Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: Snapseed Versus Adobe Lightroom

So is this the Pepsi Challenge the mobile world is talking about? With much of the image editing happening now on Mobile devices, it makes good sense to have a powerful and yet cheap (read free) image editing program on your smartphone or tablet. 

For the purist, this boils down to two of the most popular, Adobe Lightroom or Snapseed. The other editing apps like PicsArt and Pixlr looks and feels more frivolous. The latter are more Photoshop competitors than image editors. 

Image editing in the purist form allows you to control the balance, color, structure and integrity of the image without the use of layers. Any image editor that adds layering is more Photoshop in scope and for purist, those are for graphic designers. 

To test how this challenge is going to be run, I will be using a Samsung GN 4. So here goes nuthin'.....

Mobile Editing Similarities

First, both Snapseed and Adobe Lightroom have DNG support for raw editing. Ok, to be clear, DNG is probably the closest thing to RAW and as an open standard, it has been adopted by few in the digital camera business. Camera manufacturers prefer to include their own raw formats than rely on one designed by Adobe. Why the fuss? I have no idea.

But for mobile, shooting in RAW is a problem. Without sufficient storage, you risk bloating your SD card and to make matters worst, only selected apps support DNG camera capture. 

Sad to add that even Adobe's Lightroom's camera capture does not support DNG capture. It is instead saved as a JPG file and there is no way to change this in the settings to capture in DNG. Bummer. 

Snapseed will read and edit files in DNG but it doesn't capture it as there is no camera option. Images can only be imported from the Gallery and there is no word if a in-app camera function would be added.

Noise Control Algorithm

Snapseed's weakest link is its inability to control noise, or for that matter allow you to edit and pare down the noise level in a picture. 

This is where Adobe Lightroom steps in to give you a selection of noise control measure as a 'preset'. The unfortunate part was that I could not get any of them to work on the app. It literally died while performing the noise control filter. 

What is the point of giving people this freedom and not having it working out of the box? I have no idea. Maybe because Adobe Lightroom Mobile version wasn't meant to do this as the editing features are really for you to sync your desktop or notebook version of Lightroom photos to your smart device?

Image Editing Operation and UX

One of the killer features of Snapseed is its UX and ease of editing a photo. You swipe to reveal the functions and that operation can be easily be done with a single hand stroke. This is not so for Adobe Lightroom Mobile. 

The User Interface is cluttered, and many of the editing views like 'before' and 'after' previews don't really work. Many times, when you select a preview, it freezes. And the menu for that selected option also gets in the way of your view.

In Snapseed, you can see the previews of your edits right away. 

What's more Adobe has managed to complicate the editing process by giving you way more than what you bargained for like histograms and image curves. For the record, histograms are only useful for large display views to see where the light drops off and how you can adjust that by minute movements of a slider. On a mobile device, this is hardly possible. 

By designing a mobile app that best matches its desktop cousins, Adobe has pretty much created a resource hog of a mobile app.

How Adobe Lightroom became a huge let down

If you start to notice, you'd realize that Lightroom on mobile is really a subset app for you to toy around with images you have on Adobe Cloud. It builds in all this capability to get you to ante up to Lightroom on PC or Notebook. 

And this is what fails it. 

People who use mobile editing aren't interested in editing on PC or Notebook devices. If I have an image which I have shot on mobile, why would I upload it to Adobe Cloud and edit it later on a PC via Adobe Lightroom on Desktop?

Similarly, why would I want to edit an image I shot on a DSLR on a mobile device by downloading a saved image from Adobe Cloud? The logic escapes me. 

People who shoot on mobile are the new casual photographers and if you are going to build a mobile friendly app, it should function as a standalone program and not try to tie itself to the the cloud. 

In Adobe Lightroom Mobile, I have even tried exporting photos to my smartphone Gallery only to have it fail miserably. I would understand if Adobe's excuse that I am running a classic Android device from 10 years ago but to not work on a GN 4 running Android Marshmallow. 

That said, Adobe Lightroom Mobile wanted to be too many things at the same time and lost sight of what a mobile experience is all about. 

This isn't the first time Adobe has fucked up. 

Its previous foray into the mobile app business with illustrator and Photoshop clones were miserable failures and even when they have rebooted their Photoshop app for the masses, it still remains to be seen if they know anything about a mobile experience that is important to smartphone users. 



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