Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 review

Price when reviewed

Not every lens is catered for, of course, but a free tool from Adobe’s site allows you to create your own profiles, and the most popular missing lenses will surely soon have community-created profiles. Lens correction works well, and the ability to perform perspective correction (getting rid of a tall building’s converging vertical lines, for instance) is another welcome addition. The noise-reduction tool has been refined as well, giving tighter control over the balance between noise reduction and maintaining sharpness, lending weight to Adobe’s claims of improved image quality.

Also new to this version of Lightroom is improved noise-reduction. As always, cutting down on noise requires you to tread a careful path between removing unwanted noise and keeping desired detail, but Lightroom 3 goes a step beyond Lightroom 2’s already-excellent image quality. The difference between the two versions is most evident on images taken at extremely high ISOs.

For instance, with noise reduction set to 100 on our bird image (ISO 2,000), the difference between versions 2 and 3 is noticeable, if not huge. With the ISO set to a monstrous 51,200, the noise is smoothed out more convincingly. Sharpening is also applied in a way that results in a more film-like effect. The overall difference in image quality is slight, but will be appreciated by those creating poster-sized prints.

Otherwise Lightroom’s phenomenally handy editing suite remains largely as is. Per-pixel adjustments are still useful for removing dust spots and blemishes, and the one-click selection of presets for applying a style to a shot has been massively expanded.

A major help for studio photographers is the introduction of a tethered shooting mode, allowing you to connect a range of Canon and Nikon cameras to your PC. Each shot you take, either with your camera’s shutter release or through Lightroom’s control panel, is added to a new collection. A niche feature, perhaps, but a useful one nonetheless.

It works well: you can’t control your camera’s exposure settings from Lightroom, but being able to trigger the shutter helps prevent camera shake. Finally, a new slideshow mode in which you can generate an MPEG4 movie of your images, complete with a soundtrack.

Disappointingly, although Lightroom will now recognise video files, you can’t include them in a slideshow – or do anything else useful with them, for that matter. For instance, video files from your DSLR will be recognised in your library, but Lightroom can’t process them or export them in a new format. This represents something of a missed opportunity considering that photographers are increasingly expected to integrate video into their services.

New features aside, Lightroom’s most impressive aspect remains its performance. One of our test catalogues consists of around 5,000 high-resolution RAW files, but you wouldn’t know that from casually flicking the mouse wheel to scroll through them. Likewise, filtering an entire library by focal length, ISO or rating happens in a heartbeat. Lightroom makes managing a photographic workflow a genuinely enjoyable experience.

Even if you already use Photoshop and Bridge, Lightroom’s more intuitive sorting and export abilities are incredibly useful, even if certain fine-grained editing tools (layers, for instance) are missing. Lightroom is as fast as ever, and new features such as tethered shooting and the ability to correct images based on the lens you used work superbly.

If you’re already using version 2, this upgrade is good value at under £100. If you’re a photographer and you’re not already using it already, the full price, although steep at £198 (£233 inc VAT), is well worth it – load a thousand RAW files into it and start work on them and you’ll see why.


Software subcategoryPhoto editing software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?yes
Operating system Windows XP supported?yes
Operating system Linux supported?no
Operating system Mac OS X supported?yes

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