When I pull out my Pixel for a picture, I have to pick which app to tap: Google’s Android camera (which oddly seems to have no link) or Adobe Lightroom’s. The choice isn’t hard, but is interesting.

Let me lead with some actual pictures. In each case, the G-cam is first, the Lr-cam second.

Howe Sound at dusk (G-cam)
· · ·
Howe Sound at dusk (Lr-cam)

Howe Sound at dusk.

Our cabin at dusk (G-cam)
· · ·
Our cabin at dusk (Lr-cam)

Cabin overlooking Howe Sound, at dusk.

The differences are subtle, and probably only matter if you’re going to be using a really big screen or piece of paper for delivery. If you’re the kind of person who cares, click-to-enlarge and, before I talk about the differences, see if you have opinions.

What’s different · The G-cam:

  1. Has an auto-HDR which, speaking as a long-time HDR hater, works pretty well.

  2. Auto-shares everything for free to Google’s online photo-space which I guess used to be part of G+.

  3. To pull onto my computer for editing, I download from online.

  4. Starts up faster, under a second.

  5. Shoots video.

The Lr-cam:

  1. Shoots raw DNG files.

  2. If you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber, the pix show up in your Lightroom “Synced Photographs” file, automagically.

  3. You can edit or delete them on the phone, on your computer, or via the Web, with a remarkably similar repertoire of controls. Deleted photos vanish from everywhere, and the edits are propagated everywhere too.

What’s the same · Both cameras have nicely intuitive GUIs that are easy to figure out. Both have pretty decent on-device editing too. In particular, both make it easy to dial in exposure compensation (i.e. brighter/darker) by sliding a finger on the screen.

Lightroom is maybe a little easier to get wrong; from time to time I accidentally hit a control I wasn’t aware of and get a weird hyper-colorized or exotic-blur rendition. Check out this picture out a window at the Amazon Vancouver office; cool effects, but you’d have to take some pretty good drugs to see them.

View from the Amazon Vancouver office

What matters · I should note all the photos were shot in failing November light, and none of them are untouched; I gave them a reasonably thorough Lightroom treatment, except for I didn’t touch the color a bit. Obviously you can do quite a bit more with the Lr-cam DNG than the G-cam JPG. Which leads me to:

First of all, for casual capture-the-moment snapshots, the G-cam wipes the floor with the Lr-cam. It shoots faster and applies HDR tastefully. It’s like this: Straight out of the camera, the Lr-cam shots look OK until you put them beside the G-cam shots; then they look dingy and lifeless.

Well, except for, the Lightroom shots are DNG and have a whole lot more room for correction. A minute or two’s work and they’re about as good. In general, I find myself bumping the contrast a bit, easing off the highlights, and blackening the blacks. But not always; each photo has to find its own path to its full potential.

When I’m done, they don’t look obviously better than the G-cam’s output, but they certainly look different. Obviously my opinion differs from that of the programmers who built the G-cam processing logic.

Two things stand out, starting with color. Check that first shot of Howe Sound, in particular the ocean itself. The G-cam gives it a lovely painterly touch of soft-green, while Lightroom sticks to a pretty pure grey. I see it more like Lightroom does, but I don’t actually dislike the G-cam effect; if I liked it more I could get it with white-balance sliders on the Lr-cam version.

The second is focus. The G-cam does a better job of dialing in the foreground foliage, sacrificing a bit of detail out in the water; the Lr-cam shows individual ripples. But they do about the same on the background car-ferry, which is a little surprising. This is a matter of pure taste, and while you can fix color you can’t really fix focus.

On the second photo, the big difference is the color: Lightroom’s greens are greener, the G-cam’s softer. Wow, I say “big difference” and it is, when you’re flipping back and forth on a 15" Retina screen; but in the blog presentation you have to look real close. If you actually care, maybe open the click-to-expand in adjacent tabs and flip back and forth? For what it’s worth, once again I think the Lr-cam is righter.

Which to use? · If I’m in a hurry and need to capture a moment or record a fact or whatever, G-cam every time; it’ll get me there quicker and the results will be good. If I see something and think “Hm, might be a neat picture there”, Lightroom. Because I really respect G-cam’s opinions, but don’t always share them.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: John Dragseth (Nov 12 2016, at 10:15)

Tim: Thanks. This sort of post is great for people like me who know the technicals of taking and processing pictures, but want to see opinions on what looks good and how to get there in LR. Much appreciated.


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