Macphun develops Aurora HDR 2017, the best HDR app currently on the market. It just released Luminar, a photo editor that resembles Aurora HDR with respect to its interface, but that’s where the comparison stops. Luminar is a general-purpose photo editor. It’s less powerful than Capture One Pro and offers basic image editing tools and filters. But when you start working with it, Luminar looks promising. Initially, it seems it grows with your skill and knowledge due to an adaptive interface.
Presets like the ones you’re used to in Aurora HDR will be the first thing you’ll notice. If you want to dig deeper — and who doesn’t? — will want to explore Luminar’s workspaces that allow you to group filters and tools. Layers, as well as adjustments and filters, can have different blend modes applied to them. That’s on par with other image editors, but Luminar’s interface is probably going to be easier if you have little or no experience with any of the image editing heavyweights.
Luminar does come with most of the adjustment filters the likes of Photoshop and Affinity Photo have as well. The way you select these adjustments and filters is different: it’s very user-friendly and idiot-proof. The filters slide out from the sidebar and if so desired, show you a Before/After photo for each. It can’t get any easier than this, especially not because — lets’ be honest — it’s often unclear what some creative filters will make your image look like. With Luminar, there’s no guessing.
The problem is that despite its promise of an adaptive interface the app never seems to grow beyond the capabilities of the average image editor. For example, all filters do offer blend modes and masking capabilities. But filters that cry for colour space and channel options like the Channel Mixer, only offer the RGB space and a simple slider interface with no numbers you can dial in, no offset percentages you can set, no alpha channel or anything else we call “advanced”.
The tools are also a mixed affair. The stamp tool gives you the same functionality as the one that was in Photoshop CS3. The noise reduction tool is not very good. At its highest level, everything looks like smooth plastic. At the lowest level, pixelation is prominently visible. Especially the noise tool is a missed chance with so many intelligent, super-performing algorithms available these days.
Export and sharing capabilities look pretty, are iOS-like and ensure you are aware of Macphun’s other apps. Formats include Photoshop, JPEG 2000, TIFF, GIF, PNG, JPEG, PDF, and Microsoft DDS.
Macphun hit the jackpot with its original Aurora HDR app and it made it even better with the 2017 update. Aurora HDR 2017 is a fabulous app, one that hits all the right buttons and actually stimulates you to be more creative.
With success, however, comes a problem: can you match the standards and expectations you’ve set with your flagship app? Macphun has tried and in this first version of Luminar I’m afraid the developer has failed in key areas. Luminar is just about OK, but not brilliant.
To its defence, Luminance is relatively inexpensive at roughly €55.