REVIEW: Lightroom 2 Continues To Improve And Adapt

Lightroom 2 box

After announcing the Lightroom 2 public beta at Photoshop World last April, the application has been downloaded 130,000 times (the first 100,000 in its first five weeks) and over 1,300 photographers and users have commented on it in its forums. I’ve tried out all its features and was going to publish my review, but then I got the word that the final version of Lightroom 2 would be available today, July 29, 2008. The price remains the same as before, US$299 or US$99 for the upgrade. For comparison, Apple’s Aperture retails for US$199. The Lightroom 2 public beta will function until Sunday, August 31 so you can continue to use it for another month or so. Here’s the link to download it.

As I mentioned, I had written my review of the public beta’s features when I learned the shipping product was ready. Adobe rushed out a review copy of Lightroom 2 so this review is based on a few months’ experience with the beta and only a few days with Lightroom 2. A few weeks from now I will publish an article that follows up on my experiences.

Let’s look at all of Lightroom 2’s new features.

Revised Library layout

Lightroom 2 interface

The Lightroom 2 interface. Click the image for a larger view.

Lightroom Sr. Product Manager Tom Hogarty told me the Lightroom team worked hard in this version to “simplify the management tasks” of digital asset management. With that in mind, the left side of the Library module, which in Lightroom 1 has six sections plus the navigator, has been reorganized in Lightroom 2. The Metadata Browser, Keyword Tags and Find panes have all been removed. “Library” has also been renamed “Catalog,” perhaps to avoid any confusion between the Library pane and the Library module name in the upper-right. I noticed with Lightroom 1 that I was doing a lot of minimizing and maximizing panes due to a lack of space, so simplifying these pane areas helps me save time and effort. The Folders pane is much improved: it now lists the external and internal volumes so you can tell where your photos reside. Lightroom 2 also keeps tabs of your total and free disk space and color-codes the volumes so you can tell at a glance which volumes may need to be cleaned up.There are also new icons in the Folders and Collections panes that improve the interface.

Collections and Smart Collections

Lightroom 2 gallery

In this image of the Slideshow module, you can see Smart Collections in the corner. Click the image for a larger view.

Two major changes were made to collections, one I really love and another that I think has potential but isn’t quite there yet. The new Smart Collections feature allows you to set up dynamic collections based on selected criteria. Very similar to smart folders in Mac OS X, you can now sort photos on the fly. This feature is a great addition, one of my favorites.

The other new feature with Collections is the ability to create collections while in the Slideshow, Print and/or Web modules. These collections show up with module-specific icons and titles and retain the module settings you applied. Imagine having a set of photos you regularly output as a slideshow—now you can set these photos up as a slideshow collection with their own output settings. My experience with this feature in the public beta was that it was a solid concept but I got confused since I had to go to a module first before creating a collection for that module. Not only that, but Lightroom already has presets and it seemed like two similar tools to solve one problem. Lightroom 2 has helped clear things up with a revised New Collection button that shows a pop-up menu when clicked. Now you can see if you’re creating a Collection, Smart Collection, Collection Set or (when in an output module) Slideshow, Print or Web Gallery. You can also quickly sort the Collections pane with this menu. I wish there was a method to link a module collection with a preset—this would allow very easy swapping of settings for collected slideshows, prints and galleries. Lightroom has always automatically stored the current slideshow, web and print settings with a collection or folder, but as far as I know you can’t drag a preset onto a collection and change it on the fly.

6 thoughts on “REVIEW: Lightroom 2 Continues To Improve And Adapt”

  1. Serious issues regarding perfomance and in particular slow responses, freeze ups and crashes when using the new local adjustment tools are being reported extensively (please see Adobe Light Room Forum ). Here is what I posted there.

    “I would like to add my voice and 12 other peoples (friends and my students that I have polled) to the debate hoping Adobe are reading this. Across 19 computers all a minimum of duo processors with bags of RAM, Windows and Macs OS’s the slowness issue, freeze-ups and crashes especially with the new local adjustments tools are exactly as being described in these posts. As a computer “guru” I have to believe there is a serious code issue that only Adobe can resolve. The various suggested workarounds such as rebuilding previews, turning off Auto mask can help ease the situation but will not resolve what I and many believe to be serious flaws. Hope Adobe is reading and listening to this. What is strange is that LR 2.0 is slower and buggier than the Beta version.”

    This is what I added when I posted on Scott Kelby’s blog at NAPP

    “In my opinion NAPP is the worlds best Adobe advocate (and for me the best association I belong to) I hope that Scott and the great NAPP team are aware of what is being said and can look into the problems and see what Adobe are doing about it. I LOVE the product and the promise it holds BUT I have had to go back to LR 1.4 (bohoo) since I cannot afford the time it takes on any of my 3 computers with LR 2.0″

    So if anyone is having problems especially with the bad responses when using the new tools please add your comments and confirm this. By having enough people speak up perhaps Adobe will put a priority on this and get a ver 2.1 out soon.

    I Have been using Photoshop even before it had a version number and have great faith in Adobe solving the problem but hope it is sooner than later.

  2. I had screen corruption after i installed lightroom 2 on a macbook pro 2GHz intel duo and tiger 10.4.11. I removed the previous version of lightroom 1.4.1 thinking that it could conflict ,it made no difference even in single screen mode i checked the screen profiles and found it erratically change between profiles and eventually my calibrated profiles just vanished. When i had the screen return for short periods every time i open a image it would hang and crash just changing modules or when i made any adjustment or used tools .I have reinstalled the operating system no extras and updated and it still crashes even with only 12 images but no further screen corruption it is unusable ,i have a windows copy but as yet have not installed this as i have seen problems on other forums and i have wasted enough hours on this, reliability in software is very important to me and is key to any photographer .

  3. Peter – I agree with you in that I love the product and it’s potential…I’ve been using 1.0 since it came out. That being said, after installing 2.0, I’ve had nothing but issues. This is a huge concern to me for my business as my productivity and efficiency have been severly affected.

    I get out of memory errors, bad color profiles, I can’t use the local adjustment tools without waiting 15-30 seconds before it kicks in and often times it will just crash completely for no apparent reason, freeze up and I have to terminate the process…not even ending the task will close it out. I’m shocked and pretty angry at Adobe for releasing this version with so many bugs that it is hardly usable…I have 18,000 images in my catalog and 1.4 had no problem cruising through all of them with speed. 2.0 just crashes every time I try to do anything quickly.

  4. I too like the product but have had many issues with the slideshows, when trying to set up to show product to clients. I keeps bouncing back and starting again even with the repeat box not checked. Bloody bollocks i say. Hope that the update i downloaded tonight helps with that.

  5. I am another photographer who sees also the potential for LR, but am very reluctant to upgrade from 1.4 to the current 2.1 – and for many of the same reasons: the trial program crashes when encountering certain images…could be that the program isn’t sure where the images are and just doesn’t display the fact that the link is broken? or what? Also, I just lost 3 hours of meticulous work trying to sort my images into collections only to suddenly have them all just disappear!!! Poof…didn’t even crash, just wiped out all the collections. When you call adobe, they have guys in India (apparently) who are not much help (to put it mildly). Guess I won’t upgrade any time soon!!!!

  6. Same here, I cannot understand why the adjustment tool crashes everytime I use it, I haven’t had a chance to finish even one of my pictures. It’s a big dissapointment for me as I was hoping to use Lightroom for commercial purposes. Hope this will get fixed. Please note that I have a quite decent PC for this kind of application (AMD Athlon 5200+ Processor, 4GB of RAM and 512 of video memory), so it’s definately not because of lack of resourses.

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