Photokina seems the scene for quiet warfare, with Adobe this morning releasing the latest free public beta version of its professional imaging software, Lightroom.

The release comes on the morning of the day Apple has scheduled an afternoon special event at Photokina, widely expected to be the forum for the launch of the latest version of that company's solution for professional photographers, Aperture.

Apple has not confirmed the speculation, but is expected to reveal the facts late this afternoon.

Battle for the pros

In the battle between the two firms to provide the de-facto solution for professional imaging, Adobe has added a sparkle of Photoshop magic to Lightroom's product name. The software is now called Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and is available now for download from the company. Mac and Windows versions of the beta are available.

Over 325,000 people have tested Lightroom so far during the beta period, Adobe said. The final version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is expected to ship in early 2007.

"From the moment we introduced Lightroom beta we opened up the process to photographers, making them a part of our 'virtual development team' and allowing them to tell us exactly what this application needs," said Deborah Whitman, vice president of product management for digital imaging.

New feature round-up

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom beta 4.0 offers better digital photography workflow tools, including a precision white balance selection option and a streamlined user interface with customisable controls. A new tone curve adjustment feature lets users visually obtain excellent midtone, shadow and highlight adjustments.

New enhancements in the 'Develop' and 'Library' modules include time-saving tools such as the ability to re-name and convert files to Adobe Digital Negative Format (DNG) after importing into the Lightroom library. New filters, search presets and organisation options have also been introduced to make images easier to file and find.

Lightroom supports over 125 native Raw file formats, and introduces Raw support for new cameras from Nikon, Sony and Canon.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom beta is a Universal binary application that will run natively on PowerPC and Intel Macs.