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Lightroom vs. On1 Photo RAW: What’s Different About ON1?

by Brenda Barron on Mar 7, 2019

As a photographer, you’ll know that there’s a lot more to creating fantastic pictures than just using your camera at the right time. Even the best images can benefit from a little editing to minimize blur, improve clarity and enhance impact. That’s why tools like Lightroom and Photoshop exist.

For most photographers, Lightroom is the go-to choice when they want things like presets and sliders to help them adjust small components on photos. However, it’s worth noting that Lightroom isn’t the only way to optimize your picture. Since the arrival of ON1’s new software, more people are asking themselves, which is the winner between Lightroom vs. On1 Photo RAW?

In today’s blog, we’re going to help you make a more informed decision by looking at the things that ON1 can offer, that Lightroom can’t, including:

  • Instant access to images
  • Masks and layers
  • Tools and options
  • Effects
  • A single purchase

1.     Instant Access to Images

Have you ever gotten home from a photoshoot and wanted to get started with your edits as soon as possible? Maybe you loaded up Lightroom, ready to apply your presets, but you’re left waiting for ages while Lightroom gets to work on importing your files.

One of the things to note when considering Lightroom vs. ON1 Photo Raw is that ON1 allows you instant access to images, so you can start editing and culling them immediately. You don’t have to wait around for thumbnails and catalogs to render. Just open your files and go.

A set of wedding pictures loaded into On1

2.     Layers and Masks

Another thing to consider in the discussion of Lightroom vs. ON1 Photo Raw is that when you’re in Lightroom, you’re restricted in how you can work on your edits. Either you can use a single image where you make global adjustments to everything on that photo, or you can switch backward and forwards between Lightroom and Photoshop.

There’s no option on Lightroom to create layers and masks for your images so that you can combine photos or blend things. However, in ON1 Photo Raw, you can access masks and layers without having to swap to a new program.

3.     Tools and Options

Although Lightroom has a wide selection of adjustments and tools to offer as standard, many experts believe that ON1 Photo Raw simply has more features to choose from. Not only do you get a larger number of tools to explore, but you’ll also find that those tools may have deeper sliders and greater functionality than the things you’ll find on Lightroom.

Solutions like the gradient tool in Lightroom has the same features in ON1 Photo Raw. However, there’s also a reflected gradient option too. There are also tools for healing and cloning, where the options for this are very limited in Lightroom.

A set of landscape shots with different lighting effects and filters

4.     Filters and Effects

Perhaps the biggest benefit that Lightroom has in the Lightroom vs. ON1 Photo Raw argument is that this tool has access to various presets that can make editing your pictures easier. There are presets for virtually everything in the world of Lightroom.

While ON1 Photo RAW doesn’t offer the same span of presets, it does give you options to set your own standards and filters for editing photos. You can also automatically apply a range of common filters from selections on the program. Still, it will be up to you to decide if you prefer filters to presets.

5.     A Single Purchase

Finally, if you’re running your photography business on a budget, then this difference might be a big deal for you. To pay for and use Lightroom, you need to buy a subscription to Adobe Photoshop. This means that you get some great Adobe features to use, but you’re consistently paying for the software every month or year. Once you stop paying the recurring price, you no longer have access to the tools.

On the other hand, ON1 Photo Raw takes a different approach. You only pay for the software once, and you own it forever. What’s more, ON1 Photo Raw also comes with a number of discounts for new customers too. There’s even a free trial available so you can see how you feel about the features before you sign up for good.

Check out ON1 Photo Raw at their website.

A close-up of a large zoom lens of a camera

There you have it – some of the biggest things you need to know when considering Lightroom vs ON1 Photo RAW. Which is your preferred program? Let us know in the comments, and remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

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  1. I tried so very hard to replace Lightroom with ON1 Photo Raw 2019.2, but the software has way too many issues.

    The most serious issue is performance. I’ve got a late 2015 model iMac with 3.3 GHz I7 processor, 16 GByte of RAM and a 2TB fusion drive. Lightroom just screams on my computer. ON1 Photo Raw, on the other hand, is extremely slow: it takes about 2 seconds to build a preview, it takes about 1.2 to 2 seconds for a develop adjustment to display. It takes a good 3 seconds when advancing to the next photo in Develop mode till the system is ready. It takes an extremely long time to export photos. I could go on, but you get the idea.

    The next issue on the list is Lens Correction. If I import directly from my camera (Nikon D60) to ON1, there is no camera or lens information (either in ON1 or using Mac OS Finder) If I use Adobe Bridge, the camera and lens info is there (in Finder), but ON1 will not apply a Lens Profile. I can pick my Camera and Lens Manually, but it usually distorts the photo and I have to do a manual correction. ON1 says this is a bug in the software.

    Smart collections and filters aren’t really very smart. The only option is “equals” and all rules are inclusive. I can’t do anything based on “does not equal” or “begins with” or “is either one or the other.” This makes filtering a real pain.

    The next issue is also a real deal killer for me. It may be because my Camera is relatively old and is considered a pro-sumer model. Any (RAW) photos taken at ISO 800 or 1600 are really noisy. The same photos viewed in Apple Photos or Lightroom display little to no noise at all, and what noise is there is easily removed in Lightroom, but not in ON1 Photo Raw. ISO 3200 photos are impossible to clean up in Photo Raw, but clean up relatively easily in Lightroom.

    I’ve purchased Photo Raw, but I’m forced to keep using Lightroom, occasionally using PhotoRaw as a Plug-in for special cases. That seems to work OK. Maybe the next update will fix all this, but somehow I doubt it. The impression I have is that the developers are focused on new features, and not usability or stability.

    “Glowing” reviews of ON1 Photo Raw give potential users a false impression of this application. Check out the ON1 forums to get the “real” picture.

  2. Nice review,

    I have been using on1 photoraw now for some years and I’m always searching for something better.

    The problem is, I always end up in PR.

    Through work I’ve got a Lightroom licence, and every year I give it a try and (just did it) it doesn’t work for me, somehow the program that I did use for years is really to slow, and the green worms you get with fuji are still there.

    Is on1 photoraw perfect.
    No, because then I wouldn’t be searching for something better, I’m using affinity photo for noise reduction (if I need to). I don’t like the catalogs that are somewhere on my c drive and eating processing power en disk space.

    But for the price, support you get from On1 it’s coming close.

    (ps i use it on a windows 10 system)

  3. On1 could be really good but a couple of issues are: Going from browse to edit takes up to 5 seconds and I have an Imac with 32gb Ram. The noise reduction in On1 makes very little difference to photographs. I use Nick Def 2 noise reduction in Lightroom but it’s not available as a plugin in ON1. Apart from these issues, I really like On1 and if they fix the speed issues and come up with decent noise reduction software then I’ll ditch my Adobe subscription for good.

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