Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta - Initial Thoughts

Yesterday Adobe announced the availablity of a beta version of Lightroom 4, the next version in it's line of photo cataloging and RAW conversion software. As daily user of Lightroom, a new version is always something fun to mess around with. First things first, this is beta 1 people, which means that it installs separate from earlier versions of Lightroom and uses it's own library. Don't be an idiot and go messing around with your real data here, it's too early for that. Duplicate some raw files and import them to play with. I for one have only installed it on the Air to play around. You have been warned.

Ok, so new features I like:

The Develop Module has been moved around a bit and has a new 2012 engine underneath. Gone is the 'brightness' slider which I never used much anyway and they've added new 'Whites' and 'Blacks' sliders which lets you move the white and black points respectively. These two along with the remaining 'Highlights' and 'Shadows' sliders giving you finer control over the bottom and top end of the luminance range. You end up being able to control the curve at both ends better. More like a parametric EQ for pictures. Very cool.

They've also added a few options to the adjustment brush tool. Now you can paint in noise reduction, moire removal, mess with local shadows and highlights. And perhaps my favorite of the bunch, local color temp and tint. So when you've had to shoot in mixed lighting for some reason and need to have part of the picture as tungsten and another as daylight for instance. The only thing I don't like about it is that it's a relative thing, so paint in +/- 100 temp instead of having it be a normal kelvin scale. Very neat idea though and something I've wished for before.

They've also added per channel curves adjustments for color correction adn such. Basically, you can do more of your work in Lightroom before or without taking it into Photoshop.

There are new additions to the DNG spec too, including a new lossy compression option. Almost all of the advantages of RAW while using much less disk space. They suggest it for outtakes that you want to keep around but don't need to be obsessive about. You can also now lower the resolution of a RAW file without losing the ability to mess with the data later. Another way to save space.

Another neat addition is the ability to email a file straight from Lightroom without having to export it and then attach it in gmail or whatever. Soft-proofing in the Print module has also been added, I tend to get good results from stock profiles and a well calibrated monitor, but I'm sure some people will be quite happy with that one.

Oh and the video features are huge. Playing video for one, and having the ability to use most of the Develop module controls on them. Setting in and out points, etc. I don't mess with video much and if I did, I'd be doing it in Premiere or FCP, so I'm not sure how useful this stuff actually is.

All that stuff is super, now the additions which made me groan:

There's a new Maps module which will grab GPS data from your pictures and let you find photos by location. This is obviously a cool use of the metadata for people with tagged photos, but most cameras don't have GPS, so now there's a whole new module up top that I will never use just like the current Web module. If you're going to keep adding these Adobe, have some check boxes in the preferences to turn them off.

Another new module is Books, which lets you layout and upload a Blurb book straight from Lightroom. This is also very neat and I wish I had it when I made the 365 Portraits book a few years ago, but alas. Some people are complaining that it's only Blurb. I'm sure Adobe made a deal and in my experience it's a good choice. Blurb does a pretty good job all things considered. Also a module I wouldn't mind having the ability to turn off most of the time.

Oh and one omission which has been driving me nuts lately. Many of my .psd (PhotoShopDocument) files end up getting too big, especially with the no flate plugin, over the max of 2GB so I have to save them as .psb  (PhotoShopBig) format.  However, despite the fact that .psb is an adobe creation Lightroom doesn't see them so they don't show up in the library.  I just have to remember "Oh, I had to make this a .psb, I guess I have to go find it in Finder).  Annoying. I've put a post on the beta forums but no answer yet.


So there you have it, I'm sure there's more in there I haven't discovered yet.  Good start so far. The interface is a little buggy right now, a number of times I've had to click a pic a few times before it shows up in the main Develop window for instance, but I'm sure they're on it. Let me know what you think below.