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>> Hi. I'm Lori Grunin, Senior Editor with CNET, and this is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Version 3. For the uninitiated, Lightroom is Photoshop's specialized sibling. Where Photoshop is an imaging Swiss army knife, Lightroom is a steak knife for photographers. Like its most well-known competitor, Apple Aperture, you use it to organize, process, nondestructively retouch, and output volumes of raw files. With this version, Adobe enhances the product in some critical ways that make it a significant upgrade over Version 2. There's pretty much something for everyone here, including improved performance, killer noise reduction, potentially powerful export tools, and extremely flexible printing options. In general, the program's interface hasn't changed much; it's still broken into five modules, Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web, with panels that fly in on demand from inside of the screen. Version 3 adds a compact, ostensibly less distracting import view. I'm not sure it's really necessary to have multiple import interfaces, but some people might like it. Also one of the main import enhancements, Lightroom now can copy in video files; for the most part it just passes them through on export, but it's nice to be able to cue-word and manage them along with your regular photo files as well. Shooting directly to your computer can be quite useful, and Lightroom 3 makes a start with its tethered shooting implementation. It's extremely basic and unidirectional, you can see but not change the camera settings, and there's no real-time preview, but for some people, it's sufficient and certainly better than shelling out for an extra cost application if you don't need that much. Adobe's been touting its overhauled noise reduction engine and with good reason. It's much improved, and I think it is now one of the best engines available. Plus, compared with some of the software out there, it's easier to understand and tweak the settings. I do think Adobe's a little conservative with its defaults, however. It only performs color noise reduction and no luminance noise reduction. Shadow areas especially benefit from the improved algorithms; they display far less clipping. And the program also does a much better job of out -- in out-of-focus areas than its predecessor did. Like the Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom 3 adds manual and automatic profile-based lens corrections in order to address distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting. At least in the final release I tested, it had a pretty meager selection of predefined lenses, and it was missing some important ones, like the Nikon 18 to 55 millimeter kit lens. And in many cases, I was able to get much better results with manual tweaking, at least for chromatic aberration. Adobe is still tweaking its profiles though, and we do expect some slipstream upgrades subsequent to the launch. On the effects and retouching front, there are also several changes. For grain freaks, you can now easily make the images shot with your very expensive equipment look like they were shot on a plastic camera with high-speed film. I think the grain controls are pretty nice, but some people might want finer control over the shape of the grain rather than just a generic roughness factor. Adobe also added a couple more vignetting blend modes over its single paint overlay option that was available in the previous version. This version also includes a fairly complete watermark editor, which works in conjunction with the various types of exports to batch watermark your images. Another big addition to Lightroom 3 is a new export interface, the Publishing Manager. Essentially, it allows for more export automation using monitored folders. With a third-party plug-in, it will allow you to automatically synchronize exported photos and take advantage of site-specific features, such as downloading comments from Flicker. Without a real plug-in, it's a bit more powerful than the existing export tools because it does track which photos have been uploaded already; however, the whole thing feels slightly undercooked. That's partly because there're aren't yet any real third-party plug-ins for sites like Facebook or SmugMug, just Flicker, but it also feels frustratingly disconnected from export and smart collections. While the Print, Web, and Slideshow modules have a lot more templates, the Print module has the most improvements. It's much easier to create custom layouts, and is now capable of non-grid based designs. You can also drag and drop images into the layouts. But you still have relatively little control over fonts in these three modules, at least as far as I could tell, because in the drive to leave more of the help content online, Adobe's help systems, in general, have become pretty useless. Though it's hard to make direct performance comparisons with previous versions, it does feel faster, with better balance of background versus foreground operations. It's definitely better to use on a 64-bit system with access to lots more RAM. Lightroom still lacks some frills, like face recognition and decent geotagging support, and some of the new capabilities, like Publishing Manager, won't be truly useful until the developers start delivering their plug-ins. But overall it's still a great workhorse tool for processing and organizing photographs. I'm Lori Grunin, and this is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Version 3.
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