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Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta Review

A comparison between the highly acclaimed Lightroom 2.6 and the new incarnation of this award winning Raw processor. With new features and functionality, as well as some comprehensive updates, will Lightroom 3 entice new users into the Adobe arena, or is it simply stretching the monopoly with unnecessary features?

| Lightroom
Words by David Clapp.

Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta  Review: Lightroom 3If you are unaware, Adobe are offering a great opportunity to trial its latest versions of the acclaimed Lightroom software. Version 3 is now available for a free download so now has never been a better time to get your hands on this landmark piece of software.

Although still in a Beta testing stage, the result already seems to have a few extras that will inspire current users of the older version 2.6, as well as perhaps entice users of other Raw software into ‘the Lightroom’, where image adjustment has never been so simple, creative or intuitive.

Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta  Review: Lightroom 3
The new Lightroom 3 Beta import window. A visual way of importing images to the Library.
Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta  Review: Develop panel now has a swap  around and a new Effects Panel
Develop panel now has a swap around and a new Effects Panel.
In Comparison

As an avid user of Lightroom, it's nice to see some fundamental changes as well as some more subtle inclusions to image alteration and workflow. Underneath the bonnet there are also modifications and streamlining to the efficiency and speed of the image conversion process, but let's have a look at a range of obvious and positive improvements –
  • Image Import - Firstly there is a huge update to the Image Import method. Beforehand, a folder was simply selected from list of folders in your Raw image archive. Now there's a far more intuitive system that uses thumbnails.
  • This allows individual selection of images instead of importing an entire folder. Although not necessarily applicable to my workflow, when choosing content, this graphical way of delivery is certainly welcomed.
  • Develop Panel – Everything looks very familiar here, but there are a few extras and a minor shuffle around. There is now a new Effects Panel and the Vignettes Panel has gone.
  • The Effects Panel contains the creative Post Crop Vignetting and also includes a new Grain Effect, useful for those moody black and whites in particular.
  • A Lens Correction panel is populated with Chromatic Aberration tools that were in the Details Panel, as well as another vignetting tool.
  • Exporting – Exporting an image looks literally the same, although it now includes a Watermarking feature that may or may not appeal to some users. Graphics or text with variable opacity can be applied to an image as it is converted, but for those who like to alter images in Photoshop, this feature is also extremely handy when converting TIFF to JPEGs for website upload, right at the end of the workflow. Just import your folder of archive TIFFS, export the entire folder as JPEG, resize, sharpen and watermark. The arduous task is thankfully now automated.

Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta  Review: New Published Services panel in the Library view in Lightroom 3
New Published Services panel in the Library view. A flickering cash injection?
Other new features leave me head scratching. It seems like Lightroom is perhaps trying to envelop the user with a somewhat excessive monopoly. Features like the Watermarking and also the new Published Services (allowing direct upload of Raw conversions to Flickr straight from Lightroom) leave me a little perplexed.

I am left wondering whether they are trying to persuade the photographer to do away with their TIFF image archival process altogether. It's fair to say that with the myriad of image adjustments available in Lightroom, an image is workable to high standard in this software alone. Is the future a marketing split from the happy marriage with Photoshop to a stand alone software experience?

Perhaps Adobe are pushing these product features towards an in-camera / minimal post processing client base, like sports shooters and press photographers, or perhaps the casual photographer more interested in social networks. For visually creative users, who only see Raw software as a springboard to the never-ending artistic possibility within Photoshop, these functions will perhaps remain bypassed, unless returning to apply these features to their TIFFs after post processing.

Interface and Engine
Nonetheless, Lightroom 3 seats you confidently at the controls of a slick program. With beautiful expanding menus, smooth fades and great attention to visual detail, it’s certainly a joy to use.

My 8Gb/Vista 64 system responded very well to it and although Adobe ensure there is a faster, more efficient new engine under the bonnet, converting 16bit TIFFs felt no faster that v2.6. With the same set of pictures open in v2.6 and v3 Beta, there was a saving of around 500Mb of RAM with v3Beta, which is certainly nice to see. Lightroom has always been processor hungry so any attempt to reduce this value will be gratefully accepted.

It’s difficult to say whether any differences will exist between the Raw engines of v2.6 and v3Beta. If you're a Capture One user for instance, you will know that many prefer the Phase One Raw engine over the Adobe equivalent. For me, the myriad of controls Lightroom embraces far outweighs this difference.

Although Beta testing is a good way to get to grips with software, bear in mind that it is best to leave your serious processing to an updated and supported commercial release. I for one will wait with anticipation, as there is simply nothing on the market that gives photographers this much creative control over their images, from any other software house.

ePHOTOzine will be reviewing the final version of Lightroom 3 when it's released.

For more Adobe products visit Park Cameras.

Words by David Clapp.
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JJGEE Avatar
JJGEE 18 8.1k 18 England
2 Apr 2010 8:46AM

Where / How does one pitch a review of a Beta testing product ?

I would have thought that a mention of perhaps the biggest new feature in Beta 2 of the ability to import and play video files from certain Nikon / Canon camera models would have been top of the list !

Also, there is no mention of point curve adjustments or luminance noise reduction which I believe are already standard features in other RAW converter software packages.

If or when I buy a new computer I will give it a try as I like the current v2.6 much better than using Elements 6

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