Following on from my quick look at the Library module in Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta (Lr3B), here are my first impressions on the changes to the develop module.
Once again, at first glance there is very little to see that anything has changed. From a usability point of view, the inclusion of the collections panel in Develop is a great change. I have not made full use of collections in my workflow, tending to use them for one-off tasks. I think these small changes Adobe have made (including the panel in Develop and adding an icon to thumbnails in grid view) will mean a shift in the way I work.
Another subtle change is making Lightroom’s best kept secret, Auto Sync, a tiny bit more obvious. In Lightroom 2 you had to press the CTRL key to change the Sync button to Auto Sync. Lr3B now has a little switch that toggles the Sync button between the two modes. you can still press the CTRL key too.
There are a few subtle changes in the Develop tools – there is now an option on when the tool overlays are displayed. For example, when in the crop tool, you can show or hide the composition grid. The option vary depending on which tool you have selected.
The graduated filter and adjustment brush tools have been tweaked too. As well as the overlay display options, the (rather odd) button mode in Lr2 has been removed – you now only have adjustment sliders (which matches the rest of the Develop module interface). Pressing the ALT/OPTION key will now allow you to reset the slider values, although I have found this a little quirky (to be expected in a beta product).
Image quality and process versions
The bigger changes are less obvious – the improvements to image quality. Adobe have significantly overhauled the RAW processing engine (ACR), which, based on my initial look, seems to have improved the ‘look’ of images. To avoid Lr3B changing images already prepared in an older version of ACR, there is an option to use the older process.
When you open an image that was prepared with previous versions of ACR, a warning triangle appears above the Histogram. Click this triangle and Lr3B will change to using the new version. You can also change this with menu option Settings->Process Version.
Details and Effects
Other big changes are to the Detail panel (Sharpening and Noise Reduction) that I think contribute greatly to the improved ‘look’ of images. After a quick play, I think that this may reduce my use of Neat Image to only the most noisy images.
For those of you who like adding effects, post-crop vignette has been updated to make the final result much more pleasing – using color priority mode gives much more natural colours and better shadow transition under the vignette. There is also now an option to add film-style grain effects. I foresee a lot of new presets being released that mimic favourite film stocks…
Finally, many photographers will welcome the terminology change from greyscale to Black and White!