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08-16-2008, 12:16 AM   #1
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LightRoom (not free) vs Picasa (free)

I have a very fast PC, consisting of a quad-core CPU running at 3.6GHz, 4Gb of RAM, nVidia 8800 Ultra video card driving a 30" Samsung monitor (fully colour balanced).

OK - I have Picasa - free from Google. It reads all my JPGs of course, but it also reads my RAW files in DNG format from both my Pentax cameras - one K10D and one K20D. It renders the thumbnails in a flash, and keeps them in a cache so that I can scroll as fast as possible and never have to wait for thumbnails to appear or be re-rendered.

I can import a folder full of DNG RAW files, and they take a second or so to render the full-size picture if I pull up a single photo. But I can then sharpen, adjust colour balance, red-eye, bring up the shadows, adjust colour temperature, etc etc - all on the RAW file, - AND ALL AT VERY HIGH SPEED.

OK - so now I fire up Lightroom (v1.4.1 or v2 0 both the same). Now, the thumbnails take FOREVER to render, they render in stages, and the full-sized picture takes several seconds to render on screen. Changes I make, such as those referred to in Picasa above, but when done in LightRoom, take ages. It's like swimming through molasses, after the whiz-bang-flash of Picasa.

Now I know I may be comparing apples and oranges here, but Picasa seems to be doing a pretty damn good job of processing all my photos, including all my DNG RAW files, and it is FAST. Lightning fast!

So - what is the advantage of Lightroom over Picasa? Can someone tell me again why the paid-for Lightroom is better than the free Picasa?

And just to throw another spanner in the works - Aperture on my new Macbook Pro is also WAY faster than Lightroom - but not yet as fast as Picasa on the very fast PC. If only they'd do a Mac version of Picasa......

So - am I the only one who thinks that Lightroom is WAY too slow, and could/should be speeded up?

What am I missing here? The output from Picasa seems pretty good to my eyes on this high-res , calibrated monitor, and they print out just fine on my Epson R1900 printer.....

08-16-2008, 04:33 AM   #2
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I use Picassa for all of my newspaper shots. Lightroom is better, albeit slower here too, at really fine tuning particular shots. However, for partial manipulation like dodge/burn I use PSE6.
08-16-2008, 04:43 AM   #3
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I use neither software at present (though am considering Picasa) - but I understand that Adobe Lightroom has some kind of integration with Adobe Photoshop built in, which is presumably an advantage not shared by Picasa? Photoshop being the "standard" photo-editor these days and all.
08-16-2008, 06:32 AM   #4
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If Picassa meets your needs then you should use it. I don't have a computer as spiffy as yours but importing a folder with 4.32Gb of PEF files took me 10 seconds. I'm sure Picassa is quicker but this doesn't fall into the "forever" catagory for me.

08-16-2008, 07:17 AM   #5
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Are you pre-creating the 1:1 previews before you start editing? Quickest way I know how to speed up Lightroom. All it uses up is disk space, which is cheap.

Picasa is faster because it does much, much less.
08-16-2008, 09:02 AM   #6
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I love Picasa and use it 90% of my editing. I don't have Lightroom but do have Elements 6. Elements will do some things that I can't do in Picasa but I find it much slower and somewhat of a resource hog. I am using an older system, P4- 2.4Gig, and Elements runs very slow. It can take a minute or more to make the changes to a photo after I edit it. Picasa runs very fast. I have at times considered buying Lightroom but it isn't cheap and I suspect I will probably keep using Picasa most of the time anyhow just because it is so quick and easy to use. If the folks at Google can slide in a few more features to Picasa and still keep it lean and mean they will own photo editing like they do search.
08-16-2008, 09:24 AM   #7
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Picasa is good for the quick and dirty... It's the pocket Wegner tool for those simple jobs where the one button fix or the I'm Feeling Adventurous button will do. Picasa works well, and yes, very fast, particularly if it's a photo that just need slight retouching.

Lightroom is more like the well equipped tool box, good for most jobs, while other more advanced tools like PS and Gimp are more so the full service shop, ready to manipulate your image into the next frame

But Lightroom is a hog - slow compared to just about anything out there. Just go to the Adobe Lightroom forums and have a read. The latest issue with v2 is the sticky slider situation. Quite annoying to say the least.
08-16-2008, 08:07 PM   #8
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One big difference between Picasa and Lightroom is that editing RAW files in LR is nondestructive, meaning that it won't mess with the original RAW file. I used Picasa for a while and it was good, but one thing that really bugged me about it was that it overwrote my original RAW images with JPG images instead of creating a separate JPG file when I would go to save my edited image.

When I need to do quick and dirty editing, I use Irfanview and as long as I'm careful, I can do nondestructive editing in it, as well.


08-16-2008, 08:30 PM   #9
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Actually, Heather, Picasa is also non-destructive. It saves all your edits then applies them to the original as it renders it to screen. If you then click on the "Save changes" button at the top of any album, Picasa will save the edited versions as JPGs, BUT it will save the originals in a subfolder called - you guessed it - "Originals"

Of course, if you then do MORE edits, and then save AGAIN, your original originals WILL be overwritten by the "new" originals - if you see what I mean.

I tend to do ALL my edits, save the changes, then copy the "Originals" folder off to something else, like a DVD. And, of course, I do keep a backup folder of original, untouched photos directly imported off the SD card, and I NEVER work on THAT folder - only a copy of the folder. Hard drive space is cheap these days, as are blank DVDs.

I'm not trying to compare the two products in terms of all the other things - of COURSE Lightroom is a much more "pro" product, and will do a heap of stuff that Picasa won't. But so will Aperture, and it is almost as fast as Picasa.

My post, and "comparison" were purely regarding the speed to screen, and the responsiveness, or lack of it, between the two programs.

I just returned from a day out at sea whalewatching, with several hundred photos, all in DNG RAW (Pentax K20D using bursts of continuous-mode shooting. I started to process them in Lightroom, but it was like wading through mud. It was taking forever to do anything. Just as an exercise, I switched to Picasa, imported the entire 16 Gb worth of photos, sorted them, tweaked them, one click of sharpening, and saved the keepers as both 8-bit and 12-bit JPGs which I then burned to DVD for my brother to take home to the UK. All of this took about one hour, with Picasa not skipping a beat and feeling lightning fast.

The next morning, I did the same thing, but using Lightroom, as a more definitive process, rather than the "quick and dirty" one I did for my brother. I ran out of patience after about 2 hours, with everything feeling so slow, Lightroom crashing twice, and the end results being no better to my eyes than those I did the night before.

I don't hate Lightroom - I use it. But I do hate its lack of speed and responsiveness, even on a very high-spec machine. That was my main point. What is it doing that Picasa isn't, that slows down its screen rendering so much?

Last edited by Derridale; 08-16-2008 at 10:39 PM.
08-16-2008, 08:40 PM   #10
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I am quite confussed how LR is running so slowly for you, I use LR2 and on occasion Picasaa and LR is notably faster. Rendering previews upon import is a good habit to get into as it greatly increases the speed of LR. Picasa renders these previews by defaul which is the likely cause of some of the speed issues.
Maybe a fresh install is needed or a closer look at your preferences, maybe LR isn't getting access to all cores+enough ram.


EDIT: Also why have both v1 and 2 of lr installed, it should, but sometimes that can mess things up.

Last edited by Mikhail; 08-16-2008 at 08:51 PM.
08-16-2008, 10:00 PM   #11
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Pete, I was also experiencing pretty serious issues of crashing and slow everything in Lightroom when I upgraded to 2.0. I had over 800 GB of photos in one main catalog. It was suggested that I split and create catalogs by year. After doing that Lightroom 2.0 is running well. I have experienced the sticky slider issue once or twice, but that is out of literally hours and hours and hundreds of images edited so far. It is frustrating when it happens though.
08-16-2008, 10:20 PM   #12
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Thanks for the replies.

Mikhail - I have LR1 and LR2 installed only because I haven't yet been sufficiently impressed with v2 to uninstall v1.4.1

No doubt, I'll uninstall v1 soon.

As far as RAM etc goes, I have a quad-core CPU running at 3.6 GHz, with 4Gb RAM, and XP Pro with SP3 and all other updates. It is one seriously fast machine... in most cases

LaRee - I already have my catalogs split, but I'll take your hint and split them further into "sub-splits" and see if that makes any differences.

OK - here's a test I just did.

I copied 3.54 Gb of Pentax DNG RAW files to the hard drive of this machine - remember this is a VERY fast computer.

I then told Picasa to import that new folder and timed it to the point where ALL the thumbnails had finished rendering. To check, I scrolled down as fast as I could to make sure that all were fully rendered. Remember, this is just the thumbnails.

Then I did the same thing in Lightroom v2 - same folder of photos, and same end point.


Picasa - 34.5 seconds

Lightroom v2 - 98 seconds

Now that is with no processing - straight import and render thumbnails to screen.

Also, when I double-click on a thumbnail in Lightroom to bring up the rendered preview, it takes about 2 seconds to render, BUT then when I double click to go back to the grid view, it seems to want to re-render all the thumbnails on the visible page again. With Picasa, returning to grid view does NOT re-render all the thumbnails - the single photo preview was in a separate window which simply closes.

Maybe it's that constant re-rendering of thumbnails that makes LR feel so slow? I really don't know, but that time comparison above shows the story, at least on my computer...

Perhaps that is one reason for the difference in the feel of the two programs?

Last edited by Derridale; 08-16-2008 at 10:40 PM.
08-16-2008, 10:40 PM   #13
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Yikes! 98 seconds is an eternity. Seriously, that is WAY too long. It may be time to resort to an clean install of Lightroom. I hate when I have to reinstall a program to get it be behave. From my experience sometimes that is the only answer.
Lightroom isn't perfect. But it is in a completely different category than Picasa. And I loved picasa, used it for a couple years. I deleted it off my computer a few months ago because I realized I wasn't using it anymore. That is saying a lot for Lightromm, because I loved Picasa.
08-16-2008, 10:50 PM   #14
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LaRee - perhaps you're right, and I should uninstall both v1.4.1 and v2 of Lightroom, then do a reinstall of v2.

But I'll do a full Acronis Trueimage backup first... Just in case, you understand...

Maybe their catalogs are conflicting?

Something is making LR feel like swimming through glue, and if I can get it sorted out, then I'd be much happier. Although methinks I'll still be using Picasa for JPGs...

But then, I've also got a nice new Macbook Pro with Aperture on it, just to confuse the issue, and that is also VERY fast. I'm just playing with that one at the moment, as it is a big commitment to change everything from PC to Mac, but I must admit to being seriously impressed with Aperture. If only they did Picasa for the Mac as well....
08-16-2008, 10:55 PM   #15
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The other thing you can try is changing the resolution Lightroom renders its previews at. You can also change how long it keeps them.

It's in Edit -> Catalog Settings

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