Review: Lightroom 3
From my previous experience of using Lightroom I had found that 50% of my editing could be completed within Lightroom but I still had to export and open the images in Photoshop CS4 for other minor adjustments such as Lens Correction. However, in this version it seems that these issues have been addressed. The public Beta, which was released in October 2009, received more than 600,000 downloads, so it is clear that Lightroom already had an established following of photographers who wanted to have a voice in the development of the latest version.
Not only has the final version been redesigned so it now handles growing image libraries more efficiently, but it also provides an unrivalled raw processing engine with noise reduction and sharpening tools to achieve the highest quality in your images. The Develop module now uses the same new processing engine as Adobe Camera RAW in Photoshop CS5 and by default produces sharper images and provides a better colour reliability, even when low noise is present.The results are far superior in every aspect tothe previous version and although the new process version is not backward compatible,there is no reason not to upgrade. I foundall my images benefited from Lightroom 3 and the Sharpening tool in particular gave a more natural effect, with less distortion on the edges than in the previous version.
The other new photographic tools include Unrivalled Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction to help produce a clearer picture from high ISO or underexposed images while still preserving the detail. The much-requested Automatic Lens Correction feature, which can dramatically improve the results of lens distortion, isalso welcomed into this version. It allows profiles to be applied which instantly correct undesirable geometric distortions and chromatic aberrations, as well as producing realistic lens vignette effects. The Vignette function gives more of a traditional darkroom effect and includes a style option withHighlight or Colour priority to create more natural results. This was particularly useful for cropping images and recreating the desired effect of a particular lens.
By default, the lens corrections are turned off but if you use one of the supported profiledlenses – these are Canon and Nikon, with Sigma on its way – you will automatically see a huge difference in your images. The Lens Correction function will instantly correct distortion and you also have the option to override the automatic adjustments settings to modify the perspective of an image if required. Even though the imagesI had imported were all shot on an L series Canon lens, I saw a general improvement, especially on the skewing of lines and vertical buildings within landscapes, although these were sometimes very subtle. The new Straightentool is an alternative way to perfect vertical and horizontal perspectives.
The new Grain Effect offers film features to assist in adding grain to an image while producing natural results. I found this especially useful for converting a colour to a black and white. The Amount, Size and Roughness controls mean a wide range of film types can be simulated to recreate the desired effect. Not a major feature but a nice touch to help bring back a touch of nostalgia to digital black and white images.
Importing images into Lightroom 2 had always been a straight forward process but the general performance and speed were not great, with a lot of room for improvement. It was particularly time-consuming when importing multiple files from one source into different locations, because each import had to be done individually.However, Lightroom 3 has significantly improved the speed, especially on the final release, even when the imported images are RAW files.
The importing process now fills your screen by default (which can be made smaller) and gives thumbnail previews of your image so that the editing process can begin straight away. All the sources from which to import your images are available on the left hand side and on the right the Destination panel allows you to select where the images should be placed. I was glad to see even subfolders are displayed and it is also possible to obtain your images from all modules rather than just in the Library module, which is very convenient.
Commercial and fashion photographers will be pleased by the Tethered shooting function which allows only selected Nikon and Canon users to benefit from shooting directly into Lightroom. More cameras will be added in due course but for now it is only these two manufacturers. You can also enter the session information, metadata, file naming and where the files will be saved, to limit your preparation for editing during the job itself.Output options have also been enhanced in this release, with new capabilities to publish collections on online sharing sites.
Adobe has clearly recognised the popularity of external image sharing, social networking sites and mobile devices and has created a drag and drop online Publish service which is similar to creating new Collections within the Library. It also gives direct access to websites and allows mobile device synching within the Library module.Flickr users have the ability to synch their accounts to Lightroom with one click, and integration of additional online photo sharing sites can be added through third-party plug-ins.
Customisable print layouts now give photographers more refined control over how they present final images, and new watermarking features, with options to modify text, size, location and style, help to give a professional touch and the flexibility for branding or copyrighting images. Another major development has been the ability to import your video files into the library to export polished slideshows as video files with the option to add audio and title screens. But unlike Apple’s Aperture, the support for video is minimal; no video editing can actually take place within Lightroom 3 and an external player/editor is required to do any editing to your videos. So while this is a step in the right direction of multi-media convergence, we hope to see more development in this area in the future.
The Beta version has had a huge influence on the general development of the programme, and the overall performance has been greatly improved upon for Lightroom 3’s final release version. Every photographer will have their own, unique workflow and preference but, for me, Lightroom offers everything you need for handling digital files and non-destructive editing of RAW. I believe it would be a waste of time to import a Jpeg into such a powerful manipulation programme as Lightroom 3 and not to reap the benefits of the new processing engine.I would have liked to have seen geo-tagging incorporated into the new version and maybe even the face detection tool which is now available in Aperture, but overall the bigger andmore significant improvements do live up to the expectations that we all had initiallyfor the new version.
The extra functions and tools that are now available within Lightroom 3 make it a strong competitor in the market and it is a case of personal preference as to whether you are an Aperture or Lightroom fan. However, I do think it is especially attractive and affordable for Windows users. Some may argue that Lightroom 3 cannot yet fully compete with the gimmicks available in Aperture 3 but it has clearly been developed with the high-end enthusiast and pro photographer in mind. It enables the photographer to take full control of the editing process all the way.
The question for the Mac photographers on the fence would be “Which Version 3 should I buy?” Well, it is very much a personal opinion.I do prefer the way Lightroom handles images and while Aperture’s new Faces and Places technology and extensive Slideshows options may sway your opinion, I have built a loyaltytowards Adobe which will remain with them.
UK pricing for Lightroom 3 is £198 (plus VAT) for a full boxed copy and £63 (plus VAT) for an upgrade www.adobe.com
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