Adobe has released Camera Raw 8.5 RC for public beta. While the release candidate contains the usual updates, e.g., support for new cameras and lens and bug fixes, it also contains upgrades to the Camera Raw interface and new functionality. The interface upgrades will provide some of the functionality available in Lightroom but currently not in Camera Raw, i.e., per-panel previews. However, the exciting news for Lightroom users is that the graduated and radial filters are getting new and very useful functionality and this functionality will undoubtedly be in Lightroom 5.5.
Prior to this, when using the graduated or radial filters, the mask was the mask. If you added a graduated filter to your image, its leading edge was straight; if you added a radial filter, your leading edge was curved. With Camera Raw 8.5 and Lightroom 5.5, you will be able to or remove portions of a mask using a brush. Even more exciting is that Adobe included the Adjustment Brushes’ Auto Mask in this new tool. If Auto Mask is enabled, Lightroom will only add to or remove the mask based on the color of the object below the cursor.
When would you uses this new functionality? Whenever you need to. For example, landscape photographers frequently need to darken skies and this is exactly what the graduated filter is for. However, you don’t always have straight horizons so something sticking up in the background is going to get the same adjustment as the sky. This may or may not be okay. With the new functionality, fixing this becomes a breeze. Just add the graduated filter so that the sky is right and then, using the brush, simply brush the adjustment off the object in the background.
You should note that software branded as RC or release candidate is software that has been tested internally and appears to be functioning properly but could still use some additional testing; functionality and features in a release candidate are not guaranteed to be released in the final version. Camera Raw 8.5 RC is for Photoshop CC only and is officially supported only on PCs running Windows 7 and 8 and Macs running Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks.