Lightroom 4 Goes on Sale; Should You Wait, or Dive In?

Redbud and oaks, Merced River Canyon, processed in Lightroom 3
Redbud and oaks, Merced River Canyon, processed in Lightroom 3

I'm a big fan of Lightroom. It's easy to use, yet powerful, which makes it a great tool for both beginning and advanced photographers. I teach workshops about Lightroom, and wrote an eBook about it, because I think it's a tool that can help many photographers. Personally, as Lightroom's processing tools have grown more sophisticated I've used Lightroom more and more and Photoshop less and less.

As many of you probably know, Lightroom 4 went on sale yesterday. In this new version Adobe has completely revamped the Basic panel, with significant improvements in highlight and shadow recovery. I've already used the beta version of Lightroom 4 to take advantage of those improvements. For example, I was able to get smoother transitions around the sun in one of the photographs from this post ("Ross's geese taking flight at sunset").

The Basic panel tools have completely changed in both operation and behavior, which may require some modifications in they way we work in Lightroom. I'm looking forward to exploring these new tools, and telling you about my discoveries, but unfortunately I've encountered a frustrating roadblock—a bug in Lightroom 4 that causes all of my Tone Curve settings for images previously processed in Lightroom 3 to disappear! All I see is the default Tone Curve for the camera, and, since I do most of the tonal adjustments for every image with curves, my images look rather flat (the accompanying images show one example of this). And I don't want to re-create the curve for thousands of images!

I don't know how widespread this is, so you might not encounter any problems. Only the Point Curve seems to be affected, not the Parametric Curve, so if you never touch the Point Curve you probably won't notice any difference. But if you do use the point curve then you might wait until they correct this bug before you upgrade. Adobe is aware of the problem, and they're promising a fix soon.

This issue only affects images previously processed in Lightroom 3, so if you've never used Lightroom before you should be fine. And Adobe has reduced the price of Lightroom 4, at least temporarily, to only $149 for a new license, or $79 for an upgrade.

Fortunately my point curves are still intact in Lightroom 3, even after I've opened the same image in the Develop module of Lightroom 4. For now I'll keep using Lightroom 3 as my primary tool, and just use Lightroom 4 for testing. I'll keep you posted, and let you know when Adobe fixes the point curve problem, and what I learn about the new tools.

—Michael Frye

Related Posts: Lightroom 4 Beta

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author and photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters, plus the eBook Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom. He has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California

Redbud and oaks, Merced River Canyon, after the point curve was lost in Lightroom 4
Redbud and oaks, Merced River Canyon, after the point curve was lost in Lightroom 4

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