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Lightroom 4 Beta – First Impressions

Early this morning Adobe announced the release of Lightroom 4 beta. The new version, that is due to be released in it’s final form later this year, promises to include some very desirable features, including:

  • A new Map module
  • A new Book module
  • Better video support
  • Simplified basic adjustments
  • New shadow and highlight controls
  • Localized white balance and noise reduction adjustments
  • Emailing directly from within Lightroom

The entire list of features and updates can be found on the Adobe Lightroom blog.

Shortly after it was announced I downloaded the beta to give it a trial run, and I must say I’m quite impressed.  Here are a few highlights:

New Basic Panel

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The Basic panel in the develop module has been overhauled and simplified. The Recovery, Fill Light and Brightness sliders have been replaced with the Highlights, Shadows and Whites sliders. These new sliders operate in a similar fashion to the sliders they replace; the Highlights slider works similarly to the recovery slider and the Shadows slider works similarly to the Fill Light slider. The major difference is in how the new Whites slider and the existing Blacks slider operate. The Whites slider only adjusts the whitest part of the scene, and not the overall brightness as the Brightness slider did. The new Blacks slider works in the same way as before, just the opposite. In Lightroom 3 and earlier you’d increase the Black slider to adjust the black level of the scene, in Lightroom 4 increasing the slider decreases the black level of the scene.

After spending a little bit of time with the new basic panel I was able to give an old image of mine new life. I took an old JPG image of mine that I took in Yosemite back in 2008. The photo is from Mirror Lake and at the time I wasn’t able to get the photo to look how I remember seeing it, with the deep blue sky and nice, saturated colors. When I processed the photo originally in Lightroom 2 I had to compromise and ended up with this:


After taking it and importing it into Lightroom 4, I was amazed at what I could do with the new Shadows, Highlights, Blacks and Whites sliders. After just a few minutes I was able to transform the image into what I beleive is a more accurate representation of what I saw that day:


New Lens Corrections Panel

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The Lens Corrections panel in Lightroom 4 has also gotten a minor facelift. Introduced in Lightroom 3, it totally negated the use of other tools, such as PTLens (my former lens correction tool of choice). Prior to Lightroom 4, the option to remove chromatic aberrations was only available if you chose to use the manual tools to correct lens distortion. The option to remove chromatic aberrations is now available on the profile, or automatic, tool for lens corrections.



New Map Module

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Every Lightroom release seems to include a feature that I was using a plugin for. Lightroom 3 saw automatic publishing to Flickr, which could have allowed me to stop using Jeffrey Friedl’s awesome Export to Flickr plugin (I still use it though, as I find it superior to Lightroom’s built in flickr publisher). Lightroom 4 also has the potential to wipe out another one of Jeffrey Friedl’s plugins I currently use, his “GPS-Support” Geoencoding plugin. Prelimiary research seems to indicate that new new Map module supports importing gpx files, which could allow for fast batch geotagging. I haven’t had a chance to test this yet, though as I don’t have any recent un-geotagged photos and a gpx file to test.

New Book Module

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Lightroom 4 also introduces a new Book module. This module lets you easily create and print books at Blurb (I imagine other publishers are in the works), or create books for print with publishers that can print from a PDF. You have the option to select several different page styles, including just a single photo, multiple photos or photos and text. So far I don’t see a page style for just text. The book module is a little cumbersome in it’s present state, but I expect it to get more refined as Lightroom 4 gets closer to being released.

Want to know/see more?  Check out the Lightroom YouTube channel for Lightroom 4 videos.

That about covers the new options and features that I’m looking foward to most. Have you had a chance to try Lightroom 4 beta yet? What are your thoughts?

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