Lightroom 2.1 – some thoughts

Raw Conversion

Perhaps most importantly, the latest release of Lightroom does its prime job of conversion from RAW format pretty well. For some time I’ve been using the ‘Adobe Standard Camera Beta 1‘ camera profiles, which did seem to give a more pleasing result – and now the beta 2 profiles are available so I’m trying those. The differences between the two versions seem extremely subtle!

LR 2.1 also includes the latest Camera Raw 5.1 which is a part of the new Photoshop CS4 release, although for some reason it has a different version number in Lightroom.
There may still be a few images where I’d like a ‘second opinion’ by using Capture One or the Nikon software, but I think they will be very rare.

LR 2.1 also adds support for a few new cameras, including the Nikon D700. So that’s one reason less not to go for the full-frame model. However at the moment I’m feeling pretty satisfied by what I can get from the D300, and can’t justify the expense of a new camera – and the new lenses it would also need.


I’d hoped that the full release of LR 2.1 would be more stable than the release candidate, but it doesn’t appear to be so on my system.

LR is a great program, and the addition of a great ‘dodge’ and ‘burn’ tool in version 2 has dramatically improved some of my pictures. Before it was often too much trouble to load an image into Photoshop for a little cosmetic surgery, but mow its possible to add that correction rapidly in LR itself – so it’s far more likely to get done.

But this seems to be one area that causes LR2.x to fall down occasionally, perhaps on average after around half an hour of working. It’s not so far been a great problem; either the program exits nice and cleanly or hangs so I need to kill the process in Task Manager, then reload LR  – it takes perhaps less than a minute, and at least so far I’ve never lost more than the actual final alteration to the image I was working on.

The second area where I’ve had problems is in writing out batches of files. Normally while I’m doing this LR takes up a high % of processor time and anything from 250-750 MB of memory. But occasionally the memory goes up to well over a GB and LR fails to write some files  – and gives an error message. So far I’ve not had it fail when writing single images.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Adjustment Brush

Like me you probably didn’t bother to read the manual!

k      toggles the brush on and off
Space    hold down to use the mouse to zoom in
h    Hides and shows the adjustment pin
Delete     Over the adjustment pin deletes the whole adjustment
Ctrl-Z deletes the latest item in the history (can repeat)
   toggles the mask display (see below)

To see the mask you have created, mouse-over the adjustment pin
To erase parts of the mask, use the erase brush

I expect there are a few other useful things I’ve forgotten – which means I don’t use them.

Annoying Gaps

There are still some annoying gaps in LR. It would be nice to have the distortion correction capabilities of PTLens – and although you can add recent versions of the standalone software to the ‘Edit with‘ list in LR it is actually rather less convenient than using the plugin via Photoshop. As well as distortion, PTLens also does a decent job of converting fisheye images to rectilinear, which can occasionally be useful, although the angle of view is simply too great for a rectilinear approach to work for most images, at least without extensive cropping.

Another Photoshop plugin I use with fisheye images is Fisheye-Hemi from Image Trends Inc. This is a fairly cheap but effective way of removing some of the curvature and distortion from fisheye images, and often but not always improves the result. You lose the extreme corners of the image, but it retains the content at the centre of the sides and top of the frame.  This is now also available as a plugin for Apple Aperture, but not for Lightroom.

There are Lightroom Plugins, but most seem simply designed to add “effects” to screw up your images while giving you the entirely undeserved feeling that you are being creative (rather like “lith” printing. – in fact I’m sure there are several that give you just that, a “lith” effect, along with sepia etc.) All these effects are possible without having a plugin by using appropriate settings in the various Lightroom tools, and you could always make your own presets if you were that way inclined. But some are available for free and will be easier to use.

One of the few possibly genuinely useful filters currently listed on the Adobe Lightroom Exchange site for Lightroom Plugins is LR/Enfuse, which allows you to blend multiple exposures (which can be virtual copies of files) to cope with extremes of lighting (there is an example on author Timothy Armes‘s site. I haven’t yet felt the need to use this myself.

Again thinking of wide-angle images, it would be very useful to have the ability to correct normal wide-angle distortion in Lightroom – as you can with the ‘Free Transform, Warp’ command in recent versions of Photoshop.

Lightroom also lacks an automatic detection and removal of chromatic aberration, a feature whic is implemented fairly well in the latest Capture One software. Purple fringe removal is another area where LR lags sadly behind CO. There is a ‘Defringe’ in LR, but it seldom has a great deal of effect.

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