So, I have been transitioning to Adobe Lightroom 4. There are certainly a number of significant changes in the new version of Adobe’s image organization and “digital darkroom” software – but ultimately a few are not for the better. The updated “clarity” slider is one change that can hardly be called an improvement. No, folks. The new clarity slider is a bucket of fail. More after the video:
What is the clarity slider?
The clarity slider is a dynamic midtone contrast enhancement tool. It adds a little pop and zing to flat images without making significant overall contrast changes that can crush the shadows (make them exceedingly “black”) or clipping the highlight tones. It is a very popular and often abused slider in the Adobe RAW and Lightroom conversion world.
So, in what appears to be an effort to “dumb down” some of the functions in ACR and Lightroom 4, Adobe “fixed” the clarity slider. With the LR3 (Process version 2010) clarity slider, as you really push the values towards “maximum clarity” you would start to see light fringing or halos around the edges in an image. That is generally a sign that you are going overboard. Adobe decided to help you go overboard and tweaked the effect to minimize these halos.
Why do I HATE the new clarity slider?
This new tweak sounds good – but for those of us who use clarity slider to add just a little pop and sizzle, there is a nasty side-effect of the new process that creeps in at even modest clarity settings. The tonality of the image rapidly changes, with shadows becoming desaturated and darkened. It’s awful. Here is an example. The first image is processed in LR4 as normal, with no clarity applied:
The second image is the LR4 clarity slider applied (to a level of 45 out of a possible 100). Look at the red wall and even the skin tones compared to the original. They have been completely changed – there is no pretending to have a natural looking image with this effect. Blech.
Now, lets look at how the older LR3 (2010 Process) looks with the same amount of clarity applied:
With the 2010 process, you get that midtone contrast enhancement without all the gimmicky side effects. Shame on you, Adobe! Sure, you can process am image in the 2010 process (DEVELOP module–>Camera Calibration –>Process: Adobe 2010) but then you miss out on the parts of LR4 that actually are improvements. It sucks.
A Plea to Adobe:
How can this be addressed? Well, Adobe still has the 2010 process algorithm… it’s right in LR4. Just please give us a checkbox beneath or beside the 2012 process clarity slider that allows us to use the tool using the legacy slider. PLEASE! IF you want to help bring 2010 clarity back – contact Adobe yourself using their “wish form”. https://www.adobe.com/cfusion/mmform/index.cfm?name=wishform
What do you think about the new Lightroom 4 clarity slider?