Adobe Lightroom 4 is Out Today… It’s All About the Light Baby, All About the Light

So Adobe Lightroom 4 is Out Today, It's All About the Light Baby, All About the Light

Adobe Lightroom 4 is officially available today and at half the cost of Lightroom 3. The new version costs $79 for an upgrade and $149 for a brand new purchase. Many of you have been using the beta for the past few months which will probably expire soon. You can download a 30 day trial version to decide before you buy of Lightroom 4 here. The new release requires Windows Vista SP2 or later, or OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) or later so make sure your current operating system can support it.

So… is Lightroom 4 worth it?

In a word, hell yeah!

Opps, that was two words.


Well for no other reason the new lighting controls are fantastic. Every photographer knows at the end of the day it’s all about the light, and here the good folks at Adobe have outdone themselves with reworking the old exposure, recovery, fill light, and black sliders into four new sliders: highlights, shadows, whites and blacks. These new sliders give you far more control over how the light is exposed in your photographs allowing you much more granular control in all the details that matter. You also still get a broad exposure slider as well, but the other lighting sliders are where the action is for Lightroom 4. The new control over highlight light is especially welcome.

What else is cool and better with Lightroom 4? Clarity. The clarity slider in Lightroom 4 gives that ever so lovely grit that you love — only now with much less glowing halo. I feel like I’m addicted to clarity these days.

My favorite improvement of all though is more of a pet peeve than anything. The thing that probably drove me nuts the most about Lightroom 3 was that my noise reduction and sharpening effects would not render correctly in fill view in the Develop module. I had my fingers crossed big time when the Lightroom 4 beta came out that they’d fix this problem and indeed they did. Ironically noise reduction and sharpening effects still do not render correctly at fill view in the Library module, but this is of much less concern to me than the Develop module where I spend most of my time processing.

As far as speed goes, Lightroom 4 is an improvement over the Lightroom 4 beta (which was slow as hell), but not really much of an improvement over Lightroom 3 for me. This may be my biggest disappointment in the release. I was hoping for a bigger speed boost, but Lightroom 4 still feels just a touch sluggish to me. I’m on a 3-year-old MacBook Pro though and maybe this is just God/Mother Nature’s way of telling me that it’s about time for me to upgrade my Mac and finally make the jump to SSD while I’m at it.

I’ve also now begun changing my workflow with Lightroom 4 and am now importing all of my photos as DNG instead of CR2 files. I’m doing this mostly because I’m hoping that Lightroom will run faster if I do this. Recent comments made by Product Manager Tom Hogarty suggest that DNG adoption may improve performance with Lightroom 4.

With Lightroom 4 you get much better control with your brushes these days as well. Adjustment brushes now include temperature, noise reduction, shadows and highlights.

Additional improvements include a new Book module (which I don’t use now, but who knows, maybe someday I will), the ability to do very basic video edits, reverse geodecoding and tons of bug fixes.

More from CNET, 9 to 5 Mac, the Verge, and MacWorld.

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  1. Chris Ridley says:

    Yep I bought the update today, and it’s looking good already – I didn’t actually have time to try the beta in the, but just jumped straight in anyway. Like you, the detail on fill was a nice addition, clarity and shadow control is an excellent addition too – I look forward to messing around with those.

    I have a 3yr old MBP too – getting slow but I think it’s time for an SSD…!

  2. Nice! Downloading it now.

  3. Dustin says:

    I’ve been using the beta now almost exclusively and its been wonderful. I did not experience this slowness you’re mentioning in the Beta. I suspect you’ll see an over performance boost with new hardware as you suggest.

    I am really liking the easier way to tie the GPS logging device to the photos now. It will help with the nature/bird photography I do.

  4. Michael D. Ratcliff says:

    Nice write-up Thomas. Would love to hear how it runs once you have changed to DNG. I also saw Brian Matiash creates a new catalog each year. I wonder if that helps too. I’m thinking about trying that out as well.

  5. Robert Wolf says:

    While I have used LR3, I found it a pain to wrap my head around especially getting back into photography after 15 years. Some of the concepts in LR3 didn’t make sense to me, some of which you highlighted in your blog. I have been trialling LR4 from the day of its release and immediately took to it, almost instinctively with better results in my images.

    Will I be purchasing LR4… without question.

    Thanks Thomas for the write-up.

  6. Seneschal says:

    The RAW processing made a huge step up also, and I had no complaints with the old ACR. My 2 main concerns are RAW processing and noise reduction. I was very happy with LR3 in these areas and didn’t think they could improve… they did, I love it!

    One awesome thing is how LR4 will take a GPX file and attach the geoLocation data to photos. So geotagging my last import is like a 2-step process, its wicked easy. The only thing is to actually make the GPX file while out shooting. I just use an iPhone app called MotionX GPS. Everyone worries about battery life with apps like this… rather than having it constantly track me, I just set it to update every 10 minutes, which doesn’t kill the battery.

  7. Anthony says:

    Great read up. Ive been running on a student copy of 3 for awhile but this year I think Ill be publishing/selling work and thought about just buying a legit copy (not a student copy) so I can feel better about selling work from a program I paid for a license to do so.

    I was also skeptical if this would actually be enough of an upgrade but every review, including yours just glows about it. And I love LR3 as it is.

    Im also hopelessly addicted to clarity and I spend as much time with it as I do the exposure and lighting because it can make a world of difference in how the picture pops.

    Also Thomas, how much and how fast is the RAM in your Mac? Im on a PC that has 8GB of PC10666 and running an OC’d i5 2500k. I run Win7 off a SSD but I read up that the SSD doesnt really improve the program since its so RAM heavy. There was a site Ill link here that basically showed unless EVERYTHING (including the library) is on the SSD you wont see dramatic changes.

    Id invest in as much RAM (fastest you can get in the MAC as well) as you can if you want to see an improvement. I run my LR3 off a drive that only runs a few programs (7200 RPM HDD) so its never bogged down. My library is on a RAID1 2TB drive configuration. I think the speed is very adequate, dont have issues batch processing and everything is 1:1 preview.

  8. Scott Webb says:

    As sad as it sounds, I”m holding out for now. It’s so tough to not drop cash on it – even for just the upgrade price. I’m on a mission to trying to be debt free and this stuff keeps tempting.

    I’ve happily realized that buying this isn’t an emergency and is not essential yet. No doubt it’s fantastic but I have to hold back.

  9. Scott Webb says:

    I might take that back now that I see how easy it is to make books with Blurb.

  10. When I upgraded from beta to the full LR4 it did NOT ask me if I wanted to bring in my LR3 photos and it won’t let me import them. Very frustrated … all my photos are in LR3, I’ve bought and want to use LR4.

    Sigh …!!

  11. Seneschal says:

    I’m not too familiar with Windows (I played with one around 1996…), but with Apple, once you get above 12GB or RAM (anywhere between 12 and 16), RAM is no longer a bottleneck. You will see very little performance increase above 12GB. The SSD is king. Hell, I’d rather have 8GB of RAM with a SSD over having 16GB with a 7200HD.

    I’m surprised, Mr. Hawk, that you don’t have a SSD yet. I’ll make a prediction… when you finally get a SSD, you’ll make a blog post saying, ‘why the hell didn’t I get a SSD years ago!’. Seriously, it’s one of those things that you should go out right now and do.

  12. Thomas Hawk says:

    Twenty Four at Heart, try opening your old LR3 catalog with LR4. I bet that it converts it for you.

  13. Thomas Hawk says:

    Seneschal, yeah I know, except that I’m planning on buying a new MBP with SSD when the new models comes out. It feels dumb to spend all that money to put it in my current MBP for something that might be a few months away.

  14. Seneschal says:

    I think SSD + thunderbolt would be very interesting to see implemented in an edge case like yours. I think 2012 will be a big year in tech changes.

  15. Anthony says:


    I have an OCZ Vertex 2 Agility and I put Lightroom on that and didn’t notice much difference. Main reason as that website points out is that unless you have all your photos and library on that drive, it just doesn’t move much faster. You’d still be limited by the drive they are on, how its connected (SATA2 or 3) and how fast the drive is. Right now I have 149GB of photos on my RAID1 and the SSD is 90GB. So that’s out the window. SSD’s over 120GB are rather pricey anyways.

    Large enough SSD’s capable of holding the kind of space you and I use aren’t practical yet.

    As for the RAM thing, I didnt know how much Thomas was running which is why I asked. If you have 12 or 16, you are blazin and I agree – anymore and its a bit of a waste. But if you have 4-6, stepping to 8 and beyond should show improvement.

    I just don’t see evidence that running Lightroom on SSD and then library + files on a separate drive increases speed. Maybe in the time the program takes to load and a few other irrelevant things but the main things that take power (at least that I use) require RAM and raw processing power. Both of which I have. But as for my experience with LR3 on SSD, it didn’t do as much as I had hoped and mine was hooked up to the SATA3 port so I was running some insane bandwidth through the pipeline. I go from POST to Win7 Desktop (completely loaded) in 6-7 seconds. LR did load up almost instantly. But that was the only thing that I went “oooo” about. I was basically getting a little under the 6gbps too.

  16. Chris says:

    Of course Adobe would recommend that DNG “may” improve speed. It’s their technology! It’s not worth the added to time for conversion vs the possibility of improved speed.

  17. Seneschal says:

    @Chris – The data I’ve seen and tested myself is that DNG files take up on average 15%-25% less storage, and are faster to export by roughly 10%. Not a big difference if you’re a weekend-warrior, however if you’re getting paid for your work then the less time spend at the computer the more money you make. I’ve seen the biggest benefits to using DNG for weddings. My assistant imports at the event when I change cards, so I don’t see any added time for the DNG conversion, I only see the benefit on the back end, especially when exporting 700 to 1,100 high res files, that 10% faster really adds up.

    Do you have any data to back up your statement, or is just an opinion? I’d love to hear someone’s informed findings on any topic, but have no interest in changing my tested/proven workflow based on someone’s unscientific opinion. Unless your name is Bryan O’neil Hughes, you’ll have to qualify your statement with data.

  18. Chris says:

    Lol. @Senseschal no I am no Bryan Hughes, so I really have no point to prove.

    I only stated though, that DNG is an Adobe technology, which it is. Could it improve speed, probably. Does Adobe really want you to move to DNG, why not? My opinion is, they would have less of a nightmare with ACR and updates, naturally they’ll advocate it.

    I’ve never really spent the time to run the clock. What I do know, is that when I pull the cards down and convert them, it’s an added process vs just adding the images to the catalogue. Now if my camera shot DNG, that would be a perfect world. But it’s just one of those extra steps. For most photographers, I feel they don’t convert because they don’t understand it. And they see that extra step, some end up with extra files, and there is the whole psychology of deleting RAW files that came from your camera and converting to an another technology. DNG is great, smaller foot print, more stable, no side car. It’s got all the benefits we would love, but I think for most people, it’s like taking a vitamin in the morning. You need to do it to benefit from it.

    I have no interest in trying to convince you otherwise to change your proven workflow, everyone has a workflow that works well for them. I think it’s the little things we pick up and learn a long the way are what help us improve that workflow.

  19. bob towery says:

    We live in a great time, with software as awesome as this. Thanks Tom.

  20. Joel Conner says:

    Not sure I am ready to upgrade…I love LR3

  21. Hey there Thomas! Bought L4 when I found out L3 wasn’t going to work with my new 5d Mk iii. I am a little confused so far with the missing recovery and fill light sliders and wondered if you had any insight to the replacements… Such as: have you noticed any specific amounts of say black or whites to set? I guess I just don’t really understand what they do yet but hear they are way better now.