April 2, 2008
Author: Ian Lyons
As well as being a dedicated Lightroom alpha tester, Ian Lyons is also an accomplished photographer and Lightroom guru. Ian has posted an overview of all the new features in the Lightroom 2.0 beta on his Computer Darkroom site.
So what’s new and improved?
Before answering this question I think that it’s important to remind readers what Lightroom is and what Adobe mean by “Public Beta”.
Lightroom is a high quality digital image processor with integrated database management. The underlying image processing engine used is Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw, which ensures that digital raw images processed in Lightroom are fully compatible with Camera Raw and vice versa. The database management system comprises two components: a catalog and a preview store. These two components are what provides Lightroom with its ability to quickly store, retrieve and preview your images and associated metadata, even when the originals are stored off-line.
Lightroom 1.x comprised five modules (Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web) and as can be seen from the following screenshot Lightroom 2.0 continues with the same modular layout and naming convention.
Unlike the “Public Beta” for Lightroom 1.0 Lr2beta is pretty much “feature complete”, so the intent this time round is to give users an opportunity to “kick the tyres” and provide feedback on bugs etc. Make no mistake, this beta is very rough around the edges and contains many bugs. In terms of stability and bug count it’s much closer to “alpha quality”, and is most definitely not intended for production use. It’s also important to note that while existing Lightroom 1.x catalogs cannot be read by Lrbeta2, although both will be migrated into the finished version. That being said, Adobe have made it clear that they cannot guarantee that develop adjustments applied with Lr2beta will be honoured in the final shipping version. This is particularly true of localised corrections. Even a quick read through the Known Issues documented in the release notes should be enough convince you that Adobe are not joking when they write Lr2beta is “for testing and feedback”. So be warned!
New features have been included in all five modules, but the most obvious are found within the Library and Develop modules. Likewise, the Library and Develop modules have benefited from the greater number of enhancements to existing features. In some cases they’ll be very obvious and others less so. I will deal with the less obvious enhancements first, then move on to the Big Hitters and module specific features.
64-bit Support – One of the less obvious yet highly significant enhancements in Lightroom 2.0 is that it is 64-bit enabled, although both your computer and OS must also support 64-bit mode. Mac users must be using an Intel-based computer and OS X 10.5 (Leopard). By default, Lightroom for Mac is installed with 32-bit mode enabled, but is easily switched to 64-bit mode via the application “Get Info” command (see figure 2). It’s slightly more complicated if you’re a Windows user in so far as you must be using Vista-64, even then you must download the 64-bit version of Lr2beta. The main benefit of 64-bit mode is that Lightroom can address memory above the 4 GB RAM limit imposed on 32-bit applications. Another benefit comes in the form of a speed boost to raw processing. Obviously these benefits will only be available on computers with more than 4 GB RAM.
Figure 2 – “Get Info”, open in 64-bit mode
Import – Lightroom 2.0 now supports images with dimensions up to 30,000 pixels on the longest side. So, you can import the panoramas and stitched images that Lightroom 1.0 blocked.
The import dialog has seen little in the way of change, but the ability to use the Embedded & Sidecar preview images when importing images should speed up your workflow. Lightroom 2.0 also continues with the process first adopted in version 1.3 in that it prioritises import over preview rendering, so getting your images into catalog should be fairly quick.
Figure 3 – Import Photo with Embedded & Sidecar Preview
Export – Lightroom 2.0 now includes the ability to automatically export your images back to their original folder. You can also export images back into your catalog and stack them along with the original. You can even apply adaptive Output Sharpening for print or screen. For example, in the Print module you can define the paper type (Glossy or Matte) and Lightroom will automatically adapt the amount of sharpening that is applied to the image being spooled to the printer or saved to the JPEG print-file. Lr2beta still has controls for High, Medium and Low sharpening, but these “may” be replaced with a more meaningful control in the shipping version of Lightroom 2.0.
Note: Output sharpening in Lr2beta is not yet complete nor is it fully optimised.
(click image for larger view)
Photoshop Integration - Lightroom can now open images directly into Photoshop without first creating the fully rendered TIFF or PSD that seemed to so annoy users of version 1.x. The most obvious benefit of this new method is that the file opens a lot faster. Using the context menu command for Edit in Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 can open files as Smart Objects, thus utilising non-destructive filters such as Shadow/Highlight and Lens Correction. Multiple images can also be opened into Photoshop and subsequently merged as single Panoramas or HDR image. Unfortunately, a bug in Lr2beta means that smart objects will not be automatically saved back into your catalog, but this will be corrected in the final version.
Figure 5 – Photoshop Integration
Note: The new integration features summarised above are only available with Photoshop CS3 (10.01) and Adobe are recommending that Lr2beta should only be used for testing purposes. See the Release Notes for further information on this topic, in particular the section on Known Issues, which contains information on the most recent public beta build.