Adobe has announced the release of a second beta of Lightroom 3 (download it here). This comes five months after the first beta was released and promises a good selection of new features and further improvements in speed and image quality.
Having a second beta release is a real contrast to Apple’s secretive approach to developing and releasing products (e.g. Aperture 3). Adobe say that more than 350,000 photographers downloaded the first beta, allowing them to get valuable feedback on the new and improved features. I think this feedback loop has really benefited the product.
The highlights in this beta release for me are:
- Luminance noise reduction
- Support for managing video files
- Tethered shooting support for Canon and Nikon cameras
- Improvements to the import dialog
Click through for more information on the changes in Adobe Lightroom 3 beta 2 (Lr3B2).
Before I go on, I should remind you that this is still beta software, released by Adobe to get feedback on the new features and performance of the product. Make sure you are working with copies of your photos and have a good back-up of any data you work on with Lr3B2.
Lightroom 2 didn’t have the best reputation for image quality with some of the internet pixel peepers, especially if you pushed the camera beyond it’s ISO comfort zone.
Adobe have been working hard on this and I am very pleased with the new improved noise reduction controls and general step-up in image quality overall.
To test this out Lr3B2, I re-processed one of my Whip-poor-will images. This was created in near total darkness, using car headlights as the sole source of light. I pushed my old Canon 1D mkIIN right to its ISO limit at 3200 and was working at shutter speeds of 1/13 second.
Now I know that ISO 3200 is not that extreme on modern bodies, but it really is pushing the limits on my aging 1D mk2N – bare in mind that I try to avoid going over ISO 400 with it!
I ran the image through Lr3B2, fiddling a little with the noise controls and I am amazed at the results! It significantly cleaned up the high levels of grain in the background whilst retaining good definition in the feathers and ‘hairs’ around the beak.
Although I would prefer to manually and selectively clean up an extreme image like this in Photoshop with the Neat Image plug-in, I can see that my more typical images are not going to need their routine round of noise reduction in Neat Image any more. Which is excellent news and a step removed from my workflow.
I know a lot of photographers were not that excited by the inclusion of video in their DSLRs but there are equally a lot who are very excited by this change in technology. So I imagine there is going to be mixed opinions on this new feature…anyone remember when Flickr introduced video?
I do shoot a little video, not so much in the past couple of years but this is a welcome addition. As well as ‘traditional’ video, I create a bit of time-lapse, so the big thing for me is that I can now manage final time-lapse video files along side the original photos – yet another simplification of my workflow.
Combine this with Sean McCormack’s timelapse preset, you can create and manage time-lapse video without really having to leave Lightroom.
Tethered image capture
All I can say is – hooray! Finally I can avoid the rather fragile set-up of running the Canon software and monitoring a directory to import the photos ‘live’ into Lightroom. I have only played with this briefly with some table-top macro fun but have plans to test this, quite literally, out in the field. I’ll post more when I have it.
Adobe have made quite a few changes to the import dialog, most minor but all really improve the ‘experience’. Most significant for me was the fact that it now waits for you to select a folder before heading off to check for images and remembers where you were last time you imported.
Publish has a couple of tweaks, including allowing you to specify a target file size and support for uploading original video.
One of the bigger changes in develop is updates to the contrast curve. As well as the original curve controls, Lr3B2 now allows you to alter it at specific points – very much like Photoshop.
Finally, the slightly confusing concept of process versions has been updated. The biggest change is that the indicator has been moved and is much more prominent in the lower right of the image (rather than on the histogram).
Yes there are plenty more changes – I suggest you look through the release notes and read through the extensive coverage that will be published by the Lightroom community over the coming few days.
I’ll also be adding more info over the next few days…