More on RAW Processing

I have continued ‘testing’ RAW convertors. Since Capture 1 Express doesn’t work for me and because Skylum introduced Luminar with Libraries I decided to compare Lightroom/Photoshop, On1-2109 and Luminar 3. I’m surprised by what I’ve found

Couple of things: I’m using version 8.1 of LR and PS 2019. I’ve found sharpening in PS far superior to just using LR. I have the latest version of ON1 Photo Raw and version 3.0.0 of Luminar. I own Luminar, ON1 and subscribe to Adobe. I have no connection with any of the companies.

While I really want to like Luminar, version 3 is not stable…at least for me. Using virtually any shortcut key crashes the program. [Update 12/29/18 Skylum says the bug will be fixed in version 3.1.No date as to when that will be released The bug was fixed in version 3.0,1. They are still working on 3.1 expected release end of January.]
Nevertheless, I managed to get some comparisons using Luminar but I can’t see using it in stand-alone mode yet.  It does work as a plug-in for LR – which bypasses the new Libraries module.  I think the bug is in the libraries module.

I selected three photos from a recent shoot.  The three where intended to test various aspects of the apps.  For example, LR gets poor reviews in sharpening foliage.  So, one photo has foliage.  I used the XF18-55 lens on my X-T1 for all the shots. For testing, I used the stand-alone mode for each of the apps.  That way, I’m sure Lightroom doesn’t bias any of the results for ON1 and Luminar.

First up, an image with foliage in the background.   (Click on an image for a larger version.)

I developed the image in each of the apps. BTW, I’m treating LR+PS as one app. I know but…

Fair warning: I’ve used LR since version 1 and Photoshop even longer. I’m new to ON1 and Luminar. So, while I did the best I could using those apps, I might be able to improve on the results. And, one more thing – I used Preview to capture the comparisons, then did a screen grab…in jpg. That last step reduces the resolution of the comparisons. It still shows the relative results, just not as good as they really look.

Here’s the first compare: The order,LtoR, is Luminar, Lightroom, ON1. While this image doesn’t do the results justice, ON1 produces a sharper result. Luminar definitely was worse. For this image, colors and other aspects are a draw. So, ON1 takes the first round.

On to image 2: For this image, Alcatraz serves as the comparison. The screen grab In this case, Luminar seemed to add details in the rocky cliff that aren’t there. Also, I was unable to recover the highlights on the side of the building. ON1 was better with the highlights than Luminar but still didn’t get to the point I’d like. Once again, ON1 does a better job sharpening than the other two. However, the colors aren’t quite the same as the other two. Tough call.

Image 3 – “Laughing Sal” I used Sal’s brooch for my comparisons.
The screen grab.
Once again, ON1 does a better job of sharpening with LR close behind. Luminar trails again. In color, etc., ON1 produces more muted colors.

OK, so what’s my conclusion? Well, it’s complicated. I really want to like Luminar. I think the AI features make it a real contender. The problem is with the Libraries module. It’s new and I expect Skylum will be coming out with an update fairly soon. Right now, I think it’s best used as a plug-in and, if you have LR, well, why bother?

On the other hand, if you insist on using Apple’s Photos, Luminar could be a great way to go – Luminar sells for $69 for a license for five computers. You can, and should, try it out for free. Go to Skylum for more info. One feature of Luminar is that it really is non-destructive; Lightroom is also but ON1 is not. Yes, ON1 says they are but…read the fine print. That’s only for the current edit session. Once you close out, you can’t see the history. I find that to be a serious omission.

ON1 is closer to a complete Lightroom/Photoshop solution. It has camera profiles, lots of presets and does a good job on my images. It’s also non-subscription like Luminar. The newest version of ON1, Camera Raw 2019, has a reworked UI that I find more intuitive than before. As of this writing, ON1 sells for $89 – up to five computers. See ON1 for more details. Once again, you can try it for free.

Lightroom/Photoshop are only available by subscription. Currently, that’s $9.99/month.

So here’s the deal. Just hate Adobe and subscriptions? Fine, go with one of the others. However, You’re not going to save that much money if you want to keep up with the current version. ON1 updates every year – right now, the upgrade price is $69; usually $79. Luminar isn’t quite like that. I purchased Luminar 2018 but could upgrade to the new version “Luminar 3” (strange numbering system) for free. We’ll see how that goes. I think you will end up spending about the same per year. So, which one does what you want to do? Get that one.