I ran a test by taking 97 RAW photos from my Fuji XT1 and importing them into all three computers.  In all cases, I transferred the photos from my SD card to my hard drive, and added but did not move or copy the photos on import.

Test results importing 97 photos into each program:

  • Lightroom- 190 seconds just to bring in the photos, 685 seconds to bring in all photos and build full previews
  • Capture One – 27 seconds to bring in photos, 114 seconds to bring in all photos and build full previews
  • Photo Mechanic – 12 seconds to bring in photos and allow for lightning fast full-screen browsing
  • Photos App – 9 seconds to bring in all photos and allow for lightning fast full-screen browsing
  • Dark Table – 14 seconds to bring in all photos and allow for lightning fast full-screen browsing


42 thoughts on “Test Results: Lightroom imports 600% slower than the competition (Video)”

  1. Yeah, Lightroom has gotten unbearable. I spec’d out the fastest computer I could, but working with 5DS-R raw files is unbearable. Switching between photos takes several seconds, and when you have hundreds of photos to sort through…

    Oh, and panoramas/HDR are sweet, but combining several 50 MP photos just multiplies the slow.

    1. @Tony – I’m with ya. I keep giving Adobe a pass for the slowness by saying “Well, they’re adding lots of new features.” But every time I look at Capture One which is WAY faster AND has more features…. I stop wanting to give Lightroom a pass.

    2. Good to hear I’m not the only one. Do you professional guys have any alternatives? I like the develop module and the preset community, but the lag drives me crazy. Are there other, similar options out there, with nice presets and adjustment modules?

  2. Hi, Jim. I had the crashing issue too but updated one of my drivers and it seemed to take care of the crashing problem. I can’t remember which one, but I think it was a display driver (sorry, I’m not a techie with computers). Just thought I’d throw that out there. May help a person or two. I sure hope Adobe is in the process of resolving these issues. I know there’s already been an update for it…maybe they’ll keep ’em coming!

  3. Lamartiny Sales Santos

    It`s not fear. Is widely known that NEF files (RAW from Fuji X-Trans sensor) are not easy to decode/interpolate as a RAW from a Bayer pattern sensor, and its not just to Adobe. So, I guess that if the same test were done with a Bayer RAW file the result will be huge different. Who wanna try?

  4. Thanks for the video! Yeah, pretty big slowdowns over the past few versions of LR. And Adobe needs to work on improving speed, not stripping features. That said, could you provide a bit more detail about import settings?

    Did you have facial recognition turned on or off in LR? Was LR’s Address Lookup turned on or off? (I’m assuming that backups were off.) In LR, you say you built FULL previews. Were those “Standard” or “1:1”. The 1:1 previews do take a looooong time. They always have. Which other features were turned on or off?

    In Capture One you say full previews. Having not used Capture One, I have no idea what the other possible options are, or (again) what is meant by “full”.

    For Photo Mechanic, Photos, and Dark Table, you go big time apples to oranges and just say that you import to “allow for lightning fast full-screen browsing”. What does that mean? Is this comparable to 1:1? Is this comparable to “Standard”? Or is it comparable to Adobe’s “Minimal” which will build Standard or 1:1 previews on the fly.

    So more information on your exact settings of each program would be helpful. But yes, Adobe should work on improving speed/workflow, not dumbing down the interface.

    Thanks for bringing the speed issue a lot more attention! Seems to be the only thing Adobe (sometimes) responds too.

  5. Why leave that hokey first screen on, Jim?? It can easily be turned off in preferences: General: then uncheck the “Show Add Photos” box. From what I am reading, that seems to stop a lot of the crashing for folks.

    However, there still is that darned gear – another click to get to what was always on the right column. Doesn’t make any sense at all.

    1. @Gladys – I agree with the “hokey” comment, but I wanted everything to be default for the testing.

  6. I’ve changed my workflow to pre-sort my raws with http://www.fastrawviewer.com/. This thing reads raws lightning fast directly off the memory card. Granted, it doesn’t apply fancy sharpening or noise-reduction algorithms, but it still safes time compared to using Lightroom to pre-sort images.

  7. Hi Jim,

    thanks for testing that. I’m not a professional but I also looked for alternatives. After testing Capture One Pro 8 I ditched LR. Catalog features aren’t as nice as in LR but the RAW develop qualities are awesome. I miss only very few LR features of LR in COP, for example the direct comparison of images with the loupe, local highlights and shadows and the keyword handling.

    Best regards,

    1. @Syd – That’s the time for just IMPORTING the photos. The time here was to import AND build smart previews.

      Also, the timings are different for each camera’s raw file. It could be that they’ve done a better job implementing .CR2 files from a 1DX. The timings of the Fuji XT1 are pathetic.

      But I seriously doubt this is a corrupted file issue (which would break the software, not just make it slow). I’ve received HUNDREDS of comments on social media over the last couple days from people saying the same thing.

      1. Jim,
        I just replicated your test which you said 190 secs “just to bring in the photos” which I take to mean just importing.
        You could be right that Fuji raw is not ideal in LR.
        You also don’t need to build smart previews to start working on images in LR.

  8. I like the book shelf on your back, any idea what its name is and where I can find it? 🙂
    Btw, thanks for your video 🙂

  9. Thanks for sharing and testing, I am always curious how the “Big Enterprise” and “Industry Standard” stuff really works compared to the free open source competitors. I use Darktable. Plus it has some really nice FX and different denoising algorithms! I strongly suggest for those who have Mac and Linux to give it a go, 100% free…

    Watching this video has proven me that I am using the right stuff

  10. Thanks for sharing this nice article. I read it completely and get some interesting knowledge from this. I again thanks for sharing such a nice blog.

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