You Need to Buy Lightroom 4! The SLR Lounge Official Review of Adobe Photoshop LR4
Product Name: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4
Cost: $79 Upgrade from Lightroom 3 or $149 for the complete non-upgrade version
Website/Purchase:LR3 Upgrade Version $79, LR1/LR2 Upgrade Version $99, Full Non-Upgrade Version $149
Subject: Photo editing software system
Full Video Review
Pre-Conclusion Conclusion – 5/5 Stars 100% SLR Lounge Approved
Since using the Lightroom 4 Beta, I have switched my tune 180 degrees. Originally, I was doubting that Lightroom 4 would have enough features to merit the usual heafty upgrade price. While Lightroom 4 is definitely more evolutionary than revolutionary, it does offer a good amount of new features over Lightroom 3. Now, had these new features come at a price of $249 or $299 like previous versions of Lightroom, then we would have been much more critical in our overall recommendation. However, with an upgrade price of $79 and a full non-upgrade price of only $149, Lightroom 4 is a must have in our book. Lightroom 4 offers just enough new features to merit its purchase price. So, given the fact that it has several new useful functions along with an affordable price tag, we are giving Lightroom 4 5/5 stars and a 100% SLR Lounge Approval. Now that isn’t to say that we don’t have any gripes, so for those of you that want more details be sure to watch the video or read the full written review below for complete details and an overview of LR4s new feature set along with what makes us still want to bash our heads against a wall.
Full Written Review
Lightroom 4 is definitely evolutionary rather than revolutionary in regards to most of its features. While there are still plenty of lacking features that we can raise our fists about, there is enough new goodies in Lightroom 4 to merit the very affordable purchase price. So, let’s go over the features that we like, and those that we are not so fond of.
What We Dig About Lightroom 4 (Pros)
Process Version 2012 – While Process Version 2012 is significantly different from Process 2010 in Lightroom 3, it is also significantly better. Rather than having arbitrary sliders for things that really have little difference such as Exposure/Brightness, we now have a tightened up group Basic Processing settings. Process 2012 is designed to work more like a Tone Curve that has been converted into slider options making it much more intuitive and powerful. Also existing sliders like Contrast and Clarity work much more effectively than in Lightroom 3. That being said, there will be a small learning curve adjustment in getting used to the new setup.
Tone Curve RGB Controls – Finally, we have controls over each independent color channel in our Tone Curve Panel! Now we can create cool color toning adjustments and faux-cross processing effects directly in Lightroom rather than always turning to Photoshop. This feature alone is almost worth the upgrade for me!
Additional Adjustments Brush/Graduated Filter Sliders – We now have additional controls in our Adjustment Brushes and Graduated Filters including the ability to control Temperature, Tint, Noise and Moire.
The Book Module – If there was one revolutionary feature in LR4, I would have to say it is the Book Module. The Book Module allows us to create albums and books directly from Lightroom! That’s right, we can create tons of different types of layouts all while simply dragging and dropping our catalog images into each page. It provides immediate pricing for printing directly through Adobe’s partner Blurb, as well as allows you the option to export to PDF to print through your own lab of your choice. While complex layouts may still require Photoshop or 3rd party applications, the LR4 Book Module is going to completely change the entire way we make our books.
The Map Module – For you GPS crazed nuts out there, you can also view, sort and tag images by location now in the GPS enabled Map Module which is built onto Google Maps. Not a feature that I will use much, but nonetheless I know this will be handy dandy for many of you adventurists out there.
Soft Proofing – LR4 also comes with the ability to soft proof to get your colors more accurate when transitioning from screen to printer.
Export Directly to Email – Yet another favorite feature of mine, Lightroom 4 can be setup to automatically email whatever images you like to whoever you like using existing email services and software such as Outlook, Gmail, AOL, etc.
Additional Video Support – We can preview as well as edit the in and out points for video files inside of Lightroom 4, and then export video with different quality and resolution settings. We still don’t have full color grading control over video from the Develop Module. But, we are able to apply develop presets to video from the Library Module. Now, this isn’t the most efficient system of color grading video since you will basically have to apply, adjust the preset, and reapply until you get a clip right. But, it is possible. Perhaps in an update, we will have Develop module control over video, which again would be another huge reason to use Lightroom 4.
Additional Export & Publish Functionality – Publish Services is getting revamped as now new 3rd party online services can be added to the LR4 Publish Services System. New export and publish plugins are also coming available for different labs, including everyone’s favorite Costco.
Why I Want to Bash My Head into the Wall (Cons)
Develop Presets Still Don’t Support Adjustment Brushes – Seriously? It is just an extra checkbox… Why Adobe, why!?!?!?!
More Resource Intensive – Internal Memo from Adobe –> “Yeah… so…. unfortunately Lightroom 4 is actually slower than Lightroom 3… oops.” We are hoping that this problem gets resolved as time goes on and new updates are released to improve efficiency. Just know for now that if LR3 is barely running on your machine, it might not be the best idea to upgrade.
Only One Catalog Open – Adobe Programmers say that opening two instances of Lightroom will cause computers to literally get up, walk out the door, and explode on your doorstep. Therefore, they have only allowed one copy of Lightroom to be open at any one point in time. While we appreciate not having exploding computers, it sure would be nice to have one catalog importing or exporting, while browsing through another.
No Advanced Layer Controls and Brush Shaping Abilities – Look, it just isn’t wise for Adobe to make Lightroom too powerful when they need to sell Photoshop as well. It’s business, it isn’t personal and that is just the way the cookie crumbles. So yeah, we don’t have any layering functionality, nor can we change the shapes of our Adjustment Brushes and Spot Removal Tools.
Yeah, I know, after all that bashing, we still give it 5 out of 5 stars. Well look, here’s the thing, Lightroom 4 is an improvement over Lightroom 3. There are some really nice new features. In this case our recommendation really all comes down to the price vs additional features. I think Adobe knew themselves that Lightroom 4 was definitely just an evolution of Lightroom 3, and therefore they priced the upgrade very reasonably starting at $79. That is primarily the reason why we can give this software a 5 of 5 rating. Because for the price, you really have no reason not to upgrade. For those using Lightroom 3, the new features are worth $79, and for those that don’t have Lightroom at all, a outright purchase price of $149 is a steal. So, you got it, we are giving LR4 the SLR Lounge stamp of approval with a whopping 5 star rating.
P.S. Dear Adobe, the new loading splash screen sucks. Should have deducted a star just for that piece of garbage. For the first time ever, I have unchecked the “Show splash screen during startup” option from my preferences.
Post Production Pye
SLR Lounge Senior Editor
Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography