Adobe’s favorable decision to allow the public to try and test beta versions of its core software applications ahead of a formal launch not only allows it to pull in the views and criticisms of thousands of willing guinea pigs, but it also works has a handy way to gather interest ahead of the official release date.
Specific Lightroom 3 beta offerings that caught our attention included the ability to shoot tethered for selected Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras (an updated list of compatible cameras will be kept posted through the Adobe website), as well as support for importing and managing video files.
Significantly making a difference to image quality the Lightroom 3 Beta also proved how much better it was at luminance noise reduction and showed off a very aesthetically pleasing film grain simulation tool. Meanwhile, on the export-side photographers were finally granted the ability to edit both text and image watermarks, as well as churn out slideshows as video.
Although most of the major updates were introduced during the public beta we’re pleased to say there are a few more developments in the final release that were held back until now.
The full release of Lightroom 3 offers an impressive array of new features and developments to improve image quality, processing speed and export control. The most significant offerings are as follows:
- Improved noise and sharpening
- More control over watermarking
- Manual lens correction and auto lens correction profiles
- Perspective correction
- Sleeker importing
- Online Publish Service management (drag & drop to sites such as Facebook)
- Multi-image print layouts
- Improved film grain effects
- Video slideshow exporting (with music)
- Natural appearance vignetting
- Tethered captured for selected DSLRs
Meanwhile, if you’re wondering whether or not Lightroom 3 is worth the upgrade price we picked out the following features as the most significant and valuable:
One of the most significant additions comes in the form of the improved Lens Correction features. Back in May Gizmag reported on the release of Adobe’s Lens Profile Creator for the Photoshop family. Now, in the full release of Lightroom we can see how it’s taking lens correction a stage further by integrating a dedicated lens correction feature within the software’s Develop section. Within the Lens Corrections Panel it’s possible to set up specific lens profiles to auto-correct annoying lens traits such as distortion, fringing and vignetting.
Lightroom 3 does have the capacity to auto detect common camera lenses automatically, although we found it needed a little prompting with the Make before it was able to auto-complete the Model. However, after this initial step it will automatically correct problem characteristics in an image very quickly, and with pleasing, subtle results.
To fine-tune the corrections it’s worth noting you can also manually tweak the transform, vignetting and chromatic aberration settings. Meanwhile, in the Manual tab of the Lens Correction panel the Vertical, Horizontal and Rotate Transform controls also give you the ability to quickly correct perspective distortion.
Online Publish Services
The drag and drop Online Publish Services found in the Library panel means it's now far easier to directly access image-sharing websites and mobile device syncing. Included in the full release is a Flickr plug-in which allows you to upload to the site, view uploaded images, check up on visitor comments, and set the published images to automatically update if you’ve altered them within your Lightroom catalog. You also have the ability to set up designated publishing management export presets. Here, presets can be used to determine export settings such as file renaming, file sizes and color spaces as well as auto-watermarking.
Before its official launch, the number of useful Lightroom 3 publish plug-ins available to photographers through Adobe’s Lightroom Exchange was a little bit thin on the ground. However, it's now inviting third parties to create practical plug-ins with open arms - we’d be surprised if this resource didn’t explode with activity within the next few months. Adobe has also reiterated that third party developers should be able to offer the same kind of direct access for other websites and services as has been achieved with the included Flickr plug-in.
Vignette, Grain and Noise
Another vignette style has been added to Lightroom 3 to offer far more natural and subtle vignettes than the simple paint overlay effect. Using either Color Priority or Highlight Priority modes photographers have more control over post-crop vignette application. It’s a subtle change but it’s very noticeable when you compare the end results to the traditional Paint Overlay.
Some significant changes have been made to the Camera Raw processing engine in Lightroom 3. So confident is Adobe that the tweaks are powerful enough to change the appearance of images rendered with earlier versions of Lightroom, or with Camera Raw in Photoshop, it will now allow users to specify which version of Camera Raw should be used when rendering files.
So, if you want to upgrade your Lightroom version, older images will appear just as you remember them by default. However, if you want to see how the new processing features in Lightroom 3 could improve previously cataloged images you’re free to update the current Process Version.
Pricing for Lightroom 3 is set at US$299 for a full, boxed copy or US$99 if you’re upgrading from a previous version.
All of those testing Lightroom 3 beta 2 should be aware that this is set to expire after Lightroom 3 is available.