Over the last few weeks, we’ve reviewed Wacom tablets, Contour Shuttle Pro, Motibodo, PFixer and LrControl. Before we summarize their strengths and weaknesses, however, there are a few more options to rule out.
Palette is a fairly recent addition to the Lightroom gadget world. It’s made up of individual interconnecting pieces, and the software uses Adobe’s own SDK, so it’s reliable. You can use it to control all of LR’s sliders (approx. 120) plus any of Lightroom’s native keyboard shortcuts, but it can’t apply Develop presets. Like the nanoKONTROL2 we reviewed last week, the sliders aren’t motorized, so you’d probably want to use the dials for Lightroom’s sliders.
I have to say, I love the look of the Palette, and the basic Expert kit doesn’t take up too much space on the desk, with the dials and buttons being approximately 1 3/4″ (4.5cm) square, and the sliders being twice the size. The problem is, if I had dial for each slider and shortcut I’d desire, it would quickly take over my entire desk.
The Palette is about 1 1/2″ tall (4 cm), which means your fingers are raised quite high to make the adjustments. The edges are sharp, so it’s not comfortable to rest your wrist, although a gel wrist rest goes some way to easing this issue.
The biggest downside to Palette is the cost. When you count the price per slider, especially compared to midi controllers that do the same job, it’s expensive. The Starter Kit (1 Core, 1 Dial, 2 Buttons, 1 Slider) is $199. The Expert Kit (1 Core, 3 Dials, 2 Buttons, 2 Sliders) is $299. The Professional Kit (1 Core, 6 Dials, 4 Buttons, 4 Sliders) is $499. Additional pieces are also available at $29-$49 each. For use in the Develop module, I’d want at least 6 dials, plus a few buttons, so the cost can quickly add up.
Palette works with a wide range of Adobe software, but in my opinion, it’s more useful in programs like Photoshop, where one or two sliders or dials may set brush size/feathering, or in video editing software such as Premiere, than it is in Lightroom.
* Full disclosure – Before release, Palette sent me an ‘Expert’ kit for review. All thoughts are my own and I receive no compensation for this review.
RPG Keys (now Mac only)
RPG Keys was one of the original Lightroom gadgets to come to market, not long after Lightroom’s release. They offer 22 and 58 key setups, with access to many Develop controls.
Sadly, the Windows development stopped with Lightroom 5 on Windows, and although the Mac version of Lightroom CC/6 is supported, their website and social media pages haven’t been updated for a long time, and according to their Facebook page, support appears to be slow.
* Full disclosure – in the past, RPG Keys sent me a 22 key for testing. All thoughts are my own and I receive no compensation for this review.
Another popular option over the years has been VSCO Keys. Sadly, VSCO dropped support for their keyboard solution in August 2015, but in response to user feedback, VSCO made it open-source, allowing developers around the world to edit and maintain the source code. As it’s open-source, it’s absolutely free, but you would need some technical knowledge to get it running, and it doesn’t appear to be working with El Capitan. A sad loss to the Lightroom community.
Paddy / AutoHotKey (Windows only)
For Windows users, AutoHotKey is a free, open-source macro-creation and automation software. It’s often used with programmable keyboards such as X-Keys and Midi controllers.
Paddy is a donationware AutoHotKey script written for Lightroom, allowing access to sliders and presets. Unfortunately, development appears to have stalled, and it hasn’t been updated for Lightroom CC/6 yet although, according to the website, it’s been a work-in-progress for a long time.
Knobroom (Mac only)
If you’re a Mac user in search of midi controller software for Lightroom, another option to consider is Knobroom. It runs on Mac 10.7 or later, and Lightroom 4 or later, with Lightroom CC/6 recommended. Information on the website is very limited, and updates appear to be infrequent.
Another contender in the midi controller field is Midi2LR. It’s a free, open-source Lightroom plug-in that’s still in active development. Basic usage instructions are available in a Wiki, and it’s worth taking the time to read the ReadMe file included with the plug-in. Support is by means of a Google group.
There’s an independent website set up to provide information about the plug-in. It’s not run by the developer, but it provides additional information on installation, setup guides and support, for $8.99 a month.
Midi2LR works with Windows 7, 8 or 10, or with Mac 10.9 or later. It’s only compatible with LRCC/6, but it works with any midi controller.
Ctrl+Console for iPad
Ctrl+ Console is an iPad app with a desktop companion, and it focuses on Library controls such as star ratings, flags and color labels in Grid, Loupe and Survey modes. There are no Develop controls.
It works with Windows or Mac, and iOS9 or later, and connects over Wi-Fi.I haven’t tested it extensively, however in my testing, it was responsive and the gestures feel natural.
The Ctrl+ Console app itself is a free download, but to use it with Lightroom, you need the Lightroom Sorter add-on, which costs $29.99/£22.99. Additional add-ons are available for Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro and QuickTime.
* Full disclosure – Ctrl+Console sent me a copy of the app for review. All thoughts are my own and I receive no compensation for this review.
Padroom for iPad (Mac only, Windows in beta)
If you have an iPad, you may also be interested in Padroom, which provides a touch interface for the Develop sliders.
It works with Lightroom CC/6 by means of a Lightroom plug-in, and it’s only currently available for Mac 10.9 or later, although a Windows version is currently in beta. It can connect over Wi-Fi or USB, with the latter being slightly more responsive.
I have spent a little time testing it, and it shows some potential. Because the sliders are all virtual, you do have to keep looking down at the iPad to see which one you’re moving, which is a disadvantage compared to the other gadgets we’ve reviewed. On the up side, it’s very inexpensive at just $3.99 / £2.99 (plus the cost of an iPad!) It was only released in January of this year, so it’s early days for the app, and I’m interested to watch its progress over time.
Come back next week to find out my recommendations!