Adobe has released a public beta of Lightroom 3. It can be evaluated/tested for free until April 2010. The Beta is explicitly not intended for production use. A series of free short “Scott Kelby” videos demonstrating the main new features can be found here.
Installation and migration
You can install Lightroom 3 while keeping your installed copy of Lightroom 2. Adobe, however, doesn’t recommend doing any production work with the Lightroom 3 Beta. In fact, importing of Lightroom 2 (or 1) databases is disabled in the Beta.
Although you can import new photos, you can import existing photos from your current Lightroom database along with their metadata by exporting the metadata from Lightroom 2 to the file system using: Metadata > Save Metadata to Files (Ctrl S). This generates .XMP sidecar files for RAW files and inserts metadata into JPG images (changing the file system date while doing so). The .XMP sidecar files (which are readable in Notepad) is automatically read when the images are imported into Lightroom 3. The end results is that you get the images registered with your keywords, crop settings, lighting adjustments, etcetera in Lightroom 3. The process takes a while because as far as Lightroom 3 is concerned these are new pictures (e.g. new thumbnails and previews need to be generated).
You may be able to use the same trick to save “non-production” work done in Lightroom 3 back into Lightroom 2, but this will probably give problems with new features.
Main new features
- Easier control of printing layout
There is a new Custom Package mode whereby you can drag and resize you images. One nice feature there is to enable crop marks as lines. That allows you to align the image on the pages.
- Improved noise reduction – to presumably reduce the need for DxO, Noise Ninja, etc. DxO incidentally also just claimed to have improved their noise reduction.
- Ability to add a watermark to the image during export or printing.
- Export of slide shows as a stand-alone PDF files
The PDF file can contain an audio track, but the audio had some glitches. I don’t know if that is a Lightroom issue or an Acrobat Reader issue.
- Export of slide show as a stand-alone video file
The video is in the .mp4 format and a few resolutions up to full-HD are supported. There are no easy ways to provide video that can be burned to DVDs: this is for playback on computers or gadgets. The slide show can have an accompanying audio track and the user can easily adapt the slide show to match the duration of the audio track. Here is an example slide show with some of my pictures that lasts 99 seconds – I know the music doesn’t match the images.
- Integration of Flickr online gallery
- Fancier control of vignetting (but there was already quite a bit of control)
- Ability to add grain (comparable to DxO’s Filmpack, but the grain is controlled using just two sliders (DxO tries to emulate a number of classic film types)
Main missing features
Soft-proofing, as provided in PhotoShop, is still missing. It is a well-known omission and may still show up in the final release.
Impression so far
The functional additions are not too shocking, but possibly more will be added before the final release. The program is still a bit buggy, although these were mainly user interface issues rather than anything particularly blocking.