A Computer Darkroom Feature Preview
The following table lists the headline features that you'll find in Lightroom 3 beta 2:.
As was the case with beta 1 Lightroom 3 beta 2 will not overwrite or interfere with your existing version 1.x or 2.x catalogs, nor will it allow you to upgrade a catalog from a version prior to beta 1. It should also be safe to work alongside your existing Lightroom 1 or 2 catalogs. Nevertheless, it 's important to mention a few caveats to using the Lightroom 3 beta 2. I have already mentioned the first, namely that it is not yet possible to upgrade an existing Lightroom 1 or 2 catalog. So, you will be forced into creating a new catalog or upgrading an existing beta 1 catalog. The second, as with all beta software, bugs will be present. So, it's important that you work on copy photos, especially if you decide to save develop settings back into the file. Lastly, develop settings applied to photos in the beta 1 or 2 are not guaranteed to transfer correctly to the final shipping version. That being said, I expect that any differences that may occur will be relatively minor.
I have already mentioned that the raw conversion, colour noise reduction and sharpening algorithms had been significantly reworked for beta 1. Furthermore, the extent to which they were changed was such that for the first time since the Camera Raw Plug-in was released in 2003, it was necessary to introduce the concept of Process Versions. With beta 1 the process versions were identified as Process Version 1 and Process Version 2 (sometimes abbreviated to PV1 and PV2). Unfortunately, many users found the naming convention and operation confusing. I'll discuss the operational improvements later, but for now it's worth mentioning that the process versions have been renamed Process Version 2003 and Process Version 2010 (Current). The names represent the year in which the processing technology was introduced, which should give you an idea of how often Adobe plan on updating the process version. By default, photos that contain develop adjustments from previous versions of Lightroom (i.e. 1 and 2) or versions of Camera Raw right up to version 5.6 will use process version 2003. However, freshly imported photos will use PV 2010. It's when a catalog contains both process versions that users will notice the difference between the two, both in terms of image quality and increased preview rendering times. In my opinion, the improvements in image quality, particularly high ISO colour and luminance noise, are so great that the increased time required to render the previews is worth it.
Performance in general has improved since beta 1, and users should find that thumbnail scrolling and module switching are much smoother than in earlier versions. However, the very substantial improvements in image quality mentioned above have come at the cost of reduced non-interactive performance. In particular, preview rendering will likely be slower than it was in Lightroom 2, especially when working with PV 2010 photos. To ensure the best balance between quality and performance Adobe have put a fair amount of engineering time and effort into developing an adaptive system when applying noise reduction and sharpening to previews for PV 2010 photos. For it to work well the engineers had to profile the noise characteristics of each supported camera over a wide range of ISO values. The operation of this adaptive system are quite complex and therefore beyond the scope of this review. Nevertheless, when it comes to noise reduction and sharpening of previews, you can be fairly confident that Lightroom 3 will do the right thing in most circumstances.
Lightroom and Photoshop Camera Raw share the same image processing technology to ensure consistent and compatible results across applications that support raw processing. During Lightroom 3.0 beta, we’re using advanced image processing technology that is not currently available in the Camera Raw 5 plug-in. You will find that Lightroom 3.0 beta will process images differently from the Camera Raw 5 plug-in. This should serve as a reminder that the model for storing and representing those corrections is not complete and may change for the final version of Lightroom 3.0, changing the visual representation of your image.
Library Module and Workflow Enhancements
There haven't been many UI changes in the Library module for beta 2, which means that the overall appearance should be familiar to anyone who already uses Lightroom 2 or has tried beta 1. The Library continues to be at the heart of Lightroom in so far as it's the module that provides most of the tools for managing your photographic assets. Imported photos can be viewed in the Library in various modes or views. These include: Grid view (G), Loupe view (E), Compare view (C) and Survey view (N). Each of these views is intended for a specific purpose in the your workflow, but you may find one view more useful than others. For example, Grid view allows you see large numbers of photos as thumbnails whilst at the same time providing a workspace for applying metadata, labels, ratings, keywords, flags, and even quick development adjustments to photos in bulk. On the other hand, Loupe view allows you to view a single photo as well as zooming up to 11x of the original. This view is particularly use for checking sharpness and focus. The "gotcha" with Loupe view is that restricts rating, labelling, keywording, etc to a single photo. Compare and Survey are specialist views designed to make the tasks of comparing, rating and flagging multiple photos easier.
Figure 1 - Library module Grid view
Other minor, but nonetheless important enhancements within the Library module include:
As mentioned above, there are relatively few new headline features in beta 2. Nevertheless, those that have been included should please a lot of users. For example, Lightroom now includes support for Tethered Capture, albeit limited to a selection of cameras from Canon and Nikon. The number of vendors and camera models supported by Lightroom 3 is directly related to the availability of the necessary vendor supplied Software Development Kit (SDK). So, screaming at Adobe because your particular camera isn't supported on the day it's released won't change anything. That's the bad news. The good news is that support for new models should be possible within a few months of the vendor SDK being released. Further information on which cameras are currently supported can be found in the Lightroom 3 beta 2 release notes.
Using Tethered Capture is relatively easy. First, you choose Library -> Tethered Capture. This opens the Tethered Capture Settings panel (shown in figure 2 below), which is used to configure the location for storing the captured photos, any metadata that wish to apply, etc.
Figure 2 - Tethered Capture Settings
When the settings panel is configured to your requirements, click the OK button. At this point the Tethered Capture control panel will open (shown in figure 3 below). Pressing the large silver button will trigger the camera shutter, as will pressing the Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+T keyboard combination. The Develop Settings pop-up menu is used to choose from any of the Camera Raw profiles already installed on your computer.
Figure 3 - Tethered Capture control panel
The control panel can be hidden by clicking on the circle button located below the Close (X) button on the right side of the panel. Alternatively, the panel can be hidden by pressing on the Cmd/Ctrl+T keys. Unfortunately, the control panel doesn't support remote adjustment of camera controls such as shutter speed, aperture or ISO nor does it support the "Live View" feature found in many recent DSLRs.
Video File Support
Another commonly requested feature that has made its way into beta 2 is support for Video Files. However, as with Tethered Capture the support for video files is rather limited. In short, you can import the video files, view the index frame as a thumbnail in Grid view or full-size in Loupe view (shown in figure 4 below), and export the files in their original format.
To view the video file, you press the camera badge either on the thumbnail or loupe window. This will launch an external viewer such as QuickTime (Mac) or Windows Media Player (Windows). In addition to playing video files through the external viewer you can apply metadata, keywords, ratings and labels.
Figure 4 - Video file support
The first beta of Lightroom 3 introduced a completely redesigned import dialog and this second beta makes a number of usability refinements, which I'll get to in a moment. The concept underlying the new import dialog was to make it look and feel like it was part of Lightroom. In many ways the development team achieved their objective, but some users would have liked them to go further. For example, a common beta 1 request was that the dialog could be resized and have adjustable side panels, etc. Alas, most of this type of request goes well beyond the scope of changes that the development team have scope to undertake. On a more positive note, import performance and usability were two areas that came in for a good deal of criticism, and I'm pleased to report that both have been significantly improved in beta 2. The following is a summary of improvements made since beta 1:
By default, the import dialog will open into the expanded mode (shown in figure 5 below). This view makes it much easier to visualise the whole process of importing your images. The Source devices and volumes are listed on the left side and Destination on the right side panel tracks. It's also important to note that, unlike Lightroom 1 and 2, which only gave access to folders that contained photos, Lightroom 3 displays all disk drives and folders, irrespective of whether they contain photos or not. This applies to both the source and destinations panels. Some users have found this behaviour quite irritating, whereas others have recognised the benefits of being able to look across the entire disk drive and folder structure on their computer or network. In effect, the import dialog has become a File Browser, albeit limited in what it can do with the files and folders.
Figure 5 - Expanded view of Lightroom 3 Import dialog
The thumbnail (Grid) view of the photos is located in between the two panel tracks. From here, individual photos can be included or excluded by clicking on the checkmark. However, it's also possible to use keyboard shortcuts whilst scrolling through the thumbnails (e.g. P = Pick, U = Unpick, X = Unpick). Holding down the Shift key whilst applying a shortcut will auto advance to next photo. Applying develop presets, keywords, metadata, etc is all done on dedicated panels within the Destination panel track. Likewise renaming photos on import and defining the initial preview size. It's even possible to switch between Grid view (G) and Loupe view (E), and there is even a zoom tool (Spacebar) that allows scaling from 1:4 through 11:1. With beta 2 loupe view is also possible when browsing a Compact Flash or SD memory card.
Figure 6 - Import dialog in File Browser Loupe mode
In addition to the expanded mode Adobe have also included a compact mode (shown in figure 7 below). This mode removes most of the complexity associated with the Source and Destination panels. The idea with this arrangement is that the source and destination can be quickly identified via Import Presets that will already have been configured by the user.
Figure 7 - Import dialog Compact mode
Readers already familiar with the new import dialog will probably be thinking that beta 2 is more of the same. Well, as mentioned above a lot has changed since beta 1, but much of it is subtle and a lot of it not immediately obvious to the user. For example, the performance enhancements only become apparent when you browse folders with large numbers of photos (i.e. thumbnails and photo enumeration has been speeded up significantly). A more obvious enhancement can be seen in Grid view. Actually, there are now three alternative Grid views i.e., All Photos, New Photos and Destination Folders. The first (All Photos) lets you see all of the photos within a given folder or subfolder. By default, if a photo is already in the catalog it will be greyed out and unchecked. The second view (New Photos) only shows photos that are not already in the catalog. This is the default view when the import dialog is accessed from the Synchronize Folder command. The last thumbnail view (Destination Folders) separates the photos into the folder structure that you've chosen in the Destination panel.
Figures 8a - 8c - Import dialog Grid views
Also, for beta 2 a few additional options have been added to Compact mode (e.g. keywords, metadata preset, folder organisation, etc). So, not only does the import dialog in beta 2 now look as if it belongs in Lightroom, but the functionality and usability enhancements should address many of the criticisms levelled at beta 1.
Lightroom 3 beta 2 will import the following file formats:
In addition to RGB, Lightroom 3 beta 2 will also allow the import of CMYK*, LAB and Greyscale files.
Publish Services was new to beta 1 and is intended to allow you to easily publish photos to your favourite file sharing site directly from within the Lightroom Library module. Lightroom 3 beta 2 ships with an enhanced version of the Flikr plug-in. This plug-in gives you direct access to the Flickr photo sharing site. Obviously, you will need a Flickr account before the feature can be used. To set up the connection within Lightroom 3 beta 2 is fairly straightforward in as much as all you need to do is click on the Flickr Set Up button within the Publish Collections panel. Pressing the button will open the Lightroom Publishing Manager window as shown in figure 9 below. The two most obvious changes to be seen in the Publish Manager panel are the addition of the Flickr title fields and an option to limit the size of the export files. This latter option is also available within the Export dialog.
Figure 9 - Lightroom Publishing Manager (click for larger view)
The name you use within the Publishing Manager must be the same name as you use when connecting to Flickr via a web browser. The account must also be activated from within Lightroom before your Flickr Photostream will become available within the Publish Collection panel. Once the account has been activated publishing your photos to Flickr is a simple matter of dragging your photos on to the Photostream collection then pressing the Publish button. Lightroom 3 beta 2 will automatically begin the process of uploading the photos to Flickr. Figure 10 below shows how Lightroom 3 beta 2 displays the progress of the upload.
Figure 10 - Display of Photo Publishing in progress
Viewing the photos after they have been published to Flickr is relatively straightforward - right click on the Photostream to open the context menu then choose Go to Published Collection. Assuming you have an active internet connection Lightroom will launch your default web browser at the Flickr page containing your photos.
Figure 11 - View Published images at Flickr
Clicking on the Publish button any time after the photos have been published to Flickr will import any comments, ratings, etc that viewer may have posted to your Photostream. These will be displayed in the dedicated Comments panel located on the right side panel track, just below the Metadata panel (see figure 12 below). Flickr Pro Account holders can subsequently modify their photos and republish them to Flickr using the same procedure as described above.
Figure 12 - Photostream Comments
Prior to Adobe including this feature in Lightroom I had never used my Flickr Pro account, but having the ability to manage photos from within the application was too good an opportunity to miss. You can view some of my photo galleries at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ian_lyons/ All of these galleries were uploaded and managed from within the Lightroom 3 beta.
Library Filter Bar
The Library Filter Bar was first added in Lightroom 2. At the time many were critical of the amount of screen area that it took up, but were even more vociferous in their criticism of the developers decision to make the metadata filter operate at local level. Even worse was the decision to make the filter sticky. Thankfully, the latter two criticisms were addressed in beta 1. By toggling the padlock button on the top right corner open/close you can dictate whether Lightroom will apply the selected filter to an individual folders/collections (local) or to all folders/collections (global).
Figure 13 - Library Filter Bar (Metadata view)
For beta 2, a new Video File filter has been added to the Attributes section of the Library Filter Bar. It's shown in figure 14 below as the icon with the red boundary. Clicking on this icon when viewing particular folder/collection will display all video files in that folder/collection. Clicking on it when viewing All Photographs will return all video files contained within your catalog.
Figure 14 - Library Filter Bar (Attribute view)
The Filter Bar is undoubtedly quite powerful, but it is also somewhat obtuse in terms of how it works. For example, many users struggle to get their heads around the filter logic found within the Text section. Anyway, for the benefit of new users, it's worth repeating some of the description I provided in my review of Lightroom 2.
There are four sections to the Filter Bar: Text, Attributes, Metadata and None. The first three are used for a filtered search of the contents of your catalog and the last (i.e. None) is used to switch the Filter Bar off. The Filter Bar is activated from the Library>View menu or by pressing on the '\' key. You can use the Cmd/Ctrl+L keyboard combination to toggle on/off the last filter you used.
By default, the Metadata filter contains four columns, but is easily configured to display between 1 and 8 columns (i.e. via menu on the top right corner of each column). The actual column layout can be saved as a custom preset by clicking on the Custom Filter pop-up located on the top right corner of the Filter Bar. Figure 13 above shows an example of the Metadata filter in use.
One of the most useful aspects of the Filter Bar is filtering by keyword. The Filter Bar uses 'AND' between the columns and filtering within a column is an 'OR' function (i.e. hold down Ctrl/Cmd key then make appropriate selections within column). Using multiple keyword columns it is therefore possible for both 'AND' and 'OR' keyword filtering.
As mentioned above, the Filter Bar is also the location in which text based searches and attribute based filtering is carried out. The rule set for text based searches has changed little since Lightroom 1.x and they remain relatively self explanatory. However, it's worth mentioning a few of the less obvious filtering rules that come in handy for fine-tuned searches within the text entry field. For example, placing a '+' at the beginning of a word is the same as Starts With, placing a '+' at the the end of a word is the same as Ends With, and placing a '!' at the beginning of a word is the same as Doesn't Contain. Also, worth noting that the Attribute bar now contains White and Gray label chips for Custom Label and No Label respectively. Finally, multiple filters are activated by shift clicking the respective filter name (e.g. click Text then Shift+click Attribute followed by Shift+click Metadata).
Figure 18 below shows a comparison between the old and new colour noise algorithms. The photos was shot on a Canon EOS5 Mk11 at 3200 ISO in quite poor lighting conditions. The color noise and sharpening are at default settings. Even allowing for JPG compression associated with the screen shots it should be pretty obvious that the new colour noise algorithms are vastly superior to the old. Figure 19 compares the same photo, but this time with a luminance noise adjustment of 25 applied. The left version uses default sharpening and the right has sharpening slider set to 50 and radius at 0.8
Figure 18 - Comparison between Colour Noise in Lightroom 2.6 (i.e., PV 2003) and Lightroom 3 Beta 2 (default noise/sharpening settings)
Figure 19 - Left image includes Luminance Noise/Sharpening at 25/25 - Right image includes Luminance Noise/Sharpening at 25/50
I have mentioned Process Versions and the new naming convention a few times earlier in this feature review. In this section I'm concentrating on the other changes that have been introduced in beta 2.
Adobe received quite a bit of feedback from photographers confused by the process version options in the first Lightroom 3 beta so, in addition to new names, they made several improvements with the aim of ensuring that photographers can access the best raw processing quickly and easily. The improvements are summarised below:
Figure 20 - Update Process Version
It's been asked for nearly as long as Lightroom has been around, and finally we have it - and adjustable point curve. The parametric curve (i.e. original) operates as it always has, via sliders, by clicking on the curve and dragging up/down or using the Target Adjustment Tool (TAT). The advantage of this approach is that the adjustment of the curve is constrained to predefined limits, which have been optimised to prevent detrimental adjustments to the shadow, mid-tone and highlight regions. However, the in-built constraints occasionally prevent the user from making fine adjustments to specific parts of the tone curve. With the point curve very fine adjustments to specific parts of the curve are possible because you can set your own limits (lock points) and adjust the curve within them. Even greater control can obtained when you hold down the Alt/Option key while adjusting the curve. This flexibility, unlike the parametric curve, means that is possible to over adjust, thus causing some fairly extreme results. Some users may actually like what happens and use the point curve for creative effects.
Figure 21 - Enhanced Tone Curve
The Local Adjustment tools were updated for beta 1 with the removal of the button sets and Amount slider. Since there was little, if any adverse feedback no further changes were made to this aspect. That doesn't mean that there have been no changes, only that they may not be immediately obvious. Enhancement to local adjustments include:
Figure 22 - Local Adjustment Tools
The Gradient Tool and Adjustment Brush have their own set of keyboard shortcuts, with the following being the most important:
Post Crop Vignette
Post-crop vignette was introduced in Lightroom 2, but many users complained that the manner in which it was implemented did not properly reflect the desired effect. In particular, photographers wanted a tool that increased/decreased exposure/brightness rather than simply paining black or white into the image corners. Adobe thought they had addressed the earlier shortcomings in beta 1, but user feedback quickly dispelled this idea. With beta 2 they have reinstated the original post-crop vignette style. So, we now have three vignette styles, i.e. Highlight Priority (default), Colour Priority and Paint Overlay (original). Highlight priority is intended to produce vignettes similar to what you would get with lens vignetting. Colour Priority produces a similar effect, but is designed avoid hue shifts. Figures 23 and 24 show the first two styles with the same settings applied.
Figure 23 - Highlight Priority Post-crop Vignette
Figure 24 - Color Priority Post-crop Vignette
Other Develop module enhancements include:
Beta 1 added the ability to export your slideshows from Lightroom 3 beta as HD video. In addition, the link to iTunes was been broken which means that incorporating your music tracks is much easier than it was in the past. Double clicking on the music track duration will automatically adjust the slide change time so that the slideshow duration matches the music. In beta 2, the Playback panel has been enhanced to include new buttons for selecting the music and automatically adjusting the slide change time. A palette tile and checkbox has also been included to enable the user to add colour fades.
Figure 25 - Enhanced slideshow Playback panel
Other Slideshow module enhancements include:
Figure 26 - Export slideshow as HD video
The last new feature I want to discuss is Custom Print Package. Like the Watermark Editor mentioned earlier the custom print package has been high up the request list from very early days. Laying out a page is relatively easy in so far as you can add Cells of various sizes using the button set located within the Cells panel. Once the cells are in place you can drag the images into them. Alternatively, you can create a free-form layout by dragging the images directly to a blank page then resizing them to taste. Figure 27 below shows fairly simple free-form layout containing 3 images of slightly differing size.
Figure 27 - Custom Print Package
Other minor, but nonetheless important enhancements to the Print module include:
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