A non-trivial improvement.
When Lightroom 4 first came out I pooh-poohed the improvements. The book module, restricted to Blurb as a printing house, was no big deal and the code bloat was awful, with the app some nine times the size of Lightroom 3.
The GPS mapping feature is OK but needs more work (trip route indication based on file times would be a start) and a global change to the new 2012 process for one’s picture catalog would be insanity. Some of the changes are significant and you risk messing up hundreds of hours of processing work. However, credit where’s it’s due. For the right image LR4′s ability to recover highlight detail where there was none is extraordinary, matched by its enhanced capabilities in the shadows.
Limekiln, 5D, 24-105. LR3 left, LR4 right.
For many users the enhanced capabilities of LR4 obsolete HDR with its clunky processing cycle and default ‘awful orange’ look. HDR is increasingly the province of the Kinkade Set which never saw a piece of kitsch it did not like. For those new to Kinkade he is the drunken letch – now mercifully deceased – who gave the world crap for the wall in abundance. You can search his name because I’m damned if I’m printing his garbage here. The man makes HDR look good.
But Adobe didn’t leave 4.0 alone. The Bokeh Cabal was going on about how some lenses were rendering out of focus detail with purple color fringing, even though LR fixed the in focus bits well. Adobe calls this ‘lateral chromatic aberration’. So they added an enhancement in LR 4.1 to fix this. I paged back through my catalog to some images snapped on the Panny LX-1 which, though it has a decent Leica lens, opts for purple fringing at every opportunity. Sure enough, Adobe was telling the truth. Their enhanced chromatic aberration correction really works.
For photography LR4 is the single biggest improvement I have seen in ages, increasingly obsoleting add-ons and Photoshop itself, the latter restricted to the occasional round trip to fix leaning verticals or to add blur or to erase Cousin Vanya, and so on. And while Adobe’s corner office seems to have frequent difficulty telling its ass from its elbow, there is no denying that their crackerjack software engineers are the bees’ knees. Too bad Apple has abandoned its original constituency of creative users, as ADBE would be chump change for AAPL and a great fit.
As for processor efficiency, LR4 barely moves the needle on CPU temperature when processing; Aperture, in its defense, does permit you to brew your tea on the keyboard under like conditions, at half the price of LR. Neat feature, that.