Adobe Lightroom 3 Released

lr3-box

Today Adobe announced the release of Photoshop Lightroom 3. The digital photography management application had been available previously through a public beta, which will expire at the end of June 2010. Tom Fogarty, Lightroom’s Senior Product Manager, reports that 2,000 people participated in the beta’s forums and the application was downloaded 600,000 times during the program.

The difference in noise reduction is really apparent!

There’s two major advancements and several smaller new features in Lightroom 3. One major new feature is Lightroom’s new noise reduction algorithms, which changes the way Lightroom renders digital images as well as introduces three new sliders to the Noise Reduction panel. I tend to shoot with high ISO settings which introduces more noise, so having a better algorithm that reduces noise affects all my photographs.

lr3-noise

The other major addition is lens correction—Lightroom 3 can correct images based on the lens it was shot with, as reported by the image’s metadata. By itself I wouldn’t call this a groundbreaking feature but Adobe’s Lens Profile Creator—currently in the prerelease phase at Adobe Labs—lets you generate profiles of your own lenses. Together, these two applications can make manual lens correction unnecessary and give you better images immediately. Unfortunately I don’t think the Lens Profile Creator will gain much traction until it is integrated with Lightroom, but when it is I think it could take off.

The Watermark Editor dialog box.

Several new features are improvements to the user interface. One is the new Watermark Editor, which does the work previously taken on by third-party plug-ins and the Identity Plate feature in previous versions. The Watermark Editor is a fairly simple interface but does the job well and I like that you have fairly fine text and image controls. However, a few things bother me—you can’t use text and an image at the same time, the inset controls don’t allow standard or metric measurements, and you can’t set a watermark within the Library module to have it applied in the other modules. You must set watermarks in each module separately, which might be ideal for some photographers.

The Lightroom 3 user interface.

The other major user interface improvement—and one that excites me personally—is the totally revised file import dialog box. This is the one interface I use the most in Lightroom and it’s been redesigned to look cleaner and more logical. I like how the two devices—camera and destination disk—have been separated and placed on either side of the dialog box, with various import settings available in the center. The design of the dialog box is also very slick and easy to use. You can even minimize it into Compact View, save presets and create a one-click import process. The minimized interface is also used for the new Tethered Capture feature, which eliminates the need for a third-party application to import photos shot with a tethered camera. This also excites me, though it will take a little time to get more camera models approved for use. Currently, 26 Canon and Nikon cameras have been tested and approved.

There’s several other features in Lightroom 3:

  • The lens correction tools can also be applied manually with a set of perspective correction sliders. This set of sliders is particularly robust and perform well, though Photoshop is still the king when it comes to repairing warped perspectives.
  • Online publishing services have been touted since the Lightroom 3 public beta was released, with Flickr getting the most attention in demos. Basically, Lightroom 3 can access an online photo-sharing account like Flickr and manage images and comments on the fly. Tom Fogarty told me customer research has shown hosted services to be more popular than standalone web galleries, which surprises me—most pro photographers I know have their own website and galleries. I love this new feature but it will depend on the third parties, including Picasa and photo printing websites like Mpix, before it gains wide use. Personally, I would love to manage my Mpix albums from Lightroom. The addition of video export (see below) also makes publishing to websites like YouTube possible in the future.
  • The Vignettes panel has been replaced by an Effects panel with improved Post-Crop Vignetting sliders and also new Grain sliders that recreate the natural grain of film photography.
  • Print layouts are more flexible now, with practically no limit on the layouts you can produce. The Print module behaves more like a page layout tool this way, but that’s fine by me and you can of course save your layouts as presets. The conventional print package presets are still available too.
  • Slideshows can be exported to video and synchronized with music for a great presentation experience. Lightroom 3 also recognized videos in the Library panel, making it possible to manage video shot from still cameras—which seems to be happening more and more.

Lightroom 3 can manage online publishing services such as Flickr.

Lightroom 3 can manage online publishing services such as Flickr.

Videos shown in the Library module.

All these features feel mature and I am quite impressed by Lightroom 3 already. Users of Lightroom 2 should consider the upgrade, especially at the $99 price point (the full version is $299). For me, the File Import and video improvements alone have made digital photo management a more enjoyable experience.