Luminar 2018 - First impressions

I’ve been playing for about 15 minutes with the brand new and shiny image processing software released by the guys from Macphun: Luminar 2018. I got caught a bit in the hype surrounding this new product, with a quite cheap pre-release price. But the reason is actually a different one: the inclusion of a SmugMug Power plan (72 eur value) in the Luminar 2018 list benefits ( we had a long term wish to switch from Zenfolio to SmugMug – more about this in a future post) .

I have quite a lot of contradicting feelings and impressions about Luminar after the first tests . This is far from being a comprehensive review (I might write one later, when getting the chance to try it out more). Bellow is a very quick results of my trials.

Interface: the interface is clean and quite intuitive. Lots of things look surprisingly identical to Lightroom or Photoshop. There are many functionality that have been totally cloned out from the Adobe products (HSL filter, Chanel mixer, Colour balance). Even the order of the settings is somehow close or identical. To me its a very clear indication that Macphun placed themselves as aggressive competitors to Adobe, trying to play the card of familiarity to drag customers out of Photoshop or Lightroom.

Functionality: there is plenty of functionality present. Predefined presets for the one-click user, tones of filters for the most sophisticated one. You get “Essentials” with Saturation/Vibrance, B&W Conversion, Structure to name a few,  “Issue fixers” like Clarity, Dehaze, Sharpening, “Creative” ones like “Brilliance/Warmth”, Fog, Orton Effect, Sunrays , “Professional” options like Curves, Channel Mixer, HSL, Dodge&Burn and “Utility” tools like Adjustable Gradient, Exposure, Highlights/Shadows. The categorization of the effects and tools into the 5 lists can be a bit confusing ( Curves or Exposure are definitely Essentials to me, while Foliage Enhancer don’t really fix an issue but is part of the creative effects that you can apply to an image.

Those effects can be applied incremental, using layers, so you can easily turn them on and off and tune them up or down in a non-destructive way. You even have the blending modes of Photoshop layers (called the same obviously).

What I am missing in Luminar 2018: I was not able to find a way to heal the images. I normally have quite a few sensor spots due to changing lenses frequently in not so ideal outdoor conditions, so I would very much like to have the ability to remove those spots from my images. There is a clone mode that works in a quite smart way, but it does not replace the Heal functionality in Photoshop. Also Luminar is quite slow. On my new iMac it takes about 15 seconds to get into Clone&Stamp mode. Applying an effect while image is zoomed in lets you see a very blurry image for a few seconds that makes you wonder if the effect will turn out as expected.

The conclusions: its a very comprehensive software that covers the need of a large range of photographers. They understood that getting lots of options can be overwhelming for a new user so they provided the 1-click presets that can make life easier for many people. But in the same time they gave options for more advanced users to get full control of the setting they apply on their images.

The price is also quite attractive. 59 Eur as an introductory price and 69 after that is quite cheap for what it offers. Am I gonna switch to Luminar? No. Its still a long way for them to go until a Photoshop user with many years of experience under the belt would even considering switching, but the potential is there and with a steep improvement curve, Macphun can be a serious competitor for Adobe on image editing software market.


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