The photo-editing console's improved hardware and reduced price make this even more tempting for togs
- Software support has improved
- Better value than its predecessor
- Custom mode allows for button reassignment
- Dial layout can be confusing
- No software support for Photoshop
The first iteration of the Loupedeck photo-editing console landed on my desk last year, and I loved it – bar one thing. The build quality didn’t reflect its premium £329 price. The revamped Loupedeck+ not only corrects that significant shortcoming, it also costs almost 40% less.
For those unfamiliar with the Loupedeck, think of it as a mixing desk for Adobe Lightroom. Instead of using a mouse or regular keyboard to adjust exposures, contrast, vibrance or the dozens of other parameters you can tweak in a photo, Loupedeck lets you navigate and edit your photos from a console of dials, knobs and dedicated buttons.
It was those buttons that were literally the sticking point on the original Loupedeck. They were hugely unsatisfying and badly cut, leading keys to stick or requiring you to repeatedly prod a button to move to the next photo in the filmstrip, for example. Things are much improved this time around.
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Loupedeck+ review: Features
The buttons are friction-free and have a much deeper travel than the chiclet design of the previous model, leaving no uncertainty as to whether a button press has registered or not. The only way keys will get stuck now is if you spill a can of Coke over them in a late-night editing session.
It’s not the only physical improvement. More customisable buttons and dials have been added, meaning if you make regular use of a setting or preset that hasn’t already earned itself a dedicated button/dial you can assign it yourself using the Loupedeck software. Furthermore, there’s now a Custom Mode, where you can assign alternative functions for all the main dials. However, it would be quite a feat of memory to remember the alternatives all those dials are assigned to.
Other strange choices are carried over from the original. The huge Control Dial in the top left of the keyboard is still assigned to cropping/rotating images when developing photos, a peculiar choice to my mind. I would much rather it could be assigned to something such as exposure or sharpness, but this is one of the few dials on the board where that isn’t an option. It has only a limited set of functions to which it can be designated.
That sharpening still hasn’t been assigned a dial of its own is bizarre, although you can easily assign it to one of the two customisable dials yourself. You’ll just have to remember which it is or place a sticker on the board.
It’s also disappointing to see software support hasn’t been extended to Photoshop, especially as many Lightroom users will flit between the two Adobe products. Perhaps it’s understandable, though, as the variance in controls between the two products is significant.
Software support for the Loupedeck+ has at least expanded. If you’re a fan of HDR photography, the console can also be used with Aurora HDR 2018, a niche package designed for creating those high-contrast, hyperrealistic-looking images.
So, the physical design and software support have improved, but it’s value for money that sees the biggest leap. While the £200 asking price for the Loupedeck+ is hardly pocket money, it’s a much more reasonable proposition than before and a price likely to tempt those of us who spend hours at a time ploughing through thousands of photos in Lightroom.
And that remains the chief selling point of the Loupedeck+ – its ability to make those mammoth curating and editing sessions less tiresome. Ratings can easily be assigned to photos, or images selected as “picks” to help narrow down huge albums. You can boost the luminance of blues in the sky or the golden wheat in the fields without having to barrel down into Lightroom’s submenus – it’s just a button press and flick of a dedicated scroll wheel for each colour channel. Clarity, tints and colour temperatures can all be finely tweaked with the dials, without having to avert your focus from the full-screen photo in front of you.
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Loupedeck+ review: Verdict
None of this is impossible to achieve with mouse and conventional keyboard alone, and if you’ve already got the keyboard shortcuts for (most) of the above burned into your muscle memory, the benefits of the Loupedeck+ may be slight. But the Loupedeck – even a year after its release – is one of those rare pieces of hardware I look forward to working with, and the Loupedeck+ has only increased the pleasure.