Adobe is hoping to fight back Apple's advances in the professional imaging field with the launch of a beta of a new digital photography software package called Adobe Lightroom.

The new product, which will go up directly against Apple's Aperture is an “all-new” digital imaging solution for professional photographers.

The software, which is still in beta mode is hoping to develop its offering over the next 6 months following feedback from photographers who use it, will offer modular, task-based and streamlined environments to deliver a “complete” photography workflow.

The beat application, initially only available for Apple Mac users will focus around the image. Features include the ability to fade control and tool panels into the background in Lights-Out mode with one click, allowing the image to take centre stage.

An Identity Plate feature allows photographers to apply their own branding to the application and its output, so that it becomes their own personal gallery for showcasing work.

Photographers also can rapidly scroll through hundreds of images and Quick One-to-One Zoom allows instant magnification of the finer points within the image.

Lightroom also supports over 100 cameras and incorporates raw conversion into a single workflow experience. Images can also be showcased via slideshows with drop shadows, borders, Identity Plates and different coloured backgrounds. The size and position of the images can be manipulated and delivered in Macromedia Flash, Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) or HTML formats.

Lightroom is available for free download from the Adobe Labs Web site at

. Recommended system requirements are Macintosh OSX 10.4.3, 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processor, 768 MB RAM and a 1024x768 resolution screen. Regular updates to the software will be posted on the site, feedback will be collected and the final product is expected to be introduced in late 2006.

Further details around pricing, system requirements and availability have yet to be determined.