Adobe has released a public beta of Lightroom 5, which includes new features like an advanced healing brush, radial filter, upright perspective tool and space-saving Smart Previews. The beta comes fast after the release of Lightroom 4 barely 13 months ago. The beta is available for download now and will work until Lightroom 5 is released in June.
The new Smart Previews feature lets you work with files, even if the originals are offline, and then syncs any edits you've made when the originals are plugged back in. Lightroom 5 does this by creating 2540-pixel lossy DNG copies of your raw images with the near fidelity of the original raw files. So if space is a premium on your laptop, you could import images by adding (not moving) them from an external hard-drive, choose to create Smart Previews, unplug the hard-drive, work on the smaller files on your laptop, and then sync the changes back on your office desktop with the original files.
The Verge has an extensive preview of Smart Previews where they find neligible quality differences between original raw files and the lossy DNG copies, but an impressive reduction of a 1.84GB photo collection to 275MB.
Lightroom finally gets the advanced cloning tools from Photoshop. The Advanced Healing Brush comes with an option to heal or clone using brush strokes, instead of just the rather limited spot removal in Lightroom 4. Lightroom 5 gets the advanced Content-Aware Fill abilities of Photoshop, which means you'll be taking fewer trips into the sister app. A new Visualize Spots option provides a 'Threshold' view to help you easily spot the spots.
The new Radial Filter lets you apply any adjustments to an area outside of the circular mask, helping you highlight a specific point in an image. The area of the mask can be resized (it doesn't have to be a perfect circle), feathered and even inverted.
Upright is a new automated perspective correction tool which helps you straighten the perspective lines in your images, whether they were caused by shooting upwards from a low angle or from the distortion from wide-angle lenses.
Additional features included in the LR5 beta include an improved Book module with a variety of book templates, slideshows which can combine video and still images, PNG file support (finally), configurable grid overlays, LAB color readout and crop overlay aspect ratios. You can download the Lightroom 5 beta here, but Mac users should know that LR5 cuts support for Snow Leopard. Early users should also know that you cannot update earlier LR catalogs with the public beta, images must be imported into a new catalog to work with the LR5 beta