- Ease of use | Enjoyable | Can be customized
- No wrist adjustment | Some tools could do with refinement
Photography enthusiasts and professionals alike have been able to enjoy image editing suites with advanced features for a number of years.
One of the most well-known variants is Adobe Lightroom, first introduced as a bolt-on for Photoshop which focused more on fine-tuning photos rather than general image editing tasks.
Adobe Lightroom has gone through many evolutions, from desktop standalone software to the latest CC version, part of Adobe's Creative Cloud and a subscription-based service.
No matter what option you go for, Lightroom offers a wide variety of tweaks for modern photographs, including preset effects, changes to exposure, hues, clarity, tones, and more.
To make editing workflows using this program smoother, the Loupedeck was born.
The brainchild of ex-Nokia product developers from Finland, following a successful Indiegogo campaign, the plug-and-play console has been designed to work with Lightroom on both Mac and Windows machines.
While niche, the Loupedeck could become another useful tool for busy photographers. But is it worth the €299 price tag? ZDNet finds out.
AT A GLANCE
The Loupedeck is slightly smaller than your average keyboard, coming in at 156mm by 400mm, and is very lightweight. There is a slightly plastic feel and without any flexible stand or means to alter the angle, it might be uncomfortable to use for those with larger hands for a longer period of time.
However, as someone with small hands, the angle or lack of angle was not a personal issue.
The Loupedeck looks modern, stylish, and I like the clean lines of the design. It's obvious that the designers have spent some serious thought and time on the layout, which includes a number of different toggles, dials, and slides for various editing tasks.
The console is powered simply by the USB cable provided and there is no need for an external wall outlet or plug.
INSTALLATION AND SETUP
Loupedeck comes with the console, an integrated USB cable, a quick start guide and legal notice in minimalist packaging.
The setup was easy. The company warns that you should not plug in the console immediately; rather, it is important for you to download the software to use the device properly from the Loupedeck website first.
The installation package is available for Windows and Mac, but beware -- if you are using Adobe Lightroom under version 6, the console will not work and you will see a warning and an upgrade will be necessary.
The console is compatible with Adobe Lightroom 6 or later, Windows 10 or later, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Mac OS 10.12 or later, Mac OS 10.11, or Mac OS 10.10.
When the package has been installed successfully, you will need to open up Lightroom, where you will be met with a window asking you to confirm the default setup of the console or make any changes based on your most-used functions in a workflow. You can assign roles to a spare dial and two spare buttons on the deck, as well as the P1 -- P8 tabs.
Once you are happy with the setup -- which you can change at any time by simply opening the Loupedeck software -- click go, and that's it.
FUNCTIONALITY AND PERFORMANCE
"It's a hands-on and highly intuitive accessory that you can use instead of a mouse or pen and keyboard," the developers say. "If you desire an interface where eyes and hands work seamlessly together so that the full potential of every frame is at fingertip control, Loupedeck is for you."
Well, let's find out.
I used a photo taken with my Canon DSLR of my cat as a test subject.
It took about 20 minutes to familiarize myself with the console's buttons, slides, and levers, but once I knew roughly where everything was, I began to edit.
While I did not spend as much time on the example photograph as I would usually do for a professional job, I did find that the editing process was a lot quicker than usual -- and more enjoyable.
One of the key components was the speed of different controls. I would usually spend a long time moving my mouse in infinitesimal amounts to get just the right percentage when changing contrast, exposure, or experimenting with hues, but it was a lot easier to get the right balance using the console, which can go up in small percentages or higher depending on your preference.
You can choose between two modes when it comes to speed -- speed, or accuracy.
The first option is best for quick edits, while accuracy mode is best for small adjustments. The dials and knobs offer just enough resistance when you are editing and feel solid.
I particularly liked the buttons and slides for hue, saturation, and luminosity. I've always found the standard mouse-based sliders for these elements in Lightroom irritating to use, but the dials on the Loupedeck made this process easier.
I also found the simple color to black & white (and back) buttons handy, especially if you have a heavy workflow and many images which could be finished in either format.
The crop and rotate tools were a bit tricky to learn how to use -- and in the end, a mouse was quicker -- but with more practice and some kinetic memory, I think it could become a useful feature.
One of the best benefits I found of using the console, however, is that I spent far more time actually looking at the image rather than shifting my gaze to mess with dials and sliders on the standard Lightroom deck, which is all to the good while editing images.
In addition, as I spent very little time using my mouse, when there are hundreds of photos to go through, it will likely reduce wrist and hand strain.
The Loupedeck console is not a replacement for your mouse or keyboard but acts as a go-between which can be highly useful in boosting editing speeds.
In the future, I would like to see a flexible stand introduced into the design to make it more easy to use and more accessible, and perhaps a metal finish would further boost the design and appeal -- as well as justify the price tag.
However, for photography enthusiasts and professionals, despite some potential tweaks to its design, once you have familiarized yourself with the console it is a joy to use.
I'm not sure whether it is worth the price tag unless you plan to use it daily for heavy workflows and tailor the console to your own specifications, and it seems to be a tool you need to use and spent time learning in order to make it a worthwhile investment.
Overall, the Loupedeck is a tool certainly worth considering for those who are constantly using Lightroom for editing purposes and want to achieve the same results in less time -- and with less strain.