Adobe Firefly 3 vs Firefly 2: Is Newer Always Better

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Between Midjourney, DALL-E, Meta, and Stable Diffusion — the race for the best AI image generator is already too close to call. But it’s about to get even tighter. Adobe just released Adobe Firefly 3, and we’re here to give it a try.

But here’s the question in everyone’s mind: is newer always better? 

In this article, I’ll be comparing Adobe Firefly 3 with Adobe Firefly 2. We’ll focus on its features, nuance, and output quality. Stay tuned!

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What is Adobe Firefly?

Adobe Firefly is Adobe’s official AI image generator model. It’s created to generate commercial images and seamlessly connect with other products from the Adobe suite like Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere, Illustrator and more. As of May 2024, its latest model is the Adobe Firefly 3, which we’ll review today in comparison to its previous iteration.

Adobe Firefly 2 vs. Adobe Firefly 3: Features

With Adobe Firefly 3, you’ll still get your favorite Adobe Firefly 2 features like aspect ratio control, switching between images or art, customization features such as visual intensity and style strength, and more.

However, this third iteration introduces four new features that will certainly get old and new users excited. These are the following:

  • Better Nuance and Creativity: This one’s a given, but Adobe Firefly promises to understand prompts better and generate more beautiful images with this new update.
  • Generative Expand: Allows you to input an image and Adobe Firefly will expand its aspect ratio by analyzing the photo and filling in the rest of the canvas contextually.
  • Style Reference: Similar to Midjourney’s style reference feature, Adobe Firefly will now let you use a third-party image as a reference guide for the final look and feel of the output.
  • Structure Reference: Lets you use an image as a structural template of the generated photo.
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Structure Reference Example
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Adobe Firefly 2 vs. Adobe Firefly 3: Output Comparison

Realism (Portrait)

Prompt: a woman after a marathon, medium shot, autumn backdrop

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Surprisingly, I slightly prefer Adobe Firefly 2’s output here if we’re going purely by realism. It’s well-framed, shot physics are on point, more candid, and the “autumn backdrop” is more subtle. The only issue I have is that it actually didn’t follow an important part of the prompt, which is “after marathon.” The woman is still in action in the image.

On the other hand, I see no issues in the Adobe Firefly 3’s output. What’s important is that it followed the prompt better, which is why I’m reluctantly giving this win to Firefly 3.

Commercial Photography

Prompt: product photography, craft beer, beautiful lighting, vintage aesthetics, ultra-detailed

This round goes to Adobe Firefly 3, no question. The previous iteration’s image just looks too fake, especially the rendering of the beer. It’s too smooth, without any fizz except from the build-up at the top. On the other hand, Firefly 3’s output could legitimately pass as real product photography.

Digital Art

Prompt: minimal abstract illustration, two fireflies with different designs in a beautiful forest, neon colors, dusk, watercolor

This is a matter of personal preference, but I actually like Adobe Firefly 2’s design better than its newer counterpart. It feels more personal, handmade, and even a little kitsch. Don’t get me wrong — Adobe Firefly 3’s output is a lot more intricate, but there’s just something about the former iteration’s quality that makes me adore it more.

Character Design

Prompt: comic book illustration, a man who can control ice, character design

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This is 100% an improvement. Although I don’t think either of these are on par with Midjourney or DALL-E yet, this improvement is definitely a step in the right direction. Adobe Firefly 3’s output actually looks like a comic book illustration, while Adobe Firefly 2 feels like a poorly-rendered children’s book illustration.

Architecture

Prompt: a japanese-style home, koi pond, biophilic design, quiet 5pm afternoon

I’m not a huge fan of either of these designs. They both look okay from afar, but when you zoom in, you can actually see that neither houses are structurally sound. There are a lot of rendering issues, particularly in the roof and the reflections on the water. This round is unfortunately a tie, but because they’re just both underwhelming.

With Text Generation

Prompt: a road sign that says “SLOW DOWN”

Add Adobe Firefly to the list of AI image generators that can now do text. I was expecting a slight improvement on text generation, but this was a nice surprise. Every letter is rendered properly and it properly takes into account the whitespace between “SLOW” and “DOWN.”

High Context

Prompt: In a vast, forgotten library chamber bathed in bioluminescent flora, a cloaked figure in an emerald robe with astronomy symbols examines a massive tome with swirling galaxies on its cover. Strange artifacts like a celestial sphere and an astrolabe lie on the lectern as the figure, their face obscured by a hood, turns a page with a glowing amethyst ring, revealing hints of forgotten knowledge etched on the floor and wisps of energy emanating from the tome.

One of Adobe Firefly 3’s main points of improvement was supposed to be nuance. However, based on this output alone, I’m not sure if they’re able to meet that promise.

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Let’s break the prompt down into several parts. There should be a library, bioluminescent plants, a cloaked figure in emerald robe, a tome, swirling galaxies above the figure, strange artifacts, an amethyst ring on the subject’s finger, and energy emanating from the tome.

Adobe Firefly 3 missed a lot of these. On the other hand, Adobe Firefly 2 only missed one: the amethyst ring. As much as I want to say that the newer version’s prompt understanding is better, this one is undoubtedly a win for Adobe Firefly 2.

The Bottom Line

Adobe Firefly 3 is definitely an improvement on its previous generation. Do I feel like it’s a huge improvement? Well, that’s a different question entirely.

There are many times in this comparison that I found myself wondering if I like Adobe Firefly 2 or Adobe Firefly 3’s output better. While that’s okay to happen once or twice, the fact that it happened in almost all examples is worrying. What’s more concerning is that Adobe Firefly 2 also seems to have better nuance than Adobe Firefly 3.

But, for what it’s worth, this is just Adobe Firefly 3’s beta version. Who knows what improvements they’ll make once they release the final version? For now, this comparison was too close for comfort. 

Want to see more Adobe Firefly comparisons? Read more about this AI image generator here and here.

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