In my last blog post, talking about the Tom Hogarty interview, I decided to investigate just how well Lightroom would work as a digital asset management tool. I must say that I am reporting the facts as they are here for my hardware and images, these results may not be the same for your hardware and your images, especially if you only shoot jpegs. Below is part of my last blog post:
At the moment, I have about 5,200 images imported into Lightroom. This week I plan to import about 20,000 images just to see how much the program slows down and if it slows down at all. As a test to see how fast or slow Lightroom is working, I will render 1:1 previews for one folder that contains 287 images as it is now (with 5,200 images in the catalog), then repeat this test once I have imported the new images. With 5,200 images total in my catalog it took 38 minutes 54 seconds to render the 1:1 previews for a folder containing 287 images. I will also of course work on images and see if there are other ways in which the program slows down or if it seems to run just the same as it does currently.
Before we get too far along here I would like to share with you some hardware specs because these matter. I conducted this test using an Apple G5 dual 2.0 Ghz tower with 4.5 GB of RAM. All of my images and the Lightroom catalog were on a SATA hard drive. And all of the raw images, save for one folder, were Nikon D2x raw image files which are approximately 12 MB in size.
Earlier this week I imported another 4,929 images into Lightroom bringing my grand total to 10,129 raw images in my Lightroom catalog. I ran the same test as before, rendering 1:1 previews for that same folder of 287 images and with 10,129 images in the catalog it took over twice as long to render the 1:1 previews, clocking in at 1 hour 28 minutes 15 seconds. I wasn’t really surprised by this number too much but it wasn’t too exciting either. On a separate note, most of Lightroom’s functionality seemed to run at about the same speed - changing to the Develop module and working with images was just as it was at 5,200 images in the catalog. It was only rendering previews or selecting large groups of images and trying to add metadata that took much longer than it did previously.
I continued to import images to find out what the numbers would be at 15,000. But by the time I got to 11,365 and tried to render 1:1 previews the progress bar didn’t move much at all and Lightroom became much slower than I would have wanted. Again using the Develop module didn’t seem that much slower but going to 1:1 on any images took quite a while for it to snap sharp. So, I never made it to 15,000 images and finished my testing at 11, 365. While I found that Lightroom was quite slow at this number of images this is not a defacto standard for everyone. Read on and I’ll go more into how different computing power and image size will affect just how many images you can import into Lightroom before you see a significant slow down. It is all relative.
While importing images from an assignment mid last week I decided that I needed Lightroom to run faster - so I deleted about 8,000 images out of Lightroom (bringing my total number of images in the catalog down to around 4,200). The catalog did not fair so well after that and it took a few hours for Lightroom to get back to it’s normal self. It seems like it took a while for Lightroom to remove all of those previews from the catalog after I deleted approximately 15 folders. In the end, I had to make a new catalog to work on another set of images because the old catalog did not seem to recover from the massive importation of images and their subsequent deletion.
Hence, the bottom line for my computer, my raw files and my workflow is that while Lightroom may be able to manage 10,000 images, the speed of operation takes a big hit. I won’t go so far as to say that Lightroom will not work as a digital asset management (DAM) tool but for right now with my workflow and hardware the application was a little slower that usual. If I was shooting with a lower resolution camera and had a wicked fast brand-spanking new Mac Pro tower with some serious RAM then I’m sure I could go up to 20,000 images in a catalog without any issues.
As it is now, my workflow with Lightroom works fantastic as long as I keep the number of images below 7,000 images. Not a big deal since I tend to use Lightroom as a raw processor with perks. I import images into Lightroom, render the previews, edit and process the raw images, create slideshows and web galleries then when I am finished with an assignment I delete the folder out of Lightroom. If I need to access those images again I can view them in Bridge CS3 and work with the exported tiff files in Photoshop CS3 or even reprocess them using Adobe Camera Raw 4.1 (or re-import them into Lightroom). It works just fine.
Please note that this is not a slight on Lightroom, I wanted to see for myself where the limits were for my hardware and my workflow. I had been warned by others that going over 10,0000 raw images in Lightroom would severely slow down the software and well, I found that out for myself. And I understand perfectly now why Adobe does not put out any concrete numbers or limits on how many images one should import into Lightroom. The application speed depends on so many factors that no number would really be accurate. My aging Apple G5 tower seems to work extremely well with Photoshop and all of my other applications but I think this test has exposed some of weaknesses of a 2 year old computer. If any of you have different experiences I would love to hear about them. If any of you have 100,000 high res raw files in a catalog and Lightroom continues to run like a champ I would really like to hear about that. Perhaps it is time to upgrade to a Mac Pro.
Either way, Lightroom is still the application of choice for my workflow. I don’t really need it to be a digital asset management application and I am sure this is high on the list of things Adobe is working on for version 2.0 (I don’t know for sure - just guessing).
That’s it for this session. See you next week….
Adios, Michael Clark