I understand that this review is a bit atypical, as it’s really a first explanation of a third-generation product. So, I’ll offer two conclusions – one on the upgrade itself, and then one on Lightroom as a concept in a prosumer workflow.
As to the update, LR3 has a very interesting lack of anything visible to justify its $99 upgrade cost – particularly when I follow it with the fact that I’d heartily recommend it to LR2 users. Adobe Camera Raw 6 is a great step forward that will give your pictures a very nice punch – even old ones, which can be reprocessed with the new ACR via a menu item.
The automatic lense correction to remove distortion, chromatic aberrations and other issues is wonderful and I can only see it going great places. The speed bumps even out due to the longer initial loading time, but it’s nice that once you’re in the software that everything feels quite snappy and responsive. If you do much exposure tweaking inside LR (particularly on slower hardware), this is a huge time saver and frustration reliever. Overall, though, it’s important to approach it from the reality that it is the exact same thing, only better – if you keep that in mind, you’ll not be disappointed.
For a software package as a whole, I have to continue to whole-heartedly recommend that anyone serious about photography consider a solution like it, if not LR3 specifically. If you’re on Mac, you have more of a choice in the matter, at least – Aperture 3 is a good deal cheaper than LR3 and is more robust for the run-and-gun family photographer. I personally find it very frustrating for someone who does real shoots and needs better workflow control instead of a swiss-army knife.
It seems that Apple has morphed Aperture to land in between iPhoto and Lightroom – better “quick fixes,” better social networking, face recognition and more abilities to fix an overall crappy shot. However, anyone trying to be more creative could quickly find it clunky and a bit high on gimmicks, leaving the wish that he or she had just ponied up the extra $100 for Lightroom’s more professionally-aimed product.
Bibble 5 Pro (also $200), which is available on all OSes, takes the “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” approach and tries hard to be Lightroom and PS Elements combined – but it just doesn’t come off with the same polish as either one in my limited test. One shouldn’t be too hard on it, as that’s over $150 less than those two products, but the point is to make your life easier, not just save a buck. I’ll be curious to see if we can review it separately, though, as it happens to be the only good option available to Linux users.
However you slice it, Lightroom 3 is a good touch up to what is already the top of the prosumer scale, and is a well designed for professional workflow. Whether it can be worth the extra $100 over competing products really depends on both your OS and your aim. If you’re serious about photography, though, it’s money more well-spent than that lens you’re lusting after right now.
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