The Loupedeck photo-editing console was one of my favourite pieces of hardware of 2017, albeit one with a couple of notable flaws. Now we have the Loupedeck+, a second generation of the device which promises to make your late-night trawl through thousands of photos in Lightroom that much easier.
So how does the Loupedeck+ differ from its predecessor? And is it worth buying afresh? Find out in our Loupedeck+ review.
Loupedeck+ review: console layout
As you can see, there’s not a world of difference between the Loupedeck+ and the original Loupedeck in terms of layout, but there have been subtle improvements.
First, you now have two customisable dials instead of one. Given that the Loupedeck+ still omits a dedicated dial for sharpening (they must be soft portrait fans in the Loupedeck office), that gives you another to play with for tools such as dehaze.
There are also many more user-assignable buttons on the board. These can be programmed to open functions such as brushes, filters and presets, but unless you have a little aide-memoire Blu-tacked to your desk somewhere, it’s a brain-training exercise trying to remember what L2 or C3 does.
That’s further enhanced (or exacerbated, depending on your memory) by the new Custom Mode. Press that button and all the regular dials take on an alternative function, which again you can assign in the software.
Finally on layout, a word about that big dial in the top left. By default, it’s still assigned to rotate/crop images in Lightroom’s Develop mode, a decision that absolutely baffles me. I can’t get my head around cropping images with a dial – it’s just awkward. It can be reassigned to scroll through the film strip, but it’s such a shame it wasn’t assigned to a more everyday feature, such as exposure.
Loupedeck+ review: build quality
The stand out difference between the Loupedeck+ and its predecessor is build quality. It’s miles better. It finally feels the high-end piece of kit it should have been in the first place.
The difference is most apparent in the buttons. Our review of the original Loupedeck concluded that the “buttons have a very unsatisfactory clunk. They just don’t feel right, as if the button itself is slightly too large for the hole it’s being pressed into.”
This time around, the shallow, chiclet-style buttons have been replaced with mechanical keys with plenty of travel. They don’t get stuck, you don’t have to press twice to move to the next photo in the filmstrip, they just work. Spot on, every time.
The board’s a little deeper than before, which leaves everything feeling less cramped, and it’s just a better all-round design. Whether the designers had more time or more money to play with this time around, who knows? But they’ve nailed it at the second attempt.
Loupedeck+review: software support
Whereas the original Louepdeck only offered support for Lightroom (subsequently redubbed Lightroom Classic by Adobe), the new model broadens its support a smidgen.
The Loupedeck+ works with both Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC, the new app-like version of the software. Why Windows or Mac users would bother with the feature-stripped Lightroom CC is hard to fathom, but support is there if you need it. (Update: my mistake, Lightroom CC is not supported).
There’s support for Aurora HDR 2018, a niche app for those interested in high dynamic range photography.
Support for full-blown Photoshop would have been a greater bonus, but given the variance in controls and features between Lightroom and Photoshop, I can see why that would have been tricky to pull off successfully.
Loupedeck+ review: price
The original Loupedeck cost €369 – the price of a half-decent lens. The launch price of the Loupedeck+ has been cut significantly. The console now costs €229 (just over £200 at the time of writing) with free international shipping.
Loupdeck is also offering €40 off that price for owners of the existing model.
Loupedeck+ review: verdict
Despite its shortcomings, I was a big fan of the original Loupedeck. It’s been in constant use throughout the year on my desk, helping me to wade through tens of thousands of photos and often improve the end-results by tweaking its dials and sliders.
It’s much more intuitive to adjust an exposure or boost the shadows by twiddling a physical dial than moving a slider with your mouse. And because all of the controls are literally at your fingertips, rather than buried in software panels, you find yourself experimenting with controls – such as the luminance of individual colour channels – that you might otherwise ignore.
The Loupedeck+ has only made that experience better and cheaper. If you’re a photographer that’s hooked on Lightroom, it comes with our wholehearted endorsement.
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This much improved – and much cheaper – version of the photo-editing console is a must-buy for prodigious Lightroom users