Let's Talk About Adobe

Adobe's been in the news quite a bit lately. Time to try to put a bunch of those bits into a cohesive whole.

First, let's talk about the most recent update. That would be Lightroom Classic 8.3 (dropped the CC from its name; strangely, the real cloud version of Lightroom also lost the CC for some reason) and Camera Raw 11.3. 

New camera support includes the Canon SL3, RP, the Google Pixel 3 smartphones, the Panasonic S1 and S1R, the Ricoh GRIII and Theta Z1, plus the Sony RX0m2 and A6400 (plus a few other phones and cameras you're less likely to use). Tethered shooting is now supported for the Canon EOS R.

Lots of new lens profiles have appeared, mostly recent Sigma and Tokina lenses, but also the Sony 135mm f/1.8 GM.

Lightroom Classic got several new features. One that's very interesting is that the product now incorporates Eric Chan's Flat Field adjustment (see this excellent article by Sean Reid about this). Here's the problem: now I want even more for Lightroom (and ACR) to allow me to turn off embedded lens corrections. We have this unusual situation now where we have no correction, selectable correction, and forced correction, plus this added special correction. I want to be in the complete driver's seat as to which corrections are being used and when.

The other completely new feature is the Texture Slider (also in Camera Raw), which I think is a bit misnamed. Adobe describes it as a way of increasing three dimensional appearance in things like landscapes (+ values) or to smooth skin tones (- values). In many ways it interacts with Clarity and Contrast, so perhaps what we really need is a grouping of controls that deal with detail (outside of sharpening itself); Texture is right above Clarity, which is a start. One nice touch: you can use it in adjustment brushes rather than applied just to the entire image.

We're starting to get a lot of micro-level control of "detail" now—remember, the last version brought us Enhance Details. I think I'm going to need to try to ferret out what you use when and why, as the interaction effects can be onerous if you get things wrong.

And, as usual, Lightroom Classic got its usual bug fixes, of which there were there were 18 that Adobe listed (they don't list ones that weren't reported by users). 

Okay, so let's discuss the parade of elephants in the room concerning Adobe lately:

  • Pricing. Adobe claims they were testing pricing options presented to users (see my previous article on the Photography cloud option). Boy did they get blowback on that. For the time being, things seem to have reverted back to normal. Adobe was using cookies and various browser identification strategies to put up different options for different people, but it seems like everyone can see the US$9.99 month plan again. Indeed, when I look today, I find the Photography Plan (Lightroom, Photoshop, 20GB storage) and the Lightroom Plan (Lightroom and 1TB of storage) both showing up (before, only one or the other would show up depending upon how I was browsing from various devices). I'm hearing from people who are cancelling their Photography Plan and moving on because they think Adobe is just pre-revealing nefarious future pricing. Maybe, but I doubt it. And if enough people cancelled, Adobe will get the message.
  • Older products. Adobe made a big deal recently about reducing the number of older versions you could see via the Creative Cloud installer. Yeah, maybe. The only thing that got dropped on my installer was CS6 ;~). Three versions of Photoshop CC still appear, and the installer is still a mess. But I suspect this was really the first sign of the next item:
  • Threats of lawsuits. Those of us with any older versions of CS/CC installed got an email from Adobe warning us that third parties might sue us if we don't uninstall older versions of Adobe products. Nice try at deflection, Adobe. The problem is that Adobe is involved in a lawsuit with another company that they licensed from (I think; it's unclear what the exact technology and relationship was). Some sites are identifying that company as Dolby (Adobe wouldn't deny or confirm that). Adobe seems to be trying to indemnify themselves from any responsibility if we continue to use a product after Adobe's licenses with others expire. After spending some time looking through Adobe's license agreement—which, by the way, is relatively straight forward and easy to understand—I'm not completely sure what their email is trying to do. Adobe appears to be trying to say they're discontinuing some licensed features in older software, apparently, so they probably think that they're doing their duty as outlined in Section 17.2. 

In general, my complaints about Adobe don't tend to fall into the categories that you see discussed happening all over the Internet. My complaints about Adobe are really:

  1. What happens when you stop licensing Creative Cloud is onerous. While parts of Lightroom will continue to work (e.g. the Library module), way too much else breaks, to the point of which what you have left isn't usable. I realize that software is not forever—I started selling software products myself way back in 1977, and did so pretty continuously for decades—but the question is whether or not someone can continue on without updates and support at some point, at least for awhile (eventually operating systems and other things start to break old software, too). I would be much more comfortable if Adobe made it so that folks that had been paying for licenses for two years or more could simply step away where they are (no updates, no new installs, no support). What's going to happen now is that people who've been paying the Adobe tithe for decades are going to some day—hopefully far in the future—have a broken product because they stopped paying the tithe. That's why that recent pricing scare became so viral (I'm surprised it took a week or more for other outlets to pick up on it after I published the first salvo). Adobe's going to regret both things, I think: the pricing scare and the fact that stepping away breaks what you have paid over and over for.
  2. Adobe support is terrible. With some regularity I get many-paged recountings of an Adobe support session from readers of this site. Those all seem to map perfectly to my own experience. First, you get the scripted part of the session, which doesn't reveal more information or fixes. Then you get the confused part of the session, where the support technician has no idea what you're talking about. Eventually you get the I'll look into it phase, and on occasion, you get resolution after an hour or more. Sometimes the resolution is only partial. I wouldn't be overly concerned about support except for the next issue:
  3. Too many bugs. My perception is that Lightroom and Photoshop are getting buggier with each new release as the products get more complex. There was a period, now long past, where I remember where Photoshop never crashed on me. Today is not in that period ;~). Nor was yesterday. Indeed, almost without fail lately, any new major version released in CC seems to have something I can find that will crash it. To Adobe's credit, they do seem to find these problems and eventually fix them. But it feels to me like the major releases aren't coming through with as much solid testing as before. Which makes me want to not update immediately (but see Adobe's telling us to stop using older versions!). 

I get it. Adobe is a big labyrinthian entity with hugely complex products that have to interact with lots of other products (cameras, OS versions, display technologies, plug-ins, etc.). It's not easy steering and managing a battleship in the middle of a fleet while fighting battles with others. Some inefficiencies will show through. I'm happy that Adobe has managed to keep as many balls in the air as they have, but I sure would like it if they'd do something more to address those three things I list above.

What I keep hearing from readers is essentially this: "the grass is greener on the other side, so I'm going to Fill_In_Product_Name." Yeah, I'm not seeing that. We've got quite a few less mature products from smaller players floating around out there that keep asking you for yearly tithes (as opposed to monthly), with perhaps the exception of Capture One, which I consider mature and relatively at parity with Adobe. But Capture One is actually more expensive to keep current than the Photography Plan (US$180 year versus US$120). The one plus over Adobe is that you can get a perpetual license for Capture One (US$299, plus how many yearly updates you end up paying for). 

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