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Lightroom Classic CC: is it faster than CC 2015?

Written on October 24, 2017 by Matt Bach


With the latest version of Lightroom, Adobe has changed the name to "Lightroom Classic CC" from the old "Lighroom CC 2015" which now refers to Adobe's cloud-based photo service rather than the stand-alone desktop program. While this naming convention will likely cause a bit of confusion in the immediate future, the good thing is that Lightroom Classic has also received a number of performance and stability improvements.

Adobe has a new features summary for Lightroom Classic CC available on their website and we will be investigating many of the claimed performance and stability enhancements. According to the notes, performance has been improved in a wide range of tasks such as importing, generating smart previews, and scrolling through images in the Library and Develop modules. While we have not yet developed a way to test all of the aspects of Lightroom that are supposedly faster, our current test suite allows us to accurately benchmark the following tasks:

  1. Importing images
  2. Exporting images
  3. Convert RAW to DNG
  4. Generate 100 Smart & 1:1 Previews
  5. Scroll through images in the Develop Module
  6. Create HDR image
  7. Create Panorama image

If you would like to skip over our test setup and individual benchmarks, feel free to jump right to the conclusion section.

Test Setup

Listed below are the four test platforms we will be using in our testing. We opted to test a number of modern platforms along with a wide range of CPU core counts (6-18 cores).

Intel Coffee Lake-S (Z370) & AMD Ryzen (X370) Test Platform
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 5 Asus PRIME X370-Pro
CPU: Intel Core i7 8700K 3.7GHz
(4.7GHz Turbo) 6 Core

AMD Ryzen 7 1800X 3.6GHz
(4.0GHz Turbo) 8 Core

RAM: 4x DDR4-2666 16GB
(64GB total)
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive: Samsung 960 Pro 1TB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe SSD
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Software: Lightroom Classic CC & Lightroom CC 2015.12

One thing we want to note is that we are technically overclocking the Ryzen platform by using DDR4-2666 memory since we are using four sticks of dual rank RAM. According to this blog post - which we have confirmation from AMD that it is still accurate even with the new AGESA BIOS - the highest RAM speed that is officially supported with our four sticks of dual rank RAM is just DDR4-1866. Our previous Ryzen testing was performed with DDR4-2400 RAM, but even then we received a lot of comments about how we were artificially limiting the performance of Ryzen even though we were actually overclocking the platform. Since there are some RAM configurations are certified to run with DDR4-2666 RAM, we decided to use that speed of RAM in our testing rather than what is officially supported.

The images and settings we used in our testing were:

Test Images

18MP (5184x3456)
Taken on a Canon EOS REBEL T3i

HDR settings

5x 18MP RAW (5184x3456)

Auto Align, Auto Tone, No Deghost

Panorama settings

11x 18MP RAW (5184x3456)
Merged to 187MP (48085x3898)

Spherical Projection, No Crop

Import 100 Images

Lightroom Classic CC Benchmark Importing Images
Since importing images is typically the first thing you do, we thought that this would be a good place to start our testing. Adobe claims that performance when importing has been improved in the new version, but to be honest we expected a small 5-10% improvement. What we actually saw was a massive improvement with import times cut almost in half!

One odd thing we found is that the two AMD CPUs both did much better than their Intel counterparts in Lightroom CC 2015.12; so while they were still a bit faster in Lightroom Classic CC, they only saw about a 15% performance improvement. Why they did so well in the old version is a mystery, but it is nice to see that whatever problem Intel had in 2015.12 has been completely fixed in the new version.

Export 100 Images

Lightroom Classic CC Benchmark Exporting Images
Exporting images is an area where we have expected Adobe to make improvements for a while now, and while there is some performance gains it is still not quite what we hoped for. For a few CPUs, Classic CC was barely faster than the old version while for others it was ~10-30% faster. To be fair, a 10-30% performance improvement is still really good, it just isn't as dramatic as what we saw when importing images.

Convert RAW to DNG

Lightroom Classic CC Benchmark Convert to DNG
Lightroom Classic CC appears to have quite a bit of changes and improvements under the hood, but apparently not everything is better in the new version. When converting RAW images to DNG, we saw a performance drop of up to 20% depending on the CPU. The less expensive CPUs like the Core i7 8700K and Ryzen 1800X didn't see much of a performance change, but the 8+ core Intel CPUs all saw a significant increase in the time it took to convert the images to DNG.

Generate Smart Previews

Lightroom Classic CC Benchmark Generate Smart Previews
Smart preview generation is one task that Adobe specifically calls out as being improved in their "new features summary" for Lightroom Classic CC, and they definitely lived up to their claim. Depending on the CPU, we saw anywhere from a 230% to 372% performance increase. With the <$500 CPUs, this allows to the previews to be generated more than twice as fast, while the higher end CPUs generated previews three or almost four times faster! Since we are generating 100 previews, this actually equates to just ~.17 seconds per preview for the 8+ core Intel CPUs.

Generate 1:1 Previews

Lightroom Classic CC Benchmark Generate 1:1 Previews
Adobe didn't mention any improvements to 1:1 preview generation in their notes, but it looks like we are getting a major performance bump here as well. In fact, the performance increase is actually a bit higher than what we saw in the previous section with smart previews. With the <$500 CPUs we are still looking at about a 2.5x increase in performance, but the 14 and 16 core Intel CPUs were actually a little more than four times faster!

Develop Module Image Scroll

Lightroom Classic CC Benchmark Develop Module Photo Scroll
Scrolling through images in the Library and Develop module is another area that is supposed to be faster, and at least without any smart previews this seems to be the case. It isn't as dramatic as the preview generation, but we are still looking at a significant 30-60% performance improvement depending on the CPU.

Lightroom Classic CC Benchmark Develop Module Photo Scroll with Previews
Oddly, with smart previews present we actually saw a performance drop on most CPUs in the new version of Lightroom. In fact, if you compare both of the charts in this section, you will notice that while in Lightroom CC 2015.12 having smart previews allowed us to scroll through the images 20-40% faster, with Lightroom Classic CC it is actually slower. This is an odd result, but it looks like Adobe has simply optimized scrolling through images so well that having smart previews is actually a detriment rather than a help. So unless you need smart previews for non-performance reasons, we recommend skipping over them entirely in Lightroom Classic CC.

Generate HDR Image

Lightroom Classic CC Benchmark HDR Image
Unfortunately, with all the changes to Lightroom Classic CC it appears that creating HDR images took a bit of a hit. On average, it took us about 15-25% longer to create an HDR image in the new version.

Generate Panorama Image

Lightroom Classic CC Benchmark Panorama Image
Creating a panorama image saw a similar performance drop as creating an HDR image, only to a lesser degree. For this task, the Core i7 8700K performed the same in both versions of Lightroom, although the other CPUs saw between a 7% to 18% drop in performance.


So is Lightroom Classic CC actually faster than Lightroom CC 2015.12? In most cases, yes, it is significantly faster! There are a few times it stumbled, but the fact that generating previews was up to four times faster is very impressive. On average, we saw the following performance changes with Lightroom Classic CC:

Import 100 images 15-90% faster
Convert 100 images to DNG 20% slower to 6% faster
Export 100 images Up to 28% faster
Generate 100 Smart Previews 230% to 370% faster!!!
Generate 100 1:1 Previews 240% to 420% faster!!!
Develop Scroll 50 photos
(No Smart Previews)
30% to 75% faster
Develop Scroll 50 photos
(With Smart Previews)
14% slower to 2% faster
HDR Creation Total 15% to 25% slower
Panorama Creation Total Up to 20% slower

Even though we saw a ~20% drop in performance for a tasks like creating HDR and Panorama images, the overall performance gains with Lightroom Classic CC are extremely impressive. If you told us a month ago that Adobe would make generating previews 3-4x faster, we wouldn't have believed you since  that kind of performance gain across a single software update is incredibly rare. But huge kudos to Adobe for these massive performance improvements.

Although this article is primarily about comparing performance between the two versions of Lightroom, one thing we did want to touch on is how this affects which CPU you should use for Lightroom. In the chart below, we have the performance for CPU we tested relative to the Intel Core i7 8700K. The big difference in this chart compared to some of our older charts is that the higher core count CPUs are now much better not only for exporting images, but generating 1:1 and smart previews as well.

Lightroom Classic CC CPU Benchmark Performance

If you shoot a large amount of photos and hate waiting for images to export or previews to generate, then a higher core count CPU like the Core i7 7820X 8 Core, Intel Core i9 7900X 10 Core, or even the Core i9 7940X 14 Core may be a great choice depending on your budget. You certainly give up general editing performance as you get into the higher core counts, but a 30-40% reduction in the time it takes to export and generate previews can be a massive time saver. However, if this isn't a major consideration and you just want the smoothest editing experience possible, then the Intel Core i7 8700K is still our go-to recommendation for Lightroom.

Tags: Lightroom CLassic, Coffee Lake, Ryzen, Skylake-X, Threadripper
Jacob Pawloski

Another great article Matt!!

Posted on 2017-10-26 03:12:30

Great read Matt. It would be curious to see the benchmarks with an additional 'GPU disabled' row, to see what if any further workload has been migrated over to GPU since the previous version, and to help evaluate what emphasis (if any) should be put on investing in a high end GPU for a LR system build.

Posted on 2017-10-26 03:15:40

As far as I'm aware, the GPU isn't used for any of the tasks we tested. I believe it is only used when actually applying corrections in the develop module which is something we still haven't figured out an accurate way to benchmark. It's possible I missed something in the update notes (or something wasn't documented) but that is my current understanding.

Posted on 2017-10-26 03:22:42

Appreciate all your hard work on Lightroom benchmarking! Are you still planning to do a Full HD vs 2560 vs 4K performance review? Thinking of upgrading to a 4K monitor, but worried LR performance will fall through the floor. Some solid figures to work with would be great. :-) I'm guessing a better graphics card won't make much of a difference to the performance.

Posted on 2017-11-25 11:20:32
Adam Palmer

I'm super curious about that too!

Posted on 2017-10-26 22:26:12

Great article Matt! I was excited to hear that LR performance was supposed to be getting faster, but was curious to see just how much. These results look great, though surprising about the HDR and Pano. Most of the processors here are multi-core / multi-thread giants, it would be interesting to see how a more mundane processor like the i5-8600k stacks up.

Posted on 2017-10-26 12:28:20

I would love to see those numbers as well. I also would have REALLY loved it if they added some of the "How Much Faster is a Modern Workstation" CPUs into the mix; like the i7-2600K, i5-3570K, and i7-7700K. Those 3 and the i5-8600K would have rounded out an old versus new LR and old versus workstation as well as really showing the differences with cores/threads.

Posted on 2017-11-05 12:57:38
Adam Palmer

Always nice to see the hard numbers behind Adobe's claims :)

Posted on 2017-10-26 22:25:44

Complete opposite of my experience. I cannot use LR Classic it’s so bad. Import is the only thing that’s faster. After that in the develop module it’s freezes, delays, screen blanking, the local adjustment tools are the worst causing massive freezes, takes up to 90s to be able to use the gradient tool. All other apps such as PS CC 2018 run very fast on my system which is AMD 1700x, 32BG RAM, Nvidia GTX1080Ti, Samsung 960 EVO 1TB SSD, WD 4TB Black HDD.

Posted on 2017-10-27 23:35:28
Chris Giles

Awwww I've been waiting for this. Nice. With the smart previews are you forcing Lightroom's hand by renaming the folder as I always found smart previews weren't so great until I did.

Posted on 2017-10-29 11:58:35
Jason Whitaker

Fantastic article ... informative and a little eye opening on just what is improved and what might not be. Would love to see this include a more mainstream 4 core processors for those of us using the likes of a i7 7700k or something in that range ( since I am not ready to fork over the money yet for a new processor and MoBo)

Posted on 2017-10-31 16:34:07

My LRCCC got way slower with an 7900X while using a second monitor 4K output... I can't even really use the ALT key plack an white point function as it gets below 1fps and takes forever to catch up with my inputs into the blacks/whites sliders.

Posted on 2017-11-02 13:57:37

Ok interresting read, but it is not touching the real problems why Lr gets slow as melasse.

How to get pain from Lr:

1. canon files where always faster to process, use nikon NEF
2. Use something high res, 36Mpx or more
3. Use more pictures, an amount a typical fashion or wedding photographer shoots on a full day, 1000+ raws
4. try to select sharp and unsharp images from this set ( 1:1 view)
5. use local brushes and gradients on a good amount of these pictures
6. seperate this bigger shoots in sets (ex. 1500pictures in 15 sets a 100 images), apply looks and adjustment on a set and export the set, then go to next set
7. Make websize previews (ex. 1880p) on a (ex. 10% of all images) selection of this shoot

This would be more realistic and show the real pain with memory leaks and performance degeneration and that the Lr. slowness is a problem unsolvable with money and faster hardware.

optional just for the fun and how unusable slow new features could get:
+ try the new luminare masks from cc on top of local adjustmets and collorgrades (killing export times)

another hughe pain and main reason presets like VSCO exists:
try to edit gamma curves on big raws in a big set, lift and lower black and white points -> for own color grades you need this
---> this is never working with 60fps, not even 20fps, means it is not intuitive or accurate

and for goods sake do all this on the same system with c1 pro, result you will never touch Lr again

Posted on 2017-11-07 08:12:42

My problem with LR alternatives is finding a DAM alternative. With the switch to "Classic" I tried about a dozen options. Many were pretty good, but none had options I really wanted. Or they would have a stand out feature but be missing too many other things.

Posted on 2017-11-12 03:33:31

This is pretty funny and kind of classic Adobe. They tout improved preview creation - and deliver in spades, but then they make the program slower if you have previews, so the very thing they are pushing is now irrelevant. Virtually all of these tasks are pretty easy to multi-thread, since most of them are operating on multiple individual images anyway, but there still is very little improvement with more cores. It would be interesting to see a comparison run with a fast dual core and quad core. The fact that scroll is so much slower in a high core count processor with twice the RAM is simply inexcusable.

Posted on 2017-12-03 02:25:31
Jim Kiefer

Great article! Out of frustration with my current performance with LR, I did some searching on the photoshop forums, and found multiple postings like the attached. High spec (Windows) machines having terrible performance, particularly in the develop module. If you read the thread below, another performance fix in LR is on its way. They are saying it will start liking many cores and more RAM. Would be interested to see how that fix improves develop module performance, and what type of machine would be ideal at that point.


Posted on 2017-12-17 16:51:58