Well, it’s finally here.  Just 13 short months after the release of Lightroom 4.0, the beta download of Adobe Lightroom 5 has just been announced.  You can download it for Mac and PC by clicking HERE to visit Adobe Labs! The question is, how does it compare to Lightroom 4? Is it worth downloading?  Is the beta version stable?  Will it be worth buying when it is finally released?  We’ll discuss these things in a minute.


New Features, With Commentary

  • Advanced Healing Brush
    Easily remove objects and fix defects—even those with irregular shapes such as threads or lint—with a single brush stroke. Take precise control over what’s being removed as you make unwanted objects just disappear.
    (Adobe takes another step towards reducing the general photographers’ need to go into Photoshop for advanced retouching.  This is to be expected in the natural progression of Lightroom!)
  • Upright
    Straighten tilted images with a single click. Upright analyzes images and detects skewed horizontal or vertical lines. You choose one of four correction methods, and Upright can even straighten images where the horizon is hidden.
    (Another nifty tool that most people never realized they needed, but will probably now say they can’t live without!  ;-)
  • Radial Gradient
    Lead your viewer’s eye through your images with more flexibility and control. The radial gradient tool lets you create off-center vignette effects, or multiple vignette areas within a single image.
    (This is something I’ve been wanting, although you can pretty much get the same thing by using the regular vignetting tools and / or burning & dodging.  This may shave a few seconds per image off your workflow, though)
  • Offline editing with Smart Previews
    Easily work with images without bringing your entire library with you. Just generate smaller stand-in files called Smart Previews. Make adjustments or metadata additions to Smart Previews and your changes will be automatically applied to the full-size originals later.
    (AWESOME!!!!  I hope this works well, (meaning, fast) because this is pretty much the greatest idea since sliced bread!)
  • Video slideshow sharing
    Easily share your work in elegant video slideshows. Combine still images, video clips, and music in creative HD videos that can be viewed on almost any computer or device.
    (Watch out, Animoto?  We’ll have to wait and see just how useful this is, but it sounds awesome!)
  • Improved photo book creation
    Create beautiful photo books from your images. Lightroom includes a variety of easy-to-use book templates, and now you can edit them to create a customized look. Upload your book for printing with just a few clicks.
    (I’m already liking the Lightroom 4 book module, so any new features here are very welcomed.)

Of course there are plenty of other things to try out in the Lightroom 5 Beta, from PNG support to improved tethered capture!

lightroom-5-beta-radial-gradThe Radial Gradient feature:  A little complex, but powerful!

lightroom-5-beta-spot-healThe Spot Heal / Clone tool is now a full brush!

lightroom-5-beta-spot-heal-helpTo help you find sensor dust, Adobe has provided this awesome new “Visualize Spots” feature!

Preview Notes

  • It’s a beta, people, it’s going to be buggy. It may crash all the time on your computer, and be super stable on other people’s computer.  You might lose your editing if something goes wrong.  So test carefully, and don’t dive headlong into it until after you’ve gotten a feel for the overall stability on your particular computer!
  • Don’t bother attempting to load / upgrade a Lightroom 4 or Lightroom 3 catalog; the LR5 Beta cannot upgrade them.
  • The Lightroom 5 Beta will not replace your installation of Lightroom 4; both programs can work side by side without any issues.  However, you will have to designate which program you want to open catalogs with unfortunately, in case you have a multiple catalog system and are used to simply clicking on the LRCAT file to start Lightroom.

Speed Tests & Stability

  • LR5 Beta Seems to render 1:1 previews at the same speed as Lightroom 4. (roughly 10 seconds per image, for 24 megapixel RAW files on an SSD computer with an i7 Intel core.)
  • Standard Previews (the regular kind, not smart previews) seem to render VERY fast.  I can’t tell if it’s faster than Lightroom 4, but even for 24 megapixel RAW images it renders at less than 1 sec. per image.
  • Smart Previews also render VERY fast!  Tonight my computer will be rendering smart previews for my entire portfolio overnight, so that I don’t have to always plug in my external hard drive every time I want to browse through and work on my “best-of” images from yesteryear.
  • Export speed is normal.  Not noticeably slower or faster, so I guess that is good!
  • The Overall stability seems to be great!  So far I have had the chance to play around with all sorts of different RAW files, and the speed is great even if I am doing things like rendering previews while laying down spot removal tools really thick! (Initial versions of Lightroom 4 used to be absolutely crippled by excessive use of the spot removal tool, although latter updates to LR4 seem to have minimized the difficulty)
  • UPDATE:  While Lightroom 5 Beta works fantastic on my computer, (Matthew Saville) …unfortunately Pye is having no such luck.  Remember, I warned you that it might work smoothly, and it might be buggy as heck!  For the record, we both own Asus “Republic of Gamers” computers, with similar specs, and so it is very weird that we have this discrepancy.  Anyways, install with caution!

Develop Module Speed

One of our biggest issues with Lightroom 4 is the overall editing speed with larger RAW files such as those from the newer 22, 24, and 36 megapixel DSLRs out there. Your develop module editing speed can be noticeably affected, especially if you’re used to editing 10-12 megapixel RAW files in Lightroom 3, just a couple years ago!

So the question is, …is Lightroom 5 beta any faster?  Well, testing on my decently powerful Windows 8 computer, (SSD with an i7 CPU) …I have to say that I don’t notice any difference in the editing speed just yet.  There is still a 2-5 second lag time when moving from photo to photo in the develop module, before your adjustments become available.  (The image itself is visible instantly, of course)  Also, when you try to go really fast with multiple adjustments in quick succession, you do end up with some lag time before those adjustments become visible.  So, sorry to disappoint you if you were hoping to achieve snappy, instantaneous develop module speed!  Looks like we’ll have to wait until the next generation of computer components comes out.

The good news?  The process version is still the culprit for most of the slow-down.  If you switch your process version from the new 2012 PV back to the “old” 2010 PV, (from Lightroom 3) …you get a considerable speed increase. Shot-to-shot lag is noticeably less, (just 1-3 seconds) …and adjustments have zero lag whatsoever.  (Click HERE to read a full article on speed tests for different process versions!)

Overall Opinion

On a scale of 1-10, how awesome is Lightroom 5 going to be?  If you asked me, right now I’d give it a 6 or a 7.  Clearly this is, as they say, “an update, not an upgrade”…  On the one hand, you won’t be totally left in the dust if you just stick with Lightroom 4.  On the other hand, Adobe will probably do two things:

  1. They’ll price an upgrade dirt-cheap, in the $75-$125 range,
  2. They’ll quickly cease updating Lightroom 4, which means that when new cameras come out after Lightroom 5 is officially released, you’ll be FORCED to upgrade if you want to edit RAW photos.  :-(

So there you have it, folks.

Stay tuned; soon we will post another article to discuss Lightroom 5 Beta’s features more in-depth, including how many (if any!) of our previous Lightroom 4 wishlist items we have received!

You can download the Adobe Lightroom 5 Beta for Mac and PC by clicking HERE to visit Adobe Labs!

Take care,
=Matthew Saville=