LR5 impresses

Lightroom 5 is pretty impressive

Readers of my blog will have noted that my previous impressions of Lightroom from back to version 2 through version 4 have not been all that great. I certainly appreciate LR as a digital asset management (DAM) tool. It’s been as a RAW converter that I have found it less than adequate in contrast with Nikon’s Capture NX2 or Phase One’s Capture One v6 or v7. I’ve been playing around with LR5 Beta and now that it’s been released, the first commercial release of the full product. I must say that, while there is still one thing that annoys me, LR5 is much improved over previous versions. Much of this is subtle improvement, but my overall impression is that I am glad that I’ve been using LR for some time now so that adopting it full time would be fairly easy. Let me go through a few of my observations.

A practical example

Getting a good image out of my D700 isn’t too much of a stretch, I’ve found. Getting a good image from my D80 is a bit more of a test. So, I went back to September of 2009 and dug out this D80 NEF:

Unprocessed NEF

Unprocessed NEF

This was intended to be the least exposed image of a 3-image bracketed set, so it was captured at -2EV relative to what the camera thought was “right”. Hence, it’s rather dark, no? As well, there are tons of visible dust gremlins all over. I had not yet got clever about cleaning my D80’s sensor at that point. As well, this was shot at f/22 in order to get the long exposure of 1/6s; and that really emphasizes those dust bunnies on the sensor. What you’re looking at is a screen capture from within LR5 with everything on this image reset to defaults.

First, I can quickly bring up the exposure by about a stop, and the clarity, vibrance and saturation; and already there is a big improvement. Increasing the exposure more than about a stop is possible, but the detail and texture in the cloud to the left side begins to suffer.

Basic exposure enhancements

Basic exposure enhancements

Next, looking at a 2:1 expansion in the leaves and branches of the tree at the upper left shows some chromatic aberration. In the past, clearing this up in LR was a big problem.

CA in the tree branches

CA in the tree branches

Now, it’s a piece of cake to get rid of this. Hitting the 2 options to enable profile corrections and remove CA (on the right) cleans up most of the problem instantly.

CA gone

CA gone

Now that is something that LR has not done for me before this version. This makes me extremely happy. But since the largest problem in this image is purple fringing, I can go to the “Color” panel and just push up the appropriate slider by a couple of points and eliminate the issue altogether. Simple. Brilliant.

Killing the purple fringe

Killing the purple fringe

Next to deal with those nasty dust bunnies. Now, when the healing brush tool is enabled, it is possible to turn on “visualize spots”. In some ways, this “technology” is not that advanced. It is nothing more than an edge detection overlay; and one could do that in Photoshop in many different ways. However, what is very cool about this is that you can work with this visualization method enabled and you don’t have to go back and forth between an enhancement layer and a working layer. You just select and eliminate the sensor spots. If you’re unsure that you’re looking at a real spot, just toggle the visualize spots button.

Visualizing spots

Visualizing spots

Here’s a blow up of the image at 1:1 and a few of the first sensor spots being killed off.

Death to dust

Death to dust

Having killed of the sensor dust, I go ahead and adjust the curve to further bring out the darks and shadows in this image.

Enhancing darks and shadows

Enhancing darks and shadows

We’re starting to get something worth looking at.

Next, let me go to the camera calibration and replace the default “Adobe Standard” with the built-in “Camera Landscape”.

Landscape Camera Calibration

Landscape Camera Calibration

Here is a screen shot of the result, just a little larger:

Final result in LR5

Final result in LR5

Now that was a piece of cake. The most tedious part was eliminating the sensor dust; but in reality, I’d done that before. However, the new “visualize spots” showed me a few more problems that I hadn’t caught in the past. So that was cool too.

Anyone who visits my blog regularly will know that I am all about B&W, so this image needs a conversion and here it is:

B&W conversion

B&W conversion

This was done with TrueGrain emulating Ilford FP4, then taking the image into Nik Silver Efex Pro v2 inside Photoshop CS6 to work a little magic with structure, soft contrast, and a bit of dodging and burning.

Given that I had already done most of the tedious work of sensor dust removal in the past, this entire sequence took me about 15 minutes. Also, once I had the serious dust identified, I was able to just copy and paste that adjustment onto other images taken at the same time. Another piece of cake.

So what don’t I like so far… Well, one is still not able to choose the color space you work in, outside of the standard list of sRGB, AdobeRGB, and ProPhotoRGB. I worked in ProPhotoRGB in this case. Totally wrong tone curve for B&W as I’ve mentioned over and over again elsewhere on this blog. Won’t beat that dead horse here.

Having said that, LR5 is pulling me strongly away from Phase One’s Media Pro and Capture One combination. Although I haven’t shown it in this post, I also did a conversion of this old image with Capture One; only to discover that now LR5 did a better job of handling the lens distortion and chromatic aberration than Capture One did.

Well done, Adobe.

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