Lightroom 1.0 is out; is it done enough for you?
Adobe Lightroom 1.0, Develop Module in Action
Adobe Lightroom 1.0, Develop Module in Action

Adobe Lightroom Version 1.0 was made public today, in line with the schedule previously announced. I eagerly downloaded and installed 30-day-free evaluation copies, one for my Mac, and one for my Windows box... (my Linux box is still Lightroom-free, unfortunately).

One nice thing about Lightroom is that the licence is for two computers, so you can buy one copy and use on both your Mac laptop and Windows desktop (for example, which is what I'm doing).

Over half a million people registered to try the free betas last year, and with the advances between October's “Beta 4.1” and today's “1.0”, I'm sure that many people will be extremely pleased.

Dichotomy of Functionality

Lightroom's feature set is a dichotomy. In one sense, it has so many features that I certainly can't claim to know even most of them, much less all. It has five main modules, with the main two being Library and Develop (used for sorting, filtering, touching up, and “developing” images — adjusting exposure, color, etc.). I spend 99% of my Lightroom time in these modules, but it also has Slideshow, Print, and Web modules (for making slideshow presentations, for printing, and for making web-based flash/html galleries). I've used the Print module occasionally (it's much nicer than Photoshop's), but only superficially. I've not really done anything but play with the other two modules.

So, I spend 99% of my time in Library and Develop, and they are exceptionally wonderful for working with images (JPG, raw, Tiff, PSD... doesn't matter). Whether I'm spending a lot of quality time on one image, or plowing through 500 new shots from one of Anthony's preschool events, Lightroom just seems right.

Nevertheless, as much as I know about these two modules (and as much as I get out of them, which is the important point), and despite having used one build of 1.0 or another for a month and a half, I know enough to know that there's still much more I don't know.

I certainly have a lot to look forward to as I spend more time with Lightroom.

On the other side of the dichotomy, Lightroom is a “Version 1” product, which has, like all Version 1 products, an immature feature set. Lightroom's is remarkably mature for its age, but people expecting Photoshop-like detail will be sorely disappointed.

Let's consider Photoshop for a moment: Photoshop 1.0 was released 16 years ago this month, and is currently in beta for Version 10 (that's a ten, not a one-point-oh without the point). That's a lot of development behind it, yet, it still doesn't do some of the most simple things I want to do when editing images. This is perhaps more of a reflection on me and my habits/wants than it is on Photoshop, but the point is that with as many people as there are on earth, try as you might, you can't please everyone.

Back to Lightroom, there are some areas where it is clearly lacking, and no one is more aware of this than the engineers at Adobe. In software development, the question is never “is this done?” because software is never done any more than Photoshop was “done” at, say, its Version 5, or Microsoft was “done” with Windows at its version 98. The question for releases is “is this good enough?” — good enough to be a usable product, worth its cost to the user.

Had Adobe waited for Lightroom to be done, it would never be released, so clearly, the question now for the potential user is “is Lightroom done enough for me?” If you tried the public betas and wished for dust-spot removal, you'll be happy to find it there, along with a clone tool to boot. But if you tried the public beta and bemoaned the poor sharpening and noise-reduction controls, you'll be only a bit encouraged to find that although NR has been split to separate Luminance and Color controls, it still falls woefully short of, say, what Noise Ninja does in Photoshop.

Some people will point to missing features that are important to them and cry loudly that Lightroom is horrible, that without such-and-such a feature it is nothing more than a toy, etc. I'm writing this post on the day Lightroom 1.0 is released as a preemptive strike against such generalizations, because so long as a potential buyer knows what they're getting, Lightroom is what it is, and it's up to each user to decide whether it's worth it to them. I know of some professional photographers who use Lightroom every day as part of their job, and I know of others who don't use it because it's missing something they require. To each their own.

If you have a digital camera and wonder whether Lightroom might be useful for you (and you have a Mac or a Windows computer), why not try it for the free month Adobe allows, and decide for yourself?

By the way, the strawberries so nicely arranged are Fumie's work, from the mini and somewhat impromptu party we had a month ago.

All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

Have you heard of many complaints for printing? I’ve tried to leave Adobe direct feedback but the only place is in the forums. They told me on the phone that they won’t talk to me until I buy it and I don’t want to buy it until I hear that they are addressing the fact that those with epson 2200s (at least me) are having no luck still (b4.1 was the same) ptining through Lightroom. If I export it out to photoshop CS2 and print it, it looks perfect. So the same bug that the beta had is still in LR. I just don’t know of a good avenue to address it..


— comment by Jeff on February 21st, 2007 at 2:45am JST (17 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Jeff, a Kevin from Adobe should be contacting you to discuss whatever problem you’re having. Report back here how it works out….

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on February 23rd, 2007 at 9:38pm JST (17 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink
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