Apple wowed digital photographers earlier in the year with its lightbox software, Aperture, but sub-par RAW conversion algorithms meant that few were persuaded to part with Photoshop. Now Adobe has counterstruck and released the second beta of Adobe Lightroom. We got our hands on the preview this weekend and put it through the thresher.
Lightroom is designed to replace the traditional studio lightbox: the stage where a film photographer checks their work for focus, composition, colour balance and a range of other fine details. Traditionally a film photographer would stare at prints on an illuminated box, using a loupe to magnify areas. Now that we're all switching to digital, there's no print to examine and physically organise, which is where Lightroom comes in.
The Lightroom interface is different from Aperture's. It's not as flashy, but makes more sense at first glance. If you're familiar with iPhoto, you'll be at home here. Lightroom is specifically designed to deal with RAW files -- the highest quality digital photo format in common use.
During our cursory tests, Lightroom seemed sluggish when browsing through photographs, but its RAW conversion method dramatically outclasses Aperture. It roughly matches the RAW conversion in Photoshop. For professional photographers, the only real option at this stage is to stick with Photoshop, or cope with the laggy ways of Lightroom -- hopefully this will be improved by the time Lightroom is ready for release. Aperture, though a great organisational tool, can't even compete at the moment because of its poor RAW conversion.
If you want to check out Adobe Lightroom for yourself, you can download the beta here. It's currently Mac-only, but a PC version is in development. -CS