it looks like LR is only available for $10/mo as a part of their Creative Cloud push
On the contrary, it is available on Amazon.
Further, Adobe has publicly stated that this situation "will continue."
That said, the Creative Cloud Photography Program is the best way to get Lightroom, if you were going to upgrade for every major version, and you have a use for Photoshop.
I just totaled up my cost for Lightroom 1.0 plus all of the upgrades, then divided by the time I've been using it, and it came out to $105 per year, inflation-adjusted. That's counting some steep discounts along the way, such as the early adopter rate I got for the first version of Lightroom, plus sale prices on all the upgrades.¹ Since I now pay $126 per year for the Lightroom + Photoshop subscription (with tax) that means I'm effectively getting what used to be called Photoshop Extended for $21 per year, which seems like a pretty good deal to me.²
The cost of Lightroom upgrades was falling yearly when the Creative Cloud thing hit, but I believe this was purely due to Apple, which was effectively dumping Aperture on the market, subsidized by the sales of Apple hardware.³
I don't trust Adobe, half of their software is decent but the other half horrible
Given that Adobe has about 100 products, I rather doubt you have used even half of them.
The worst thing I can say about Adobe's software is that their freebies — Reader, AIR, and Flash Player, primarily — are in sad shape because Adobe's business models for these products suck.
The worst thing I can say about Adobe as a company is that they ruthlessly abandon underperforming products: Fireworks, Contribute, Flash Builder, FrameMaker, Director... You do have to keep an eye out for this kind of thing. If your Adobe product of choice isn't getting the attention it deserves, best be ready to jump ship at short notice.
Adobe's flagship offerings are all either alone at the top of their category or top dog in a fight with just one or two worthy rivals.⁴ Such situations don't happen with software that is merely "decent." Decent might get you to #2. "Horrible" won't even get you in the game.
I wouldn't want to depend on their cloud at all.
You don't have to. As pointed out above, you can still get Lightroom standalone.
There is the monthly activation check, which is technically a "cloud" thing, but that applies to the standalone version, too. In any case, do you really go unplugged from the Internet for more than 4 weeks at a time?
The only truly "cloudy" feature of Lightroom is Lightroom Mobile, which doesn't come with the boxed Lr 6 version and is entirely ignorable in the CC version. With that one feature set aside, everything in Lightroom uses local storage, and works perfectly fine while unplugged from the Internet.
I've already used Aperture for 3 years for $80. The cloud is definitely too expensive.
And for your $80, you got software that has basically been abandoned for those three years,⁵ and which just got killed. That's a bit like putting a quarter cup of gas in a car, using that gas to get it up to speed, coasting 3 miles down a mountain to a car dealership, then telling the salesman that you won't buy a new car unless it also gets 192 miles to the gallon.⁶
Apple killed Aperture for very Adobe-like reasons: they weren't making enough money on it to keep employing its development team. The same money spends better in other ways, like this new Photos for OS X feature. If past is prologue,⁷ we will find that not only is this first release of Photos not nearly as powerful as Aperture, it won't hit feature parity for years to come, if ever.
It is foolish to set your expectations for Adobe based on what Apple did in the past. There simply is no common basis for that comparison. The companies have vastly different business models.
If we want a professional, world-class tool, we can't keep expecting to spend $80 every 3 years for it. Top software developers are expensive.
I never paid "retail" for any Lightroom purchase that whole time.
Back when it was being sold as boxed software, the standard version of Photoshop cost about US $650 retail. Upgrades cost about US $150 if you upgraded for every version. If you skipped versions, upgrades cost more like US $250.
The version of Photoshop bundled with Lightroom CC is what used to be called Photoshop Extended, which was more expensive: US $1,000 retail, plus ~$300 per upgrade. This adds 3D, video, and image analysis features to Photoshop Standard.
You may be wondering how the numbers work out if you're more interested in Photoshop than in Lightroom, and don't need the Extended features. It turns out that we can stack the deck in favor of boxed software by skipping versions and waiting for reseller discounts, yet we still come out ahead on the cloud deal.
Say you bought a copy of CS2 on sale for US $580, back when it was current, then skipped the odd versions, upgrading to CS4 and CS6 for $250 each, a typical price for that sort of upgrade. You'd have spent an average of $108/yr, which happens to come out to nearly the cost of the CC Photography plan. And keep in mind, this is an unfair comparison, because your $10/mo + tax now gets you all upgrades, immediately, plus you get the Extended features and Lightroom on the side. You're paying only an extra ~$18 a year for all of that.
So yeah, it's a pretty good deal, no matter how you look at it.
I'm not one of those irrational Apple-haters. I'm typing this on a Mac; I prefer to use them wherever practical. It is simply a fact: Apple makes the vast bulk of its money on hardware, so it can afford to offer its software at under-market rates.
Lightroom cost $300 when it first came out. Then Aperture came out at $80, and the new cost for Lightroom dropped rapidly to $160, then slowly sank over the years to about $90 for a discounted retail license. It is no coincidence that the quality of Lightroom updates dropped over those years. You can't cut the cost of software by ⅓ and expect to see no negative side effects.
I don't like spending more than I have to, but I do want to funnel enough money Adobe's way that they can employ the software developers needed to implement my pet features and fixes quickly, while maintaining high software quality.
Photoshop, Flash Professional, and Acrobat Professional are all at the top of their respective markets because they are unopposed; there is no software that competes with any of these on a feature-for-feature basis.
Arguably Dreamweaver is unopposed in its market, too, though that's more a question of being the last product standing in an evaporating marketplace. CMSes, wikis, and dynamic web apps have made WYSIWYG HTML editors nearly useless in practice. Powerful modern text editors pick up all the remaining slack.
I have reason to worry about the longevity of FCP and Motion, too; Premiere Pro and After Effects might also end up unopposed.
Then there are the cases where Adobe flagship offerings have viable feature-for-feature competition, where Adobe still comes out on top: InDesign vs Quark, Audition vs Sound Forge, Illustrator vs Corel Draw, etc.
Apple's abandonment of Aperture reinforces my overall message here: bet on Adobe. It isn't a sure bet, just the smart one. A gambler doesn't need 100% of his bets to pay off in order to come out ahead.
Yes, I'm aware that there were occasional small feature updates to Aperture during its final few years of development, but it seems to me that if that's all you were after, you wouldn't be so worried about the prospect of "renting" software, which seems to come down to uncertainty about the value of future updates. I expect you're feeling pretty sore about how Apple treated you on that deal.
The only truly important thing Apple put out during all those years was the raw file format support updates for new cameras, which they were already going to do because it's a core component of OS X. It's hard to count it as an "Aperture" feature at the same time. Besides, Adobe also keeps its camera support up-to-date, often coming out with support for new camera models quicker than Apple.
¼ cup is enough to get a 25 mpg car up to speed. 16 cups × 4 quarter-cups to get US gallons × 3 miles = 192 mpg.
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