Copyright 2017 - MIDI 2 Lightroom. Lightroom is a registered trademark of Adobe.

Review: Loupedeck the Lightroom controller

It’s here for real. I admit it I hardly believed this a couple of months ago. But now we have it, it’s here and it’s awesome! The Loupedeck, a controller panel for Adobe Lightroom that makes RAW editing unbelievably fast, easy and fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

It’s quite weird that a couple of months ago this stuff looked like this:

 

 

But nowadays it looks like the gem of your desktop. Anybody visits your office/home, you’ll be asked: what the heck is this?

 

 

WHAT IS THIS?

 

This is a MIDI controller for Lightroom. Kinda... It’s like its predecessors, but there are two main differences:

 

- One: Loupedeck has been made intentionally and solely for Lightroom. It is labelled accordingly and its control surface has been designed accordingly.

- The other: Loupedeck has its own software (Lightroom plugin) which has been developed by professionals, so it is more sophisticated than MIDI2LR, Paddy or Knobroom for example which are developed by volunteers (although MIDI2LR does a great job too, no worries) :) Loupedeck uses MIDI channels for controlling but has an own patent pending solution to avoid inaccuracy. This means it works in a different way than other MIDI controllers.

 

So this one is a Lightroom controller panel, that means we use Lightroom with the Loupedeck instead of mouse, cursor and/or keyboard. You should know that it works only with Lightroom, not with any other software. Video editors has been using hardware controlling for decades now, but photographers just started to discover the world of hardware supported post processing. Loupedeck is the first controller designed and manufactured specifically for Lightroom. How it works? You twist the knobs and the belonging Lightroom slider will react. Moreover it has buttons with assigned Lightroom prompts like colour/star rating for photos, or copying and pasting RAW develop settings from one photo to another.

 

LONG STORY SHORT

 

I’ve been contacted by a guy called Mikko Kesti a little bit more than one year ago. He is from Finland and came with an idea to develop a Lightroom controller together with former Nokia engineers and launch it to the market. As I remember I gave him some advices for the design-part of the process, thus I also look on this stuff a bit as of my child. Obviously this is bullshit but I like to leave myself in this faith and keeping the Loupedeck in my hands this way feels totally different. :D

At this time Loupedeck was in a phase seen on the photo above and Mikko tried to look for an investor. When I asked him about crowdfunding, I was told that it had too much publicity that they did not want. But finally during Fall 2017. an Indiegogo campaign has been started in order to collect 75.000 Euros  from photographers all over the world for the project. Frankly speaking the former attempts like Paddy, MIDI2LR, Palette Gear or Pfixer has already paved the way for Loupedeck, and every news site had picked up the likeable attempt, so finally the Finnish guys has pre-sold more the 1400pcs and collected 366.000 Euros. The substantive development could start from 5x more money than expected. ‘Substantive’ because at that time Loupedeck was only a good looking 3D printed hardware but the connection with Lightroom was ensured by MIDI2LR plugin. They have had to design their own software background too. A little bit later the anticipated investor has arrived too (I guess) because in February 2017. Loupedeck Ltd has been established with funds of a whopping 2 million Euros. This ensures the possibility of a product launch with major momentum, not to mention that the developers has built up a stable partnership with Adobe which is not a disadvantage for sure.

 

So Loupedeck differs from previous attempts because it is developed by professionals in hope of profit while the previous attempts were non-profit projects. Non-profit is good but not the guarantee of long-term operation. Like it or not, this is the truth. The only exception is Palette Gear in this story which was also a crowdfunded project and it’s quite a demanding product, but regarding its construction and design it’s worse than Loupedeck in my opinion.

 

EXTERN

 

Packaging

 

The Loupedeck prototype had come from Finland to me in an ugly and dirty white cardboard packaging with a logo on it, but when I opened it I discovered the more demanding embossed, matte black store-packaging with silver typo all over. That’s beautiful and suggests clearly a demanding product inside.

 

 

There is only the device itself + USB cable in the box and a legal leaflet (CE, FCC and stuff), but as I know the final packaging will include a pouch too or something similar for transporting the Loupedeck.

 

Build quality

 

I’ll be ruthless: the Loupedeck is made of plastic. Not the worst type of plastic obviously, but I guess they wanted to harness the costs and they wanted to keep it light enough for easy transporting, so do not expect an Apple-like product with solid stuff inside. The knobs and buttons are wobbling a bit and I have to say that there are better constructed MIDI controllers on the market at this price level (eg. Behringer X-Touch Compact). At least the knobs are covered with rubber and were stress tested in the factory. The engineers stopped the knobs’ stress-test at 300k turning cycles so it is definitely durable but…it’s just…let’s say ‘lightened’. :) Build quality is not bad anyway. You read this, then you’ll open the box and you will not be disappointed. Moreover you will like it. I like it too, just sayin’. :)

 

 

OPERATION

 

Controls

 

One of the biggest advantages of the Loupedeck is its control surface designed specifically for Lightroom, for Lightroom’s workflow. It’s 8 control wheel for the basic colour channels are a good example of it: you can adjust the colours from Red to Magenta individually or more in once and you use three buttons marked with LEDs to decide if you want to adjust the Hue, the Saturation or the Lightness of these colours. This is so Lightroom specific that the regular MIDI controllers and other DYI solutions cannot reproduce so well. The wheels are push buttons too, when you press the wheel, you’ll reset the belonging colour adjustment. Imagine, you can adjust all the skin tones (red + orange + maybe yellow) or natural colours (yellow + green + aqua) or the sky (aqua + blue + purple) at once with two or three fingers! That’s really awesome!

 

Below there are 12 so called encoders. Encoders are turning knobs without limits, so you can turn them round and round. They only have virtual status within the software, thus they are able to pick up the values of the belonging Lightroom sliders, even if you change a photo. If the Loupedeck will be your first MIDI controller for Lightroom, do not deal with this info, its operation will be obvious. The only thing you should know is that it wasn’t so obvious before. :)

 

 

The 12 encoders control the following settings:

  • White Balance
  • Tint
  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Clarity
  • Blacks
  • Whites
  • Highlights
  • Shadows
  • Vibrance
  • Saturation

 

…and there is another called C1, a knob that can be customised. If you push the encoders, you’ll reset the belonging LR sliders to default value.

 

The big wheel on left is also an encoder + push-button but stands for rotating your picture and by pressing it, you’ll enter into Crop view. In this case you’ll have to use your mouse for cropping then press again to exit.

 

These were the moving parts on Loupedeck, all the others are button-types. You can find the four arrow keys (as like as on your keyboard) in order to navigate among pictures. The Clr/BW button switches between Colour and Black & White modes which obviously affects the 8 colour adjustment wheels’ behaviour too. The FullScreen button speaks for itself, as well as the Undo/Redo buttons. The Brush button activates the Brush tool and I am happy to tell you while the Brush tool is active the knobs adjust the sliders of the brush itself not the sliders of the whole image. MIDI2LR cannot do that for example. As for the Zoom buttons, they will switch between 1:1 magnification and Fit view to check sharpness.

 

There are Rating buttons in the lower left corner and also a * / Col button you can change between Star or Colour rating with. You may find here a Pick button as well that you can Flag or Unflag your pictures with during culling. With the Copy / Paste pair of buttons you can copy your settings to clipboard than Paste it on selected image or images. There is another Zoom button here which I find a real causeless even more wastefulness. One Zoom button on the right should have been fair enough, however there are two of them but the more important Sync and the (Paste from) Previous buttons are missing. 

 

 

With the Fn button you can reach extra functions with knobs and buttons. For example when you hold the Fn, the Paste button will paste the settings for all selected photos, not just the active one. With Fn + Star buttons you can select all the rated pictures at once (you’ll not filter them but make them selected). By pressing Fn and Arrows you can select pictures side by side, it’s like you hold the Shift button and use arrows on your keyboard. Here is an example: you adjust one photo then push the Copy button. After it you hold Fn and select the next 4-5 photos, then Fn + Paste and all the develop settings will be pasted on all the photos.) If you use Rotate together with Fn, the image rotation will work very fine.

 

The C1, C2, C3 are custom controls which you can customise relatively easy via the software setup. C1 is a knob so you can map 2 Lightroom sliders to it. One is its regular function, the other is the alternate function with the help of holding the Fn button. Same with the C2, C3 but those are buttons. You may ask what the software allows you to map to these…It’s a good question because I got a beta version for testing and I noticed just a few functions, but I am sure there will be more functions to map later. The developers said they plan to update and upgrade the software on a regular basis, monthly or at least 2-monthly.

 

 

There is only one row of buttons remained undiscussed, namely the P1-P8 buttons. These are Preset buttons, which means you can map 8 of your favourite Lightroom presets to them. This means you can activate your favourite presets with a press of a button on your photo. No need to look for them in the menu or such. Moreover Loupedeck provides you 24 own presets when installing the plugin, although they are a bit crappy, kinda Lightroom’s own presets.

 

Usage

 

I can say the 12 encoders + the colour channel trundles will give you enough control. Adding the buttons to them, you’ll hardy need to touch your mouse or keyboard during RAW processing. Although I believe that the more knobs and buttons, the bigger happiness, so I would be happier with more knobs and buttons on the Loupedeck. Earlier I had a Behringer X-Touch Compact (w/ MIDI2LR), where its 9 motorised faders and the 2x8 encoders gave me a huge freedom when mapping. I could easily map eg. perspective correction and sharpening/noise reduction tools and such to the 25 pot-meters. Obviously you can live without these, especially when you use them rarely. In these rare cases you’ll have to use your mouse if not else.

 

THE LOUPEDECK WORKS EXTREMELY FINE!

 

If Loupedeck will be your first controller, then - again - this will be natural and obvious for you. But MIDI controlling Lightroom has not been so smooth all the time. MIDI2LR with any controller works fine and smoothly too, but not this fine like Loupedeck. Moreover there are problematic sliders in Lightroom like White Balance, Tint, Exposure or Straight angle. These are not linear sliders and/or they are hypersensitive, so they had to be limited in MIDI2LR in order to work fine. In case of Loupedeck the engineers did a great job, so even these problematic sliders work fine as well. No need for any hack or limitation, ‘its just works’ - like Apple’d say. I’ve seen such fine slider movements only with Tangent controller + Capture One before.

 

I guess I already wrote it but I tell you again: if you push the knobs you can reset their adjustments which is a great thing, and it is true for all the moving controls on Loupedeck. 

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

During my test I had only a beta version of the software. At the end I got the 1.0 version. So only one question remained here after reviewing the 1.0: this is the issue of the Copy / Paste buttons. At the moment Copy / Paste with Loupedeck is valid for all settings on your photo regardless of the ticks in Lightroom's Copy dialog window. Loupedeck copies and pastes the settings totally independent from any Copy settings can be found in Lightroom. I was told that it remains like this for a good while for sure. That's a pity.

 

WHEN, WHERE AND HOW MUCH?

 

The Loupedeck project came to life via crowdfunding. Mass production just have started so the backers of Indiegogo will be served first then all the preorders via Loupedeck’s webshop. They say the production capacities are reserved with fulfilling these orders until mid July. They say when you order now, you’ll be able get yours from 17th July. If you want to touch it or try it first, you may expect them in shops in the US and in Europe from mid/end of July.

 

The price of Loupedeck is 369 Euros with free shipping from Finland to all over the world.

 

 

 

 

f t g m

Introduction

Using a MIDI controller for photo processing is quite a new movement in the world. These hardwares are originally built for music editing softwares but thanks to some clever plugins they can be used for photo editing in Adobe’s Lightroom software too. READ MORE...

Softwares

We need a small plugin to connect a MIDI controller with Lightroom. The job of these plugins is to identify the signal of the MIDI controller via USB and match them to certain Lightroom prompts and functions which are in the plugin’s stock. READ MORE...

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