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OK, I'm going to keep this concise (for once!).
I'll outline the improvements and new features Lightroom 6 has from the previous version 5 and tell you my thoughts on each of them. Then I will give you my thoughts on whether to go with the stand alone version or go "rentware" with the Adobe's Creative Cloud.
Lightroom 6 utilises your computer's graphics processor. You would have thought it to be a good idea, but previous versions haven't done so, for some strange reason.
On my laptop, this improvement makes a real difference. It's really fast by comparison to version 5. Particularly noticeable is the highlighting of selected areas with the brush and gradient tools; this now happens almost instantaneously on my laptop.
I have read mixed reviews on the speed improvements though, and I can only guess that it depends on the specification of your computer, and in particular, it's graphics processor.
The graduated and radial filters now both have brush selection tools nested within them. This enables you to edit the selected area to increase or decrease the percentage of selection and/ or it's area. It works in exactly the same way as the adjustment brush tool selection and includes the auto mask feature.
I find this very useful with the radial filter. Rather than use the adjustment brush, it just seems easier and quicker to set a radial filter and brush out the area you don't want it to affect.
I don't use this, but you now get a tool that attempts to recognise faces and categorise them according to their identity.
This is quite groundbreaking. You get to make great quality 20EV HDR RAW files by blending just 2 exposures!
If you have a modern camera capable of taking auto bracketed RAW exposures in rapid succession, then you can do great HDR without a tripod - in reasonable light that is. I've found it best to use just 2 of the usual 3 exposures - often the +2EV and 0EV, depending on the dynamic range. Also, select the brightest image first and ctrl + click the darker image second; this should help the to keep ghosted areas noise free on the subsequent image. With this approach, shadow noise is virtually nil, although care should be taken with the choice of exposures to keep noise down in skies. This was my first proper try; handheld -2EV and +2EV photo merged and post processed.
I haven't yet tried the panorama merge; pano's haven't been part of my photography at all, but that may change now.
Should you upgrade from version 5? Overall I would say yes.
If you have a standalone version of Lightroom 5 and live in the UK, the upgrade will cost £59, and I think the extra speed (albeit dependent on your computer's spec'), nested brush selection, and photo merge to HDR and pano' are well worth the money.
Adobe's Creative Cloud includes Lightroom CC and Photoshop. It also includes some remote storage and mobile oriented features. The Lightroom 6 standalone software is software as we know it; buy the full version (£106) or upgrade from the previous version 5 (£59).
If, like me, you don't use Photoshop, and you live in the UK, then I would upgrade your standalone Lightroom 5.
In the US, the entry level subscription to Adobe's Creative Cloud (CC) is $9.99 per month; in the UK, it's £8.57. This means that in the US, it's cheaper to buy 12 months at $9.99 than buy the $149 standalone Lightroom 6. In the UK, 12 months at £8.57 is more or less the same price at a new standalone Lightroom 6 licence, but it's 42% more expensive than buying the upgrade from version 5.
If you haven't yet bought Lightroom, so you're not upgrading, it's probably best to subscribe to CC. If you're upgrading, don't use Photoshop, and live in the UK, then buy the upgrade.
Creative Cloud will probably benefit from new features as they happen, and Lightroom standalone version 7 may never appear. But for the time being, I won't be subscribing to CC.
Adobe has already rolled out new features in Lightroom CC that don't come with an update for stand-alone V6 (June 2015). There's a new "Dehaze" slider in the Effects panel, and the local adjustments get a white and black point slider like in the Basic panel.
Adobe will not be rolling out any new features for version 6. They say they have no plans to discontinue stand-alone licenced software for Lightroom and that it's future in the long-term will be determined by market demand.
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