Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Public Beta Overview

Update: according to official system requirements and some of our readers, Lightroom 5 Mac version can only be installed on Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) or newer (official Windows support includes 7 SP1 and 8). I am yet unsure if such restrictions are only theoretical. We can only guess why Apple and/or Adobe chose to limit users in such a way. I’m sorry to say there’s really nothing I can do about it not having any sort of relationship with Adobe other than being yet another user. All older Mac OS X version owners wanting to upgrade to Lightroom 5 in the future can do is hope such feedback is received (or update their OS). After all, this is Public Beta release and, as such, the whole point of it is to collect feedback and gain user appreciation. In any case, I urge you NOT TO remove previous Lightroom version from your computers in favor of the Beta, which will expire as soon as final release hits the shelves.

If you’ve been following our website for a while now, you must have noticed I am a big fan of Adobe’s Lightroom RAW post-processing software. There are many alternatives to it, of course – DxO Optics Pro and Capture One making the toughest competition. I admit I haven’t had a chance to work with either one of those for a sufficient amount of time and make up my mind whether they’re better or not for me. And it would seem Adobe’s trying to make sure people such as myself never do stray. A few hours ago, they released the free Lightroom 5 Public Beta version. In this article, I will give you a quick overview of some of the new features Adobe’s planning to implement in its upcoming full release.

Lightroom 5 Beta Develop Module

Download Link

Usually, I would provide you with a link at the end of the article so that you can decide whether to try it or not after reading what I’ve got to say. This time, I’ll go as far as say – just go for it. It’s free, it won’t mess up your catalogs and won’t damage your previous Lightroom version in any way, and it’s the best way of actually knowing if you would find new features useful.

  • Click here to download Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Public Beta through Adobe Labs website. Both Mac and Windows versions are available. You will need Adobe ID.

Hold on… What is a Public Beta Release?

Adobe has a habit of releasing unfinished, but working versions of Lightroom before the final release. These versions are made available for download and can be used for free by anyone, but for a limited amount of time. Lightroom 5 Public Beta will stop working once final version is on sale. Sometimes, several Public Beta versions may be available throughout the development as the team behind the project refines the software and adds new features.

Allowing photographers to use the “prototype” version is a good way of receiving some genuine feedback and making sure that, once Lightroom hits retailers, it’s as good as it can be. I can’t help but think it’s also a pretty darn good way of tempting said photographers into actually making the purchase – like a test drive, to show it’s worth the upgrade. Somehow, I’m pretty certain it is. Don’t take my word for it just yet, though. Let’s see what Lightroom 5 promises us thus far.

What’s New?

I remember when Lightroom 4 was released, there weren’t any drastic changes compared to its predecessor. Those that did take place somehow made the whole process of editing images that bit more precise and simple, and I found it to be a worthy upgrade. It is a similar story with Lightroom 5.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Public Beta Overview

1) Getting Started

Once you’re done installing Lightroom 5 Beta and try to start the software, a message will pop-up. At this moment, Beta does not support catalog conversion (and that’s a good thing) and will let you know that a new catalog thus must be created. After that, everything goes as expected. Anyone familiar with Lightroom 4 interface should find themselves right at home. Even Presets and some of the other settings will be carried over from Lightroom 4 if that’s what you used previously. The successor to Lightroom 4 may eventually use different processing version to the now-current 2012.

2) Full-Screen Preview

The first thing I do when I open Lightroom 4 is hit the F key a couple of times to enter full-screen mode, and that’s what I did with the Public Beta. It didn’t work. Not the way I though it would, at least. It would seem Adobe’s made some changes to hot keys – in order to enter full-screen mode now, for example, you need to hit Shift+F (when using Windows). Hitting just the F key will engage full-screen preview mode, which will enlarge your image and hide all the panels. It’s obvious Adobe has given even small details like this a lot of thought. After all, previewing images is an action you are likely to do more often than change screen modes, and thus should require a simpler key combination. Neat and makes sense, but changes like these may take a little bit of time getting used to. I haven’t compared all the most-used hot keys yet, but don’t be surprised if you find more changes.

I find the full-screen mode preview a very simple and, it would seem, rather obvious feature, but I haven’t really missed it until I’ve tried. It’s sort of amazing. You can zoom in, too. I found myself using the F key rather often simply to better “take in” the whole image as I work on it. Full-screen preview does the job somewhat better than engaging Lights Out mode (hit L key to engage) for uncluttered image previewing, and also allows you to see how it looks on a black background (full-screen preview) and white background that I have my Lights Out settings set to.

3) Smart Previews

Smart Previews

Lightroom 5 Beta features Smart Previews option, which allows you to make changes to your images, look up and copy settings even without actually having access to the files. For example, if you, for obvious reasons, prefer to keep your weighty RAW files on an external hard drive, you’d have no chance on post-processing them with Lightroom 4 unless you had the said drive connected to your computer. I’ve run into this sort of problem a dozen of times. Sometimes I just want to take a look at the settings of images I edited previously. They were still stored on my catalog, but I moved the RAW files themselves to my external drive for safe-keeping, which meant I would have to connect it before I could do anything within Lightroom. Even if it didn’t involve exporting JPGs. Not anymore.

Smart Previews_2

If you check the “Build Smart Previews” check box as you import your images, Lightroom will allow you to post-process the photographs in any way you like even if they are not directly accessible at the time. More than that, I even managed to export the image up to 1000px in size, which is great for web sharing. You can, alternatively, store Smart Previews for all or selected images by clicking on the corresponding setting right below the Histogram, as demonstrated.

4) Spot Removal Tool Improvements

When I wrote the “How to Use the Spot Removal Tool” article, one of the main criticism some of you had was that in Lightroom 4 the tool itself is hard to use with larger, more complex objects. So, if you had to remove power lines from an otherwise glorious landscape image, it was extremely difficult and tiresome, and much more simple to do in Photoshop. In Lightroom 5, Spot Removal tool is now much more similar to Photoshop’s powerful Clone Stamp Tool. You can draw the shape you need and Lightroom will attempt to clone it. With the greatly added flexibility, all previous adjustments are still available. You can easily remove someone’s eye, should you wish so.

Spot Removal Tool Improvements

You can also engage Visual Spots view mode (hit A) to help you better spot sensor dust and blemishes.

Visualize Spots

5) Radial Filter Tool

A completely new tool, Radial Filter acts much like Graduated Filter (next to which it is now found in the tool panel), but is, instead, radial. This makes it a very powerful Vignetting tool with all the same controls as Graduated Filter.

Radial Filter Sample

6) Lens Corrections

Lens Corrections Panel

A panel that has received the most change is Lens Corrections. You get a whole new tab in there called Basic, where you can quickly engage some of the most used features without doing much manual input yourself. It’s handy and saves you a couple of steps, but what’s more interesting is the new Upright feature. Upright allows you to automatically straighten the horizon and fix buildings that may be “leaning” or “falling away”. The latter function may not be as effective as actually using a tilt lens, of course, but still works very well and is achievable with a simple mouse click. For professional architecture, you would still prefer specialized lenses, of course. But for those more casual photographs, it’s an awesome feature to have and, unlike the said lenses, doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

What you do need to keep in mind is that, good as it may be, Upright is far from being perfect. It’s still software that’s judging whether your image is tilted or not, and software is much more prone to make mistakes than you are in this case. Software doesn’t think. Here’s an example where Upright did a pretty good job straightening the horizon. I have Constrain Crop check box ticked to make sure there is no empty white canvas at the border of the image as a result of image rotation.

Level Upright

Here’s a different example, one where Level setting didn’t do nearly as well as with the previous image, despite the many horizontal lines to guide it. Upright actually overdid it.

Faulty Level Upright

That sort of error is easy to notice. What’s harder to notice is what Auto feature can do to your image. At first glance, everything looks fine and Upright seems to have done nearly as well as you’d hope it to. On closer inspection, though, you’ll notice the male subject got distorted somewhere in the process. Most noticeably – his face got longer. To fix something like that, I’d need to go to Manual tab and do some well-judged adjustments from there on my own. And all I wanted was to fix horizon tilting as quickly as possible.

Faulty Auto Upright

That is not to say Upright is useless, far from it. All I’m saying is you shouldn’t rely on it too much and on each occasion. Consider playing with the settings (some of them can be found in the Manual tab) for best results, or doing things yourself altogether.


Adobe’s great at refining software that’s already very good. Lightroom 5 looks like yet another evolutionary step towards what may one day become the only post-processing program you will ever need as a photographer. Personally, I am very excited about the upcoming Lightroom release and plan to use Beta extensively until the final version is available in a few months. What I find extremely impressive is that the team behind Lightroom seems to really follow feedback and fix all the niggles you can think of, and then some. I’m happy to say Lightroom 5 is shaping up to be a worthwhile upgrade to anyone who works with a lot of images at a time and values speed along with a simple workflow.


  1. 1) Paul
    April 16, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    I have Lightroom 3, and am still figuring it out. Can you recommend a good tutorial? I am having trouble with it.

  2. April 16, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    You the are best at reporting things ,news ,events etc….should try Photojournalism ;)
    OMG! I finally upgraded to the last 4.4 version and I was afraid that some new prominent cameras and lenses were missing a new version must be around the corner ,and here it is :)
    If they have not included PS type cloning tool then I have no use for it, still same thing :(
    But , eventually going to give it a try :)

    Thanks again and looking forward the important new features it has.

  3. 3) Richard D
    April 16, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Thanks for the update, Roman. I saw the email this morning from Adobe. I always forget what happens with these Beta releases and current releases you already use. So, it looks as if if I install LR version 5 Beta, my version 4.4 will remain intact. Therefore, I will download and play around with this Beta version.

    Thanks, again.

  4. April 16, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    For Mac users, LR5 Beta will ONLY work in OS 10.7.* (Lion) and higher. I have no idea as to any Windows restrictions.

    • 4.1) Gert Thomsen
      April 18, 2013 at 7:38 am

      Lightroom 5 Beta doesn’t install on Windows XP. I tried!
      Should work from Vista onward.

  5. 5) Vipul Kapadia
    April 16, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Thanks for the review. Most importantly you covered the new features and areas of interest very well. While I love Lr 4, I can’t wait to try Lr 5. Thank you for the amount of details you have covered in the short amount of time! I personally see myself using all the features in this article quite regularly.

  6. 6) Steven Lawrence
    April 16, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Roman… you say things will not change… does this include my personal presets?

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 6.1) Romanas Naryškin
      April 17, 2013 at 1:12 am

      They will remain intact, Steven, and already imported into Lightroom 5 Beta for you to use.

  7. 7) Vince
    April 16, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Great article, as always, but…

    “…there weren’t any drastic changes compared to its predecessor…”
    That depends on what you mean by “drastic.” I’ve found the processing engine (2012) changes in LR4 to be the most significant thing they’ve done in any update. I’ve gone back and re-processed quite a few of my treasured oldies with the new engine, and the difference it made in almost every instance was striking.

    For LR5, I think the extension of clone/heal is going to be the most-used new functionality. It remains to be seen whether it will be as useful in practice as in theory, but I’m anxious to try out the beta to find out.

  8. April 16, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Still no Face Recognition :(

  9. April 17, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Great article Romanas!
    I was wondering – many community members – including me, found major speed issues in LR 4 after upgrading from 3.6. Have You noticed any improvements in this matter ?

    • 9.1) Nige
      April 17, 2013 at 1:44 am

      Yes, Slawomir. Good question. I returned my copy of LR4 and remained with LR3 because it was so slow. I’ve recently bought 4 and upgraded to 4.4… and it’s still much slower than its predecessor. I’m therefore also interested in the speed on LR5 (in Windows).

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 9.2) Romanas Naryškin
      April 17, 2013 at 10:15 am


      I did experience sluggish performance, but found a way to improve it dramatically. Further on I, again, felt that performance wasn’t great, but that was largely due to my old laptop, which I’ve since replaced. Tell me, are you using the same catalogs you used with Lightroom 3.6 (converted to work with Lightroom 4)?

      • 9.2.1) Sławomir
        April 17, 2013 at 10:33 am

        I started with the same catalogs to see if there is some optimization step during catalog conversion. Than I created a new one. What I can say for sure – there is no “wow” if You think about speed improvements in the new LR 4.4.

        • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin Romanas Naryškin
          April 17, 2013 at 10:55 am


          no, it never struck me as being quicker, either.

          • Adnan Khan
            April 17, 2013 at 11:08 am

            Right now I’m working on a folder with sub folders at about 78GB in size and my cache is 100GB on 72000 rpm C drive ,I optimized the catalog in 4.4 and it looks a bit better than 4.1 while loading 14 bit RAW losses of 73MB.
            I’ll get the SSD drive when it will be 1 TB in size or again will be wasting money on endless upgrading…..
            Film rules! ;)

            • Sławomir
              April 17, 2013 at 11:17 am

              I’m still waiting for the “bit” to become “huuuuuge” ;) But besides the fact that it could be faster – at least as LR 3.6 was/is I still use it everyday and I’m used to things the way they are. Anyway time spent wishing is time wasted. Time to take pictures folks! :)

            • Adnan Khan
              April 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm

              I don’t have to present my pictures to anybody on time :) .. some 3yr old folders are still not opened .
              Film rules! ;)

  10. 10) David Young
    April 17, 2013 at 2:10 am

    I currently use ViewNX2 (on Mac) and have seen your enthusiasm for Lightroom. Do you have any views on why I should abandon/use in conjunction with the Nikon software. I attended a D800 course and the tutor, quite sensibly I thought, promoted the use of ViewNX2 over other others saying, ‘the editing software is designed by the same programmers that design the D800 software’ – what are your thoughts?

    • 10.1) Sławomir
      April 17, 2013 at 10:28 am

      If I may “cut-in” David – I think that the argument used by the tutor isn’t a good one. The market shows clearly that it isn’t always like he’s said. So called “third party” developers have done a great job in enhancing any available app on the market through plugins and have produced many great standalone apps. My advice is to check it by yourself. It doesn’t cost much and will help You develop Your own opinion.

      • 10.1.1) David Young
        April 20, 2013 at 4:20 am

        Hi Stawomir
        Many thanks for your response. I’ll take your advice and take a look and get a feel for it

  11. 11) Stephen Layton
    April 17, 2013 at 3:19 am

    Has anyone tried Nik software with Lightroom 5 Beta? If so, does it work?

    • 11.1) Richard D
      April 17, 2013 at 8:13 am


      I haven’t played around with it too much, but all of the Nik plug-ins do show up in LR 5 Beta. I have tried a couple of them, and they seem to work. Again, I haven’t played around with Nik and LR 5 Beta very much, but so far, it does appear as if Nik does work with it.

      • 11.1.1) Stephen Layton
        April 17, 2013 at 2:46 pm

        Richard D

        Many thanks for your reply. That soukds really encouraging.

  12. 12) Graham
    April 17, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Many thanks Roman. I’m really gratified that the Lightroom engineers take seriously the feedback from your column. As one who complained about the inanity of trying to clone out power lines in the previous versions, I look forward to installing the new download asap! The new Perspective feature will be invaluable too.
    Now though I look forward to the inclusion of a Warm button, as in NikonCapture NX2, that allows the preset to add a little warmth while balancing that quantity against Saturation— a vast improvement over what LR offers to date.

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 12.1) Romanas Naryškin
      April 17, 2013 at 8:35 am


      you are most welcome. I do want to point out, though, that I have no direct contact with Adobe team and wouldn’t go as far as say they even read this website and what I’ve got to say about Lightroom. I believe any improvements they make come from general feedback as well as their own ideas and competition. If I did have any sort of relationship with Adobe, this article would’ve appeared much more promptly and I’d be working on full Lightroom 5 review as well. I’m sorry to say, but I’m just another user, like yourself.

  13. 13) Graham
    April 17, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Having just downloaded LR5, but luckily checking their website before overriding LR4, I discover that they have Cut Out users of Snow Leopard on Mac:
    THIS WILL ONLY WORK ON Lion 10.7 or later. Many users, like myself, have deliberately avoided Lion since it is designed to be incompatible with earlier versions of PhotoShop, AppleWorks and so many other programs that it would cost literally thousands to replace them all.
    Installing this over LR4 will lose us the program completely!
    Please Roman, will you try and persuade the engineers to make this backwards-compatible as well?
    Or is there a fake available, that can persuade the drive in Directory that LR5 “looks like” LR4? Some computer buff might know how the change the code without screwing up— please!

  14. 14) Graham
    April 17, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Minimum system requirements


    Intel® Pentium® 4 or AMD Athlon® 64 processor*
    DirectX 10–capable or later graphics card
    Microsoft® Windows® 7 with Service Pack 1 or Windows 8
    2GB of RAM (4GB recommended)
    2GB of available hard-disk space
    1024×768 display
    DVD-ROM drive
    Internet connection required for Internet-based services†
    * Dual-core processor recommended for HD or AVCHD video functionality.

    Mac OS

    Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support
    Mac OS X v10.7 or v10.8
    2GB of RAM (4GB recommended)
    2GB of available hard-disk space
    1024×768 display
    DVD-ROM drive
    Internet connection required for Internet-based services†

    • 14.1) Richard D
      April 17, 2013 at 9:01 am

      I know this list is from Adobe, but I am testing LR 5 Beta with Vista as my OS. So far, it seems fine.

  15. 15) John M
    April 17, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Thanks for a nice heads up Roman. I downloaded the Beta version today and all my Nik and OnOne plugins work well. The new clone tool actually works quite well also! I’ve been using the Adobe subscription CS6 for almost a year now and am thinking between Lightroom and my plugin suites I really don’t need CS6 for my purposes!

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