I’m incredibly happy to see that Adobe has released an update to the original Lightroom 3 Beta! There are a few additions to this release that I am particularly excited about and think you will be too.

First, and most important in my view, is improved image quality. I was impressed with the changes made to the rendering of raw files in the first beta release, but the subsequent tweaks and the addition of an improved luminance noise reduction has made me want to go back and reprocess many of my older photos. Yeah, I think it really is that good.

Second, and almost as important, is performance. The first beta was not optimized for speed, but they’ve definitely taken the feedback to heart and put more pep under the hood. From the import dialog to rendering previews to working in Develop, I am seeing definite improvements.

Now, before you run off and grab your free copy I implore you to do the following:

  • Read the release notes. Go no further until you do. It isn’t that long and it may save you a lot of frustration down the road.
  • Make sure your Lightroom catalogs and your system are backed up. Any excuse to confirm a solid backup is a good one. Don’t pass on the opportunity to save your own assets.
  • Know how to replace the Lightroom preference file should things go wonky.

After reading the release notes you will learn that if you are on Windows then this version of the Lightroom Beta will overwrite the previous beta version, but if you are on a Mac the two versions can live side-by-side. I personally would choose to uninstall the old version and then install the new version since I only used it for testing purposes anyway (right?). Both beta versions can be installed alongside Lightroom 1 or 2 without problem.

To uninstall on a Mac, open the Applications folder and drag the Lightroom 3 Beta icon to the trash.

To uninstall on Windows, use the Add/Remove programs utility in the control panel.

Just like the first version of the Lightroom 3 Beta, this version will not upgrade your Lightroom 2 (or Lightroom 1) catalogs, but it will upgrade the previous beta catalog if you have one. You might find this guest post I did on importing photos from Lightroom 2 into Lightroom 3 beta and its follow up on migrating Lightroom 2 catalogs to Lightroom 3 revisited helpful.

Aside from the improvements I’ve mentioned here’s a few more things I’m glad to see:

    • Support for copying video files off memory cards. No, Lightroom can’t edit video files, but at least it won’t just ignore them, and you can use Lightroom to manage them.
    • An easy way to change the orientation of the crop rectangle, just press the X key to flip it! This may be reason alone to buy the upgrade. I look forward to not having to send people to this changing crop orientation tutorial anymore.

  • A new function to pre-render previews for slideshows to avoid the problem of slides being skipped or shows getting hung up  in a loop due to the lack of completed preview rendering. Yes, sometimes it is the little things that make our lives better.

I’m just picking my favorites though. To get the complete rundown of improvements and new features head over to Lightroom Journal. Did I mention the release notes? Then join the party over in the Adobe Labs forum. They’ve even produced a beta version of the Lightroom 3 help file for you.

Additionally, there are some excellent LIghtroom 3 Beta 2 roundups from my favorite Lightroom gurus worth checking out:

Even though it is more tempting than ever to abandon Lightroom 2 in favor of this beta release it is still a Beta release. It is not finished. Adobe is even teasing us by saying there may be more up their collective sleeve, so treat it accordingly and have fun kicking the tires!