Adobe has announced the availability of Photoshop Lightroom 3 as a free download for photographers to try. 

The new application, which allows photographers to catalogue their photo collections as well as perform basic editing processes to their pictures will add a host of new features according to Adobe.

“While we’re still hard at work on Lightroom 3, we recognise the value our customers bring to the development process and want their input so we can deliver the best final product possible", said Kevin Connor, vice president of product management for Professional Digital Imaging at Adobe justifying the move.

Supposedly completely redesigned under the hood to be faster, a bug bear of the Lightroom 2, the new software promises better handling of "image libraries and improved responsiveness with a higher-quality processing engine".

In the Library module, Adobe is promising a rebuilt import system bringing photos into the software more intuitive as well as allowing users to "easily specify the source and destination of their images, and save common processing, metadata or destination settings as easy-to-reuse presets".

In the Develop module, an overhauled processing engine allows users to create the highest quality images. Improved "Capture Sharpening" and "Colour Noise Reduction" tools apparently provide decent results while still preserving an image’s edge detail and contrast. A new Grain tool adds a film-style grain to images, and two new Vignette modes help photographers get a more natural look.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 beta is available as a free download to anyone on both Macintosh and Windows platforms. Adobe has yet to announce when a full version of the software will be available and how much it will cost.