I recently moved into the Sony mirrorless ecosystem, and with that change came much larger resolution images (and accordingly larger filesizes). Whilst previously I had used an older version of Lightroom (LR6) for my cataloguing, since the Sony A7R IV is not supported (as the software is too old), I needed to look to alternatives for tools which would allow me to catalogue and edit my images.

I have always been somewhat loathed to use the Adobe CC suite (e.g. Lightroom & Photoshop) as I hate the subscription model, I would far rather be able to purchase a copy of Lightroom 10 and use that for as long as I want, than to be tied into a subscription for an indefinite period of time. I also find that being in Australia the cost is not insignificant, at about $171 AUD per year for the Lightroom + Photoshop Suite.

With that in mind I tried (albeit briefly) a few different options from various companies to see if I could use those to replace Lightroom in some way. I had a number of different criteria that I was looking at which included:

  1. Needed to have basic catalogue / photo asset management functions, and
  2. Needed to be quick in loading and editing my images.

As you can see in reality I was not asking for too much, given I have Affinity Photo I already have the ability to conduct more complicated edits however, I was really after something that would give me the ability to do some basic photo organization, as well as had good performance. Whilst my machine is not the latest-and-greatest, it does have an 8GB GPU, 32GB RAM, i7, SSD and so on so certainty not underpowered.

I tried a few different options:

  • I did look at Luminar AI but it did not really have enough photo asset management functions. Whilst its editing capability is more than enough (and I continue to use this on a regular basis), in reality I wanted something more like a Digital Asset Management (DAM) tool.
  • I looked at ON1 Photo RAW 2021, and this seemed to be the closest fit to Lightroom however, on my system the performance was not great, I am not sure if it was my system, the resolution of the images, how I had set it up or a combination of the above but it was not really usable longer term as a DAM.
  • Finally I tried DxO Photolab 4, This does include somewhat of a DAM but it is less of a catalogue and more of a file browser which whilst it worked was a bit clunky. In terms of editing the software has an incredible amount of power, and I will no doubt continue to use this as a photo editing utility however, it was not really suitable as a DAM.

Frustratingly, it appeared I had come back to the same point and decided to give Lightroom another try (as part of a CC membership). I think secretly I wanted it to fail justifying why I could not use it but annoyingly it just worked. The catalogue function in Lightroom works well, images preview quickly and most importantly editing photos does not result in lags irrespective of the size of the files I am editing. I edit a Sony A7R IV file (61MP) the same as I edit a Nikon D610 file (24MP). This leads me to the conclusion that based on my current system, my gear and my workflow it appears (IMHO) that there is not yet a competitor for me to Lightroom (that I have tried) which still provides great performance, good catalogue and fits my needs.

I have seen a few others which I will give a go in the future (e.g. rawtherapee or darktable), but if you have any suggestions let me know!

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