Photography and Art

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lightroom 3.0 Beta

I can now claim to be a Lightroom futurist :-)

Back in March, I wrote a blog that predicted that the Lightroom 3.0 beta would be introduced in October of 2009 (see and here we are with the beta released on October 22nd. What a genius I am!

Unfortunately, I also made some predictions on possible new features and wasn't quite so bright on these. Let's take a peek:
  • Improved performance: got that one right. One of the design targets of the new release is superior performance and they've re-built the engine in order to obtain it. I also predicted that LR would take advantage of graphics cards, but there is no evidence of that so far (although Adobe might be holding something back for the release). It's strange that Photoshop uses graphics acceleration and LR still doesn't.
  • Print soft proofing: Zilch, nada.
  • Networkable version: also zilch. This feature would require a lot of rework, so it may not come out soon or ever. This product deficiency makes it tough for photo teams (e.g. photographers with assistants or production folks) to work together.
  • Improved masking: nothing on offer.
  • Built-in lens correction (like PTLens): nope
  • Expanded API (to be more like Aperture): nada. This is a huge weakness of the Adobe architecture. With no API that allows developers access to the image being worked on in real time, photographers are doomed to always having a discontinuity in their workflow where the concept of editing non-destructively is compromised by having to create an intermediate version for Photoshop or some other editor to work on.
  • Real-time integration with Photoshop (i.e. sharing an image dynamically): nothing
  • Improved smart collections: you can view them from the develop module now, but no extra capabilities (e.g. copy and modify).
What did the Lightroom team do instead?
  • A complete re-write of the raw conversion software to make it competitive with CaptureOne etc. This was sorely needed.
  • A new import module. I'm not sure there was anything wrong with the old one.
  • More print features. Always nice to have.
  • Better interface to photo sites. This was already well-served by the plug-in community.
  • Watermarking. This was needed too.
  • HD Video slide shows. Video is not my thing, but I guess this is a good feature for some.
  • Pro level sharpening and noise reduction. This will be a good thing when we see it finished. It will reduce one reason to do the round trip to Photoshop or other packages.
Let's ask the obvious question: is this new release going to be something worth buying? We know that Adobe is going to ask for money. Here's my concern. The main guts of this release are the speed improvements and the re-write of the raw conversion software. In my opinion, this is something that Adobe should send out for free - these are fixes to deficiencies that have dogged Lightroom from the start. We shouldn't have to pay for Adobe to bring the package up to the competition.

The new import dialog, watermarking, better interface to photo sites and new print features sound like something that could easily have been included in point releases. These don't justify paying for an upgrade.

Pro grade sharpening and noise reduction are substantial features and are probably worth paying for. I'm not sure they are enough to justify a complete new release since they were features that already existed in 2.5.

In short, I'm disappointed that Adobe didn't include more goodies in this release. It seems like the developers decided to bite the bullet and correct some basic flaws in the LR engine and then threw the marketers a few bones to try to justify charging money for the upgrade. I'll probably buy it, but I reserve the right to be grumpy about it!