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Cloud sync with mobile devices is rapidly becoming mandatory for Mac and PC software as consumers increasingly prefer to free themselves from the desktop. Adobe is receiving this message loud and clear, countering with a new app that delivers the core functionality of Lightroom 5 for iPad. This isn’t just a tablet version of Adobe’s popular photo software—it’s a robust companion app allowing Creative Cloud subscribers to sync image collections and edit them using gesture-based tools specifically designed for touchscreen devices (an iPhone version is planned for later this year).
Edit a photo on the desktop and the changes automatically sync across to the iPad within seconds, and vice versa. To establish this connection, you’ll simply tick an icon next to photo collections in Lightroom 5, creating smaller DNG versions that get uploaded to the cloud. Introduced with Lightroom 4, these so-called “Smart Previews” act as stand-ins for full-resolution images stored on the desktop, but look great even on a Retina Display, retaining more than enough resolution to be shared straight from iPad to Twitter, Facebook, or Flickr.
While Lightroom for iPad is capable of syncing up to 60,000 photos, this is not a true cloud storage or backup service like the company’s consumer-oriented Revel. However, photographers can import and edit full-resolution JPEG images from the Camera Roll while on location, which get synced back to the desktop complete with metadata and collection information. RAW images can currently only originate from the desktop, though. In our tests, sync worked great using either Wi-Fi or cellular connections.
Edits are made in one of four views: Filmstrip, Adjustments, Presets, and Crop. While it’s impossible to include every tool from the desktop version—features missing at launch include brushes and user-created presets—Adobe has done an excellent job of taking the drudgery out of organizational tasks such as flag/reject, while incorporating the most commonly used creative tools and making them fast and intuitive.
The bottom line. Lightroom for iPad may not be a full-blown cloud storage solution, but it offers photographers more than enough muscle to keep the creative juices flowing while away from the desktop.
iPad running iOS 7.0 or later
Fluid, intuitive image editing that syncs changes between iPad and desktop. Great mix of tools and features familiar to Lightroom users.
Requires paid Creative Cloud subscription. No companion iPhone/iPod touch app. Lacks hooks to Adobe’s own Revel cloud storage service. No RAW support for Camera Roll imports.