Adobe Lightroom 4
Adobe's long awaited Lightroom 4, soon to be 4.1…
I have to say, it is an impressive update, which I am eager to recommend to all of my friends. There's a lot to cover, so I will keep this review focused on the two areas which I feel are the biggest improvement: The interface controls and Video editing.
In Lightroom 4, Adobe revisited the interface for these controls. The image editing controls have been renamed and organized in a more intuitive way. New control sliders for Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, replace the former Exposure, Recovery, Fill Light, Blacks, Brightness, Contrast. The order they are in feels much more logical, and the new names give a better sense of what they do within an image. I think new users will also find this naming convention more understandable. It’s intuitive, and it reflects the way many photographers think about their photos.
The first thing I noticed when opening raw files is that the default version of images appear to look better than they did in Lightroom 3. This is no doubt due to the improvements to the rendering engine. In Lightroom 3, I was always switching from the Photoshop CS5 to LR3 because I was never quite happy with how 3 rendered the default image. I would end up having to edit in image in Photoshop first, then import it into Lightroom 3, which would lengthen the editing process. Also, the mid-tones and shadows just never seemed quite right. In Lightroom 4, however, I am surprised at how good the default images look before making any adjustments. I am seeing more shadow and highlight detail, and images looks more realistic upon import.
I also like the fact that all the controls at a center default “0″ setting with – negative settings to the left, and + positive settings to the right. This follows the convention all cameras use for exposure settings. That detail makes Lightroom 4 more intuitive for new users.
One last comment on the controls — I feel that one of the One of the most powerful features of Lightroom 4 are the flexible brushes. The brushes that let you make adjustments to specific parts of an image, allowing you to bring out specific details of targeted areas. A special brush makes white balancing a very easy task, even when shooting single images with varying lighting.
An Additional Perspective
From a novice perspective, my wife also wanted to throw in a comment: “First I’d like to say that the filmstrip description box that immediately popped up upon installation was very helpful. In the past, when using LR3, I was confused about how to apply similar results and edits to subsequent images, (all being shot in the same lighting scenario) The tips box, although a novice feature, was a good little reminder tutorial. Love the Tips box!”
Hands down, my favorite improvement in Lightroom 4 is its video editing capabilities.
Lightroom 3 had very limited video file support. Version 4 adds playback for a wide variety of formats. Adobe has also added some basic editing features that should up the bar of what's expected of a program handling video. Most impressive is the fact that you can do some simple balance and tone alterations on your video footage. Lightroom also lets you scrub a video thumbnail to preview its contents, which comes in handy if you want to make a quick video edit.
Finally, the icing on the cake: Lightroom 4 allows you to apply effects to your video clips using the quick develop panel. This process is the same as applying effects to still images. Using the Quick Develop panel, you can apply makers can apply standard Lightroom presets (such as sepia toning), adjust white balance, change exposure, and tweak whites and blacks—all non-destructively. Much like with photos, you can even make virtual copies of video clips so you can experiment with different effects without maxing out your hard drive.
All in all, Lightroom 4 is pretty awesome. The only feature I would like to see added is the ability to apply custom user presets to videos. Hopefully this is something that will come up in the next version.
Lightroom 4 is a substantial upgrade which provides users with additional granularity, quality, and control in the image editing process. The additional improvements to areas such as the video editing capabilities continue to solidify Lightroom as an industry standard. At $79, this upgrade is worth every penny.
Ease of Use: 8
Look and Feel: 9
Overall Rating: 9