Among the ton of new features, the big one, for me at least, is Process 2012, in the develop module. However, with new toys come new teething problems, and I’ve found no shortage of them in the new process version.
First the good, the new process version, even when using a medium contrast tone curve, produces more detailed shadow areas, or at least lighter ones. Trimming the black point and curve has become something of a ongoing process for me, and I hope to have reasonable defaults sooner rather than later, because doing it on a per image basis is kind of annoying.
The flip side however, is that unlike process 2010, which was largely a straight upgrade from LR2’s process 2003, process 2012 is a completely new cup of tea, and it really shows when working on an image that got updated to the new process version. Moreover, there are still, distinct reasons to use the 2010 process version for producing gritty/edgy images.One of the big reasons for this is the adjustment made to the clarity tool, which no longer blooms quite as much as the one in LR 3 did.
Unfortunately, I think that Adobe decided to express the process version somewhat poorly. Like in LR3, you can change it though the Camera Calibration pallet. However, unlike the 2003->2010 which basically granted better noise reduction controls and improved the rendering of details, process 2012 really affects the rendering of the image in terms of colors and luminance. I think in many ways, it would be more appropriate to have a button in the Basic pallet to toggle/switch between process versions, or at least between 2010 and 2012.
For that matter, I’m not sure an ! in a box is a good indicator that the process version is not set to 2012.
That said, it’s not all bad. In fact, it’s really good. The new process version and the improved basic exposure controls it brings to the table are simply really good—once you get the hang on them. There are a number of cases, where I can get what I want out of an image faster using the new controls than I could using the old 2010/LR3 controls. I think, the only real downside, is that the old controls have been largely the same since 2003, and now we’ve got to retrain ourselves on the new controls. Teaching an old dog new tricks, and all of that.
My one word of advice, if you’re use to Lightroom 1-3’s controls, be patient, it’s gonna take a little time to get back up to speed in the new process version.