Enhanced video support

Lightroom 4 expands significantly on the range of options available with video files. You can playback and scrub video in the Library module. You can trim video clips non-destructively as well as apply a subset of Lightroom's image editing tools. Common video formats like .mov and .mp4 are supported along with .mts files generated from AVCHD output.

You can drag the trim handles (circled in red) to remove unwanted frames from both the beginning and end of the video clip. A time marker below the thumbnails shows the location of the playback head.

You can apply image enhancing edits by using the Library module's Quick Develop buttons. Note that the Crop, Highlights, Shadows and Clarity options are disabled for video files.

You have access to a number of image editing tools in the Quick Develop panel.
You can correct the WB of a video clip with a Lightroom Auto WB setting and/or by adjusting Temperature and Tint values manually.
In addition to making exposure and contrast adjustments you can also convert the video clip to Black & White by selecting the option in the Quick Develop panel's Treatment menu.

While video files cannot be opened in the Develop module, you can apply a subset of the Develop module tools by selecting a saved preset.

The Saved Preset option at the top of the Quick Develop panel includes video-compatible presets. If you choose a non-video preset containing settings that cannot be applied, the dialog box shown above appears.

You can export video directly from Lightroom in either DPX, H.264 or the file's existing format. Video files can be included in collections that are published to Facebook and Flickr via their Lightroom-supplied plug-ins.

A popup menu in the playback bar allows you to select the poster frame for a clip - the thumbnail that appears in Grid view. Additionally you can extract a single video frame as a JPEG file.

Other goodies

We've now looked at the headline features and additions to Lightroom 4. Here are some other noteworthy changes that have been included in the new release.

  • DNG lossy compression option and the ability to export reduced resolution raw files
  • New zoom ratios of 1:8 and 1:16 in the Library and Develop modules
  • NR effects are now rendered in image previews other than 1:1 view
  • One-click Chromatic Aberration (CA) removal in Lens Corrections panel
  • Ability to filter searches by saved versus unsaved metadata status
  • Ability to hide modules by right-clicking on the module picker
  • Crop tool supports four digit aspect ratios (facilitates using screen resolutions as aspect ratios)
  • Global flag status (regardless of image location)
  • Color managed Flash galleries
  • Email images directly from Lightroom (using desktop client or AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail accounts)
  • Language options (Mac only)
  • Ability to simultaneously move multiple folders between volumes
  • Hierarchical presets display
  • Disk burning available on Windows 64-bit systems

Changes since the public beta

If you've already explored the public beta you'll find very little has changed with the final release. Here's a list of the differences that you will see in the shipping version.

  • Lightroom 3 (and earlier) catalogs can now be converted
  • Blurb books can now contain up to 240 pages
  • Reverse geocoding has been enabled in the Maps module
  • Video compatible presets have been added and Develop module presets have been updated
  • Auto tone settings in the Develop module have been updated
  • The range of temperature and tint WB adjustments in the localized tools have been expanded
  • Process Version (PV) is now an option in the copy/sync dialog
  • The Clarity slider has a gentler effect on overall image brightness when moved in a positive direction
  • The chromatic aberration (CA) algorithm has been adjusted

Conclusion

Lightroom 4 is a substantial upgrade and for many users will represent a significant change from their current Lightroom workflow. Yet it does not take long to get the hang of the changes to the Develop module, for instance, and after processing dozens of images in PV2012, I find I am consistently getting pleasing results in fewer discrete steps.

Users who are importing video from their cameras will be pleased with Adobe's decision for greater video support. It's clear that Lightroom is not aiming to compete with Adobe Premiere, or even iMovie for that matter. Yet the tools that are on offer represent a commitment to video and make a strong case for using Lightroom to manage your video content as well.

With GPS support clearly on the rise from camera makers, the Maps module may soon become a much more essential part of many photographers' workflow. The Books module still feels rather un-Lightroom-like at this point. It's not as intuitive to use as it could be, but to be fair does offer quite a number of options for tailoring content to your needs.

For many (myself included), the use of Lightroom is based first and foremost around image quality. Adobe can add all the bells and whistles they want in order to keep pace with the competition, but I have to be able to get great looking results from my raw files. With version 4 it's clear that the Lightroom team has kept its eye on the prize, so to speak.

The raw conversion engine introduced with PV2012 strikes a better balance between image sharpness, detail rendition and noise reduction. A new, automated CA correction tool works impressively well on a range of images. And the addition of more localized adjustment parameters saves some trips to Photoshop. Put simply, you can get superior results from raw files compared to previous versions. It's hard to think of a more compelling reason to upgrade than that.

And while the changes to Lightroom 4 are significant, keep in mind that Adobe traditionally saves at least another feature or two for their famed '.1' releases. So stay tuned.


Amadou Diallo is a technical writer at dpreview, a photographer and author who has taught Lightroom in seminars and workshops throughout the U.S. His fine art work can be seen at diallophotography.com.