If I read the tea-leaves correctly, this is increasingly the tool of choice among serious photogs, although Aperture isn’t going away any time soon. The new release has been well-covered elsewhere; I don’t have too much more to add, but I do have a major gripe and a couple of pictures to illustrate the much-ballyhooed noise-reduction filters.

Odds & Sods · The new Import module is quite a bit better than what came before; better-matched to my photo workflow, which involves building up a month’s worth of photos in a directory; these days, the import screen by default just shows you what’s there but hasn’t already been imported. Obvious once you think of it.

Hooray · The big news that’s been making waves is the improved noise-reduction. In recent times I’ve been obsessing quite a lot about low-light photography, to the point of doing most of my winter photography through the extremely-challenging (to one of my limited skills) Sigma 30mm f/1.4 prime.

Well, there’s another way to deal with low light: turn up the ISO. Unfortunately the extra sensitivity brings extra noise. Well, not on the big flagship SLRs from Canon and Sony and (especially) Nikon, but those weigh too much and cost too much. On an ordinary sensibly-sized camera like my Pentax K20D, turn the ISO up to 1600 or beyond and you’re into some pretty serious noise and grain. Some people praise the “film-like” textures but I just don’t like the look.

So on July first, we went to a baseball game, and I took some pictures at ISO3200, something I’d never even tried before, and turned that noise-reduction loose.

Here’s what turned out to be the winning run being scored.

Vancouver Canadians play Yakima, July 1 2010

And here’s another shot of the scene at the plate. Neither of these pictures are that great — foreground/background focus problems in particular — but they capture a pleasant memory, because it was a fine ball game. At this crop level, I might even have got away with the high ISO pre-Lightroom 3.

Vancouver Canadians play Yakima, July 1 2010

But here’s a close crop, not quite one-for-one but less than two-for one.

Close crop of high-ISO baseball photo

Me, I’m impressed. I think that the Sigma’s going to get less and less work.

Now, the other big win in Lightroom 3 is supposed to be the auto-lens-correction module, which ships equipped with plenty of lens profiles. Oh, wait...

Where’s Pentax? · Pentax may not lead the pack right now in terms of price or sensitivity or glamor, but they make very solid cameras, and the line-up of lenses is second to none if only because you can take a 2010 camera and stick any Pentax lens ever made on it, going back a half-century or more. But not one of those lenses has a profile shipping with Lightroom 3. Shame, shame. There’s a tool so you can make your own profiles and maybe I will but I’d prefer to use one crafted by an actual professional.

Now, since I’ve switched into gripe mode...

Speed Is A Feature · Here’s the thing: Lightroom 1 was insanely ridiculously astoundingly fast; qualitatively quicker than any photo-processing tool I’d ever been near. Along with the well-designed feature set, it was addictive.

Then two things happened: First, starting with Lightroom 2, Adobe deliberately sacrificed quite a bit of that speed in exchange for some admittedly pretty attractive features. Secondly, photographers liked it enough to start pouring bazillions of pictures into it; I suspect my ten thousand or so puts me toward the low end of serious Lightroom users. And all those masses of pictures don’t exactly help with the performance.

What I’d like Adobe to do is to slap a total feature freeze on Lightroom and focus on exactly nothing but making Lightroom 4 approximately as fast as Lightroom 1.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Mike (Jul 10 2010, at 06:00)

It's unbecoming to be doing all this passive aggressive, deniable Apple bashing. O.K., you work for Google now, and I don't think anyone minds that you're going to be doing some serious dissing on Apple for a while. It's your role now. That's the way the world spins round. But just come out and do it in the open, rather than these little ankle biting flank attacks like this "tea leaves, serious photogs" stuff.


From: Derek K. Miller (Jul 10 2010, at 21:20)

Lots of Mac-using photographers prefer Lightroom over Aperture, for perfectly legitimate reasons, some of which Tim mentioned. I don't think that makes him somehow a shill, any more than he's somehow a Nikon-basher because he owns and uses a Pentax SLR.

Besides, I've seen the computers in his house. If his job were to bash Apple, even backhandedly, there'd probably be a lot fewer Apple logos on that stuff. Not to mention that he's been pretty consistent over the years in praising the company when it does smart things and dissing it when it does dumb things. I haven't seen a change in that at all.


From: Tariq (Jul 11 2010, at 12:58)

Uh, regarding comment "From: Mike (Jul 10 2010, at 06:00)". He's suggesting that the author refrain from Apple-bashing in a piece entirely devoted to Lightroom 3. Does Mike realise that Lightroom is an Adobe product, not Apple?


From: Jesper (Jul 11 2010, at 13:20)

Mike: Derek is right. Tim's not writing any differently now than he has been for the past several years. When he takes Apple to task, it's usually warranted, and I admire both his consistency and taste in these remarks, even if I've occasionally disagreed over seven years of reading him.

I think it's Tim's job to stand by the platform he likes and believes in, rather than against the one that's taken to draconian overreactions (I've owned all iPhones and I plan on snagging the 4 when it gets here, but I can't say I'm unaffected), and that's certainly been the way he's acted before and after he got the job.

No matter how hard I look, I can't see the (mostly indirect) Aperture perspectives espoused here and previously as contrived bashing - I'm not in the target of any of these apps, but it's not exactly a secret that people who have tried both Aperture and Lightroom have been critical of Aperture even in its later versions.


From: Robert (Jul 11 2010, at 19:10)

Actually, I have also heard people talk about Capture One Pro as the tool of choice for professional photographers.


From: Stig (Jul 11 2010, at 23:15)

I am a long term happy Apple user (since 1995) and I especially like OS X (and iOS) etc with a considerable number of Apple computers and other devices like iPhones and iPad etc.

I really hate Adobe policies that prevents me as a non-Japanese expatriate living in Japan to update my legitimately bought Photoshop etc through the internet when I stay in Japan, and I am forced to buy Adobe products through Japanese language interface at elevated prices. So I actively avoid Adobe products whenever I can.

Enter Lightroom 3 (and the earlier Lightroom 2). I had already bought Aperture (including the most recent upgrade) and did not find it so easy to understand, nor did I find it to be intuitive. I also avoid iPhoto because I do not like the idea of a data base that "takes control" of valuable photos, so I have been handling my photos manually via the excellent "Graphics Converter" application. Lightroom came to me as a complimentary software when I bought a Leica M9 camera (which to me is the pinnacle of digital 35mm photography, and I truly love this camera and the results I am getting from it.) Lightroom was immediately intuitive and easier for me to learn than Aperture ever was, and I was quickly "up and running".

With my Leica M9 and also Leica D-LUX4 (plus a couple of analog Leicas) my real passion is low-light photography, and I can understand EXCACTLY where the reviewer is coming from and why he enjoys the "ISO repair" feature in Lightroom 3.

Despite the sickening Adobe system forcing me to reboot my MAC into Japanese language and following all guidelines in Japanese (my knowledge of the written Japanese is rudimentary while I speak it reasonably), I decided to pay the uprade fee for Lightroom 3, and again I must say it was worth the trouble.

Leica M9 is designed for DNG (Digital Negative) Adobe's RAW format, which I understand is "open" and "simpler" than most proprietary RAW formats (of which there are so many types that the entire digital scene is a mess). Lightroom (3) is the natural companion for dealing with these files.

So, I think this entire thing about calling people (or being called) an "Apple Fanboy" has to do with an attitude where some people love absolutely everything Apple do in software and hardware, and some of these people also seem to "police" anyone who dares saying that some other application in whatever field actually is better than something that Apple did.

Lightroom 3 is a great application, but it still does not make me an Adobe fanboy. I do not like this company's absurd international policy ignoring the fact that many people these days work outside their home country for large portions of their active work life.


From: Stephen Shankland (Jul 12 2010, at 08:04)

I'd put faster speed at the top of my wish list, too, but I'm willing to cut Adobe some slack, since I think overall they've got Moore's Law (broadly speaking) on their side. I have a different recollection of the progression from v1 to v2 to v3: Processing my 8-megapixel, 12-bits-per-pixel Canon Rebel XT raw images back in the day involved a lot of waiting, so I don't recall LR v1 blazingly fast. Since then, though, I've upgraded computers twice or so and those images are much faster to handle on LR v3 than they were on v1 on the older computers.

However, I've also upgraded cameras to a Canon 5D Mark II, with 21 megapixels and 14 bits per pixel, and once again I spend a lot of time for those images to render in LR. I'm betting that in the long run this camera's raw files will be faster to edit, too, and that Lightroom also will be cope better with my 2000 or so keywords and 38K photos, neither of which seems outrageous to me. Unfortunately, I'd also like to see several other features too: better video support, HDR, geotagging, face recognition, etc.

My take on LR3 when it arrived: http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20006381-264.html


From: uli (Jul 13 2010, at 14:11)

two and a half cents from a professional advertising & fashion photographer:

when shooting with canon or hasselblad with a phase one back, I use capture one pro on the set and lightroom 3 for developing the raws afterwards.

capture one pro because of it's very good performance and the abillity to develop a quick look that gives a good idea of the final developed image. LR3 because of it's superior post processing tools.

when shooting with hasselblad backs, I use hasselblads own phocus-software, which recently got really ok, especially at tethered shooting. post pocessing in LR3 then.

to quickly edit (is this the right term? for viewing loads of images and seperating the chosen ones from the rest) I know of nothing better than photo mechanic.

I don't know about aperture, tested lightly it in version 1 and then went on with LR1.


From: Matt Ginzton (Jul 13 2010, at 21:36)

Lightroom has never really been that fast. If you compare it to, say, Picasa for flipping through a library of thousands of images, this is immediately obvious.

(I know Picasa isn't a professional tool and doesn't do nearly as much work to create a high quality representation of a raw photo before displaying it, but that's beside the point. Once Lightroom has generated its preview image, at whatever expense, it should be able to call that up again as fast as Picasa, but it's nowhere close.)

Faster hardware and Moore's Law help of course, but I find it annoying that Lightroom on a fast new Mac in 2010 can't keep up with me flipping through images as fast as Picasa could on my last Windows machine in 2005, and that's been my impression of all 3 versions of LR.

For the real heavy lifting, creating the preview images and RAW conversion at high quality and exporting high quality images etc, I'm generally happy with LR's performance, but these are batch operations where I don't have to sit there waiting for it; for interactive performance it's always left something to be desired.


From: Steve Ballantyne (Aug 01 2010, at 15:12)

I've been using Macs for as long as they've been making them, but I couldn't detect anything anti-Apple in Tim's post, or at least nothing that wasn't deserved.

Of course I dislike many things Adobe has done over the last few years, but that doesn't stop me from using Lightroom in preference to Aperture, for a very simple reason: I shoot some pictures with a Kodak DCS 14n, which Lightroom supports and Aperture doesn't.

Using Aperture would add a time-consuming extra step to my workflow (converting DCS 14n RAWs to DNGs) and I'd prefer not to have to do that. Nothing to do with being pro- or anti-Apple, just that Lightroom is more useful to me.


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