Camera Raw 8.2 vs Lightroom 5.2: Latest releases shift the balance

Photoshop CC iconAdobe Lightroom 5 iconAdobe Creative Cloud icon

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has traditionally had a few more productivity features than Adobe Camera Raw, but the improvements in the September 2013 release of Adobe Camera Raw 8.2 bring Camera Raw closer to parity with Lightroom. (Version 5.2 of Lightroom was released at the same time.) Both have been available as public release candidates (test versions), but these are now the final versions.

ACR catches up to Lightroom

Adobe keeps ACR and LR in sync for format compatibility, but Lightroom has historically had more efficiency and workflow features than Camera Raw. This time it looks like Adobe wanted to sync up the feature sets more tightly. The features below add to those in the June release of Camera Raw 8.1 and were already part of Lightroom, such as soft-proofing and making the crop aspect ratio independent of output dimensions.

Interactive histogram. You can drag ranges of the Camera Raw histogram left or right, and each range corresponds to a slider in the Basic panel. For example, dragging the far left side of the histogram (the darkest tones) adjusts the Blacks slider. You can now do this in Camera Raw 8.2. When you drag in the histogram, the corresponding slider moves and a readout below the histogram tells you what’s being changed. In the example below, the second zone from the left is dragged and the readout shows that zone affects the Shadows value.

Interactive histogram

By the way, if you’re new to Camera Raw 8, notice that when you select a printer profile in Workflow Options the usual highlight and shadow clipping icons at the top left and top right corners of the histogram are replaced by a single Gamut Warning icon in the top right corner (the one that looks like a printer) . This is consistent with the new soft-proofing capability. Note that this icon does not necessarily mean a CMYK profile is selected, because it will appear if the printer profile you’ve selected is RGB-based.

Workflow presets. Up until now it has been a bit of a hassle to use Camera Raw for direct output to different media because it could remember only the last settings you used. If you wanted to output more images using the settings from an export before the most recent one, you would have to enter those settings all over again. And hopefully you wrote them down. Lightroom users have had it much easier, because if you saved a Lightroom export preset you could reproduce the settings of a previous export instantly and exactly. Now Camera Raw has a similar capability in the form of workflow presets.

To choose a workflow preset in the main Camera Raw window, right-click the blue linked workflow text at the bottom of the window.

Choosing workflow options

To set up workflow option presets, click the blue linked workflow text at the bottom of the Camera Raw window, customize the options in the Workflow Options dialog box that opens, and at the top of the dialog box use the commands in the Preset menu to create or update workflow presets.

Workflow options dialog box

Save options presets. You can also create presets for the settings in the Save Options dialog box. To make this practical, Adobe added the Color Space, Image Sizing, and Output Sharpening options to the Save Options dialog box. This makes it possible to use Save options that are different than the Workflow options. (A Save preset applies when you save to a finished image file directly from Camera Raw, while a Workflow preset applies when you convert an image from Camera Raw into a new Photoshop document.) This distinction is important because the requirements of saving vs Photoshop conversion are very different. When you convert raw to Photoshop you usually want to preserve maximum image quality for further Photoshop editing, but when you save a finished file from Camera Raw you usually want to downsample it, compress it, apply output sharpening to it, and convert it to sRGB color, especially if it’s for a web site or for final presentation on a display.

Save options presets

New features for both Camera Raw and Lightroom

Some features are new to both Camera Raw 8.2 and Lightroom 5.2.

Color noise reduction smoothing. Applying color noise reduction can reduce the effect of fine color noise, but larger splotchy areas could still exist. In the past, the only way to address the splotchiness was to turn up the Color noise reduction value even more, but that could reduce color detail that you wanted to preserve. Now you can leave the Color setting the same and increase Color Smoothness instead.

Color Smoothness option

In the example below, the left image is set for a Color Smoothness value of 0, and the right image is set to a value of 70. Notice how the large areas of color noise become much less visible.

Color Smoothness example

In other words, use the Color noise reduction option to reduce high frequency color noise, and use the Color Smoothness option to reduce low frequency color noise.

Duplicate an Adjustment Brush pin. When a local adjustment is already maxed out, a popular workaround is to add another adjustment pin and paint over the same area again. LR 5.2 and ACR 8.2 now let you accomplish the same thing by quickly duplicating the adjustment pin. You can duplicate or remove a pin by right-clicking it and choosing the command you want from the context menu that pops up.

There are keyboard shortcuts for these actions. To duplicate an Adjustment Brush pin, Command-Option-drag it (Mac) or Control-Alt-drag it (Windows).  To remove an Adjustment Brush pin with a shortcut, Option-click (Mac) or Alt-click (Windows) the pin.

Unfortunately, you can’t move the duplicate pin. It will appear exactly on top of the original pin, so it might look like nothing happened. You can avoid confusion by confirming that the duplicate was created by looking in the History panel; hopefully Adobe will clarify this user experience in the future.

Spot Removal feathering. You can now use the new Feather slider to control the softness of the edge of the area you paint when you use the Spot Removal tool.

Spot removal feathering option

Fixed: Export resizing bug. If you exported an image to pixel dimensions less than 1/3 of the original, output sharpening and noise reduction weren’t applied. This was pretty nasty for anyone producing images for web sites or low-resolution device output, but it’s fixed in Lightroom 5.2 and Camera Raw 8.2

Camera Raw gets a few features first

Surprisingly, Camera Raw now has a couple of features that Lightroom doesn’t have.

White balance Eyedropper tool rectangle mode. Instead of setting white balance by clicking in one place with the Eyedropper tool, you can now drag the tool to sample any region in the image. This feature bucks the trend because it’s a new feature that appeared in Camera Raw first—Lightroom 5.2 doesn’t have it.

CMYK soft-proofing. This was introduced in Camera Raw 8.1, but is worth mentioning here in case you missed it. While not as full-featured as the soft-proofing in Lightroom, it has one feature Lightroom does not: You can choose a CMYK profile. (In Lightroom you can choose only an RGB profile.) You also have the option of having Camera Raw send the image to Photoshop as a CMYK Smart Object. In a PDF update to his book Adobe Photoshop CC for Photographers, Martin Evening describes a scenario in which a Camera Raw Smart Object is set to CMYK, saved as part of a Photoshop TIFF, and then placed into an Adobe InDesign layout for CMYK final output. Lots of people hope Lightroom will add support for soft-proofing with a CMYK profile.

Along with everything I’ve talked about above, these Lightroom and Camera Raw updates include the usual additions that you see each version including new cameras supported for tethered shooting, new camera raw formats supported for editing, and new lens correction profiles.

What happened to Lightroom 5.1?

There was no Lightroom 5.1, so you didn’t miss anything. Adobe wanted to keep the 0.x version numbers in sync, so Lightroom was numbered 5.2 to keep pace with the Camera Raw release with comparable features which is version 8.2.

Reminder: CS6 gets new cameras but not new features

If you’re using Photoshop CS6, remember that while Adobe is maintaining backward compatibility of Camera Raw 8 for CS6 by adding support for new camera raw formats, CS6 does not get the new features listed above. Those are enabled for Photoshop CC only.

Photography Program now in effect

After being announced at Photoshop World in the first week of September, the Adobe Photography Program went live on September 17. Like a mini version of Creative Cloud, you get access to Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5, along with 20GB of online file storage and a Behance ProSite (high-quality photography portfolio website). What most other sources don’t mention is that you also can also download Adobe Bridge CC as part of the Photography Program or Creative Cloud.

There is some confusion about the monthly US$9.99 price that Adobe calls “not an introductory price.” To get that price you must sign up by December 21. 2013. According to John Nack in his blog post Photoshop Photography Program Now Available, what Adobe means is that the price will remain the same after a year if you sign up by then.

Full release notes

There are even more changes in this release than I’ve listed. Read about them in the Adobe posts Lightroom 5.2 now available and Camera Raw 8.2 and DNG Converter 8.2 Now Available on the Lightroom Journal blog.

How to get the updates

To update Camera Raw from Photoshop, start Photoshop CC and choose Help > Updates.

To update Lighroom, start Lightroom, choose Help > Updates, download the installer, and run the installer.

or:

To update both Camera Raw and Lightroom through Adobe Creative Cloud: Start Adobe Creative Cloud if it isn’t running, and it should indicate that an update is available for Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom.

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