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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.

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