Lightroom 4 Beta is now available as a free download from Adobe Labs. Among its many improvements are the two new modules Map and Book, better video support, much requested Soft Proofing, enhanced DNG support, and the ability to email an image directly from within Lightroom.
Adobe have changed the process version and expanded the popular localized adjustments to further control color balance correction. The ability to selectively paint out noise or remove an undesired tint is one of this update’s highlights; a subtle but significant addition to Lightroom’s already extensive image enhancing abilities.
The Fill controls have given way to the efficient Shadows and Highlights, while the Histogram has been divided into the five main exposure areas, with the relevant area highlighting as you move your cursor over it.
Video support introduces some valuable enhancements, but don’t ditch your film editing software just yet. You can trim the in and out points nicely, but you cannot string multiple clips together or select part of a clip to remove it.
With video being an integral part of so many photographers’ work, this seems like a missed opportunity. We are not talking Premiere or Final Cut level of control here, but I wish Adobe did include basic cutting and pasting.
An impressive video feature is the ability to apply Lightroom’s advanced adjustments to the video clip. You cannot take the entire clip into the Develop module, but through Quick Develop, you can let just a single frame in for treatment and cleverly apply the changes to the entire clip.
The new Book module is seen by many as a long overdue catch-up with Aperture and iPhoto. As a user of other publishing services, a Lightroom book creation tool was not high on my wish list, but seeing how comfortably the new module fits in with the overall photographic process, its merits are clear. Far from being a ‘testing the waters’ feature, this feels like a fully developed and flexible tool. Users can opt for auto layout option or take the manual route with the end result exported to PDF or sent directly to Blurb for printing.
The entire book creation process feels fluid and flexible. You can choose from an extensive selection of layouts, set page background color individually or globally, and use a photo as a background image. I like that the overall design flows with your adjustments and that changes you make to your book images in the Develop module automatically update within the book. You can simply drag pages to change their order, swap images between pages, enter captions manually or use existing metadata, change text leading, kerning, position, size, and color.
Another module new to this version is Map, a long-awaited tool for organizing images by location. As you would expect, GPS information embedded in your photo is automatically read and plotted onto Lightroom’s worldwide map. You can search the map for images taken at a specific location, drag images onto a specific location on the map, enter location info manually, and much more besides. I like that you have the option to remove sensitive location information should you wish to and that you can effortlessly flick through images taken at a specific location from within the worldwide map itself.
Lightroom 4 includes many significant improvements, but the decision to upgrade or not depends on the shipiing product price. There is no official shipping date yet but the Beta period is rumoured to be shorter than previous ones.
To download the latest Beta and start experimenting go to labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroom4/, but remember to work on duplicates.