Adobe released Lightroom 4 recently and we got our first taste of Process 2012. The first update in the Adobe process was 2010 introduced with CS5 and LR3 and improved noise reduction and some other modifications and improvements, but did not upset the cart if you changed the process version of a previously processed file. Not so with Process 2012.
This is a new animal altogether, complete with a new interface which, from my perspective, is much more intuitive that the old processes/interfaces. Everything now starts at zero and the default tone curve is now linear. That means that files do not have the artificial medium contrast tone curve added to them or the default level 5 black point. The result is more open (some may say flat) files, which appear to have more shadow detail than before. That is not true, the file had the detail, but the older processes assumed you wanted to make your images look like already processed jpgs right from the start.
This will mean possibly setting your own defaults if you prefer a more processed look on entry into LR4 or CS6/ACR7, but I suggest that absent a need for productivity on a large group of files, a little more attention to the full range of information in the files will result in better finished images. Once you get used to changes in how some sliders affect the image, the process of getting a much better image out of the software in a short period of time is pretty amazing.
You will have to play with the settings a bit to get used to the new process, but the resulting images will be better in LR4 and a better starting place for editing images in CS6. One of the most notable changes is the Highlight slider which does not suffer from the flattening effect of the old Recovery slider. It actually creates significant improvements in highlight detail in a way that required some fussing with curves in the past. There are similar improvements in the Shadow slider over Fill Light, which wasn’t too bad to start with.
While the interface will be a small hurdle to get over for some people, the learning curve is pretty short, mostly as the controls do what you expect them to do. That alone makes Process 2012 a significant reason to upgrade to LR4 and CS6.