Sometimes a piece of kit comes along that you’re just willing to be as good as it looks in the publicity shots. Loupedeck almost lives up to those expectations.
It’s a control console for Adobe Lightroom, the workflow software used by the vast majority of professional and enthusiast photographers that I know of. Instead of using a mouse and traditional keyboard to adjust sliders and tweak settings, the deck allows you to make adjustments to photos by twiddling dedicated knobs and sliders.
Want to punch up the brightness of a photo? Spin the exposure knob to the right. Quickly convert a photo to black and white? There’s a button for that. Boost the saturation of the grass in your landscape? Tap the Sat button and flick the dedicated green channel scroll wheel upwards. It’s an enormously satisfying experience, as if you’re remastering your photos like Fatboy Slim behind the deck.
Loupedeck’s great strength is that it encourages you to tweak settings that you might otherwise ignore because they’re buried in Lightroom’s Develop panel. Being able to fine-tune the hue, saturation and luminescence of eight separate colour channels, for example, is not something I’ve previously bothered with all that much, but with the eight separate scroll wheels to hand, I found myself boosting a lifeless landscape I’d previously discarded into something I’m now proud to hang on my wall.
It’s not only editing controls that Loupedeck offers. It’s just as effective for refining your selection of photos once you’ve imported a shoot into Lightroom’s Library. There are dedicated buttons to give each of your photos a star rating out of five, while the Pick button lets you flag a photo as a keeper. The arrow keys in the bottom-right-corner, meanwhile, let you scroll through the collection.
You’ll still need the mouse at hand to ease navigation through menus, but I soon settled into a workflow with Loupedeck under my left hand and the mouse in my right, and it was far smoother than using a regular keyboard – perhaps partly because I’ve never bothered to properly learn Lightroom’s keyboard shortcuts. The only time I reached for the regular keyboard was when I needed to name a file for export.
Build quality is my biggest frustration with Loupedeck. It makes a stunning first impression, with beautifully designed packaging giving it the high-end feel you’d expect from a piece of hardware costing over £300. And it looks suitably suave, too. You wouldn’t be ashamed to have it sat next to your iMac or Surface Laptop. But the buttons have an unsatisfying stickiness, as if they’ve not quite been cut properly. Occasionally presses aren’t recognised, and once or twice a button has become stuck. The knobs and scroll wheels are better, but they don’t have that dampened smoothness of high-end hi-fi kit.
The designers have also made some questionable decisions on button layout. The biggest dial on the entire console is for the rotate/crop function, but the dial alone isn’t precise enough for rotating and I prefer to use the straighten tool to correct wonky images, which isn’t supported by Loupedeck. It also seems odd to omit a dedicated sharpening dial, although this is assigned to the one programmable dial by default. Loupedeck’s efficient software lets you assign that dial to vignette, dehaze or noise reduction if you prefer, while two other buttons (C2 and C3) can be assigned functions such as toggling between Lightroom’s Library and Develop panels, or opening a web browser.
Along the top of the console there are a further eight programmable buttons that can be assigned to Lightroom presets, such as high contrast black & white or sepia tint. Cleverly, you can assign these buttons to bespoke presets you’ve either created or downloaded for Lightroom, so if you’ve got a particular style you use commonly for a client, it can be applied at the touch of a button.
I loved the idea of Loupedeck from the moment I clapped eyes on it, and after spending hours bashing through my Lightroom Library, I’m no less enamoured. It makes you think about editing your photos in ways you hadn’t previously considered, and eases the drudgery of sorting through hundreds or thousands of images after a shoot.
Is it worth €369? At that price, it’s definitely more of a luxury than an essential, but when photographers routinely lavish thousands of pounds on lenses, you can see why Loupedeck felt the low hundreds wasn’t wildly extravagant. I’d certainly put this above a new piece of glass on my wishlist.