THE SEARCH FOR A FASTER WORKFLOW
When my wife and I started shooting weddings in 2005 and using Lightroom in 2006, I was always looking for a way to improve our image editing workflow. With a growing family, I wanted to spend less time behind the computer. Lightroom was a big improvement over Photoshop for high volume work, but moving sliders with a keyboard wasn’t purrrfect.
Then in 2013, I discovered the original PFixer panel (Mac only) and it changed my world. Having physical sliders and rotary knobs was the key to making Lightroom feel like an instrument you could play. Finally there was a tactile way see, feel, and adjust the major controls in Lightroom. Exposure, Contrast, Blacks, Highlights, Shadows, etc. were all mapped to the motorized sliders.
The best part was the sliders actually snapped to their respective positions when you moved from one image to the next, you could actually feel where your settings were at without taking your eyes off the screen. It was a game changer for me!
THE NEW XTREMIST PANEL
3 years on and over 150,000 images edited, the new Xtremist panel (priced at $479) follows the same basic concept of the original PFixer panel but with a massive jump in functionality. There are now 9 motorized sliders, 16 rotary knobs and 30 physical buttons. The rotary knobs also have a push button function which can be used for things like calling up your image presets.
The big change from the original PFixer panel is the addition of knobs for image adjustment controls like rotation, scaling, distortion & lens vignetting. There are also now buttons to call up the local adjustment tools which is a huge plus. Personally though, I was most excited to see the rotation knob. On the old board, that was one of the only adjustments where I had to take my hands off the panel to use the mouse.
The Xtremist board is also a significant jump in build quality from the original PFixer panel. The new board is vastly updated has much nicer feeling sliders and a better fit & finish. Overall, this board gives you the most physical controls over the look of your images.
BITE SIZE PERFORMANCE – THE PFIXER PLUTO & MINIMAL
If you’re looking at the size (or cost) of the Xtremist panel or your workflow is more mobile, Pusher Labs has a two, smaller solutions. The wireless, jog wheel based PFixer Pluto or the wired PFixer Minimal .
The Pluto is a totally wireless controller that works on the same basic concept as the Xtremist but smaller. The controller has 16 main buttons and a large central rotary knob. The buttons on the outer edge control image navigation and copy/paste functions.
To adjust a setting for an image, just push one of the central white buttons and the software will pull up a little window in Lightroom to tell you what parameter you’re adjusting. Then you simply rotate the big jog wheel to adjust. There are 2 pre-programmed pages of functions with 2 more available for whatever your workflow needs such as presets.
What I really like about the Pluto is how freeing it is. Popping this into your laptop bag is a piece of cake even compared to the PFixer’s other portable panel, the Minimal. What I love about the Pluto is that you can kick back in the chair or on the couch. Heck, because this has a pretty big wireless range, you could even spend some time on the treadmill and edit on the run.
The Pfixer Minimal more closely follows the concept of the Xtremist with individual rotary knobs. There is a ton of depth in the controls with the Minimal because of the dual layer functionality and the fact that the rotary knobs also are push buttons as well. You don’t need any batteries or need to worry about charging as the panel is USB bus powered. What I like about the Minimal is that you can adjust more than one parameter at a time like on the Xtremist board. While you don’t have the motorized sliders the knobs still virtually “snap” into position as you paste settings so making subtle tweaks is just as easy.
Beyond the control panels, what’s great about PFixer is that it’s fully customizable. Beneath the simple user interface, you can move & map Lightroom functions to any button/slider you like. Don’t like where an adjustment is on the board? Move it! Even if you’re a technophobe, it’s easy to setup and remap the buttons in the software using the “learn” function for each Lightroom control.
Not interested in a board at all? PFixer also lets you do some pretty neat tricks with just your keyboard or trackpad, too. With just your keyboard you can map all the unused keys to adjust whatever image settings you like. Additionally, if you have a trackpad, you can setup up to 16 “zones” which will turn into virtual sliders as you swipe your fingers. This feature also supports 1 & 2 finger movements giving you up to 32 customizable controls. In fact, PFixer works with many MIDI control boards so you can create your own setup too.
NOW AVERAGING 350-400 IMAGES AN HOUR
I knew having discrete control and the ability to adjust more than one parameter at a time was going to speed things up during editing but I wasn’t sure by how much. With my mouse & keyboard, I was averaging between 100-150 images an hour depending on the wedding. Spread that over the average delivery of 700-900 images and you’re talking several solid hours of editing.
With the PFixer Xtremist I’m able to average 350-400 images an hour while still touching every image individually. That nearly triples the productivity! Over the course of a typical wedding season of around 25 weddings we’re talking about a savings of nearly 80 hours of being stuck in a chair. Think about it, that’s two 40 hour work weeks of editing! This is why the PFixer panel and software creates such ardent fans.
GET ONE FOR YOURSELF AT A DISCOUNT
If you’re feeling burnt out on editing and use a Mac, this may do the trick for you.
See the Xtremist in action with Mike Duval: