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Lightroom Performance on the 16-inch Macbook Pro

How Lightroom Performs on Apple’s new larger MBP

Lightroom Performance on the 16-inch Macbook ProAfter upgrading to the new MBP, I was keen to see how it improved Lightroom performance. Here’s my results with Lightroom performance on the 16-inch Macbook Pro.

And if you’re more of a video user, check out my companion writeup with video export performance tests for the 16″ MBP in FCPx and Premiere Pro.

I have always found Lightroom Classic on my 2017 Macbook Pro to be painfully slow while working with Fuji X-T3 raw files. Lightroom is particularly laggy when navigating between photos in Develop view, and can also be a bit of dog when brushing or spot-healing. Exporting large numbers of photos can take a very long time. I often work with hundreds of XT3 .RAF images in a retouch session, so I was keen to speed up that workflow with this new 16″ Apple laptop.

My raw photo processing workflow generally looks something like this; first I import images, making first-pass selects while rating shots and marking bad shots for deletion. As long as you don’t apply any adjustments to the images and are reviewing them in Library view, Lightroom will show you the low-res sidecar preview that imports with each RAF raw file. This means that selects can be made with almost no lag. Once I’ve trimmed down the stack of photos to something manageable, only then I will begin customizing Develop settings. Those develop settings will then get pasted to groups of similar images, adjusting individual shots to taste. This is the point where Lightroom performance will begin to lag…navigating between images takes a moment for the develop settings to render and display. It’s nearly a 2 second lag. Because of that, at this time I’ll generally render 1:1 previews while stepping away for coffee, so that navigating between shots is snappier. From there I narrow selects down further, fine-tune my favorite images, and then export out final jpgs at the very end.

Firstly, here are the configurations we’re comparing.

Speed up Lightroom performance on the 16-inch Macbook ProOld and Busted:
2017 15″ Macbook Pro
4-core 3.1GHz i7 w/ 16GB DDR3, 500GB SSD
Radeon Pro 560 4GB / Intel HD 630
MacOS 10.13.6 High Sierra

New Hotness:
2019 16″ Macbook Pro
8-core 2.4GHz i9 w/ 64GB DDR4, 1TB SSD
Radeon Pro 5500M 8GB / Intel UHD 630
MacOS 10.15.2 Catalina

Now on to some speed tests. Here are my results showing how Lightroom performs on Apple’s new larger MBP.

Lightroom Classic speed tests 2017 15″ 2019 16″
Import & Fetch Initial Previews – 1000 RAF 05:31 04:14
Paste Settings to 1000 RAF images 07:02 05:31
Render 1:1 Previews of 1000 RAF images 1:32:54 35:53
Export 100 RAF images to JPG 85% @ 3500px 08:54 04:58

Notes: For 1:1 Preview render times, I made sure to apply the same recipe of image adjustments to each photo first. Those settings included exposure, color, grain, noise reduction, optical corrections/transforms, and radial/grad filters. Raw Fuji X-T3 image files were stored on a Samsung T5 external SSD. Lightroom Classic was version 9.1 of the application. Lightroom GPU processing was enabled on both machines, preview storage was on the internal SSD, and the Camera Raw Cache preference was set to 24GB. These are all based on Adobe’s recommendations on how to optimize Lightroom.

As you can see from the table above, Lightroom rendered 1:1 previews 2.58x faster on the new hardware, and exporting is improved by 1.79x. Those are very impressive gains. Navigating between images in Develop mode is noticeably snappier, and now takes just over a second by my count. Spot-healing and brushing performance is also improved and much less prone to lagging.

Additionally, the first step of the importing process is significantly faster on the new 16-inch, but fetching previews still takes a while…so in the end the importing numbers end up being pretty similar between models. It’s my understanding that preview-fetching is more about disk speed than processing power, so the same note about fast storage as above applies here.

Finally, I suspect that storing images and previews on a faster drive would improve all these numbers further. Something like the OWC Thunderblade, perhaps. But all in all, a well-equipped 16″ Macbook Pro makes a significant difference in Lightroom performance and usability right out of the box. I hope you’ve found this information useful.

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Matt Jeppsen is a DoP based in Sydney. Reel and contact info at www.mattjeppsen.com