Luminar 2018 - Initial thoughts as a Lightroom alternative
Adobe Lightroom is very good software. Not perfect, but it meets most of my needs most of the time with Photoshop filling any gaps when necessary. I don't mind the subscription model for the software itself but not the shift towards storage charges too, and using 'classic' software doesn't seem like a good long-term strategy.
Capture One is the most obvious alternative at the moment. I'm not particularly keen on it's interface but part of that is the learning curve for new software. And it's not cheap at $299.
So I decided to take a look at the newly released Luminar 2018 by Skylum (previously Macphun). I haven't used the previous version so can't comment on specifically what's changed in this version but it's available as a standalone product for $69 with no subscription (and FujiRumors have a $10 discount offer).
I generally like the interface. The sidebar is dedicated to sliders and curves, with the few other tools accessed via buttons or menus. The default layout provides a range of presets across the foot of the screen. They're tempting to try out and each can be adjusted for strength, but hiding that section gives more screen space for the main image while you dive into the main side panel. And that's where I think additional customization will be key. Skylum provide a few different 'workspace' layouts, each with a different selection of the available tools. But you can create your own, and setting up one or more sets of your favorite tools will make the interface much more effective.
I found it strange that switching to a different workspace not only changed the image, but then switching back to the previous workspace didn't retain any of the previous changes. I don't know why and haven't delved into the details yet but I guess the idea is to choose and fix your workspace before editing an image.
As with Lightroom, RAW conversion is included and the edits are non-destructive, with full history and undo options. From a brief test on Fujifilm RAF files, the results seem good although the processing did seem relatively slow, both for the RAW conversion and some subsequent processing.
One significant advantage over Lightroom is the inclusion of Layers and Masks. On the downside, a clone stamp is included but no healing tools. 'Snapheal' is Skylum's software for healing corrections and object removal, which can be added as a plugin to Luminar but then that's another $50.
The big gap coming from Lightroom though is the lack of image management. There is some basic batch processing but really Luminar is for single image edits at the moment. Skylum are promising an image management tool will be added soon though. If that works well and the software proves robust through more testing, then I'll definitely consider switching over my workflow. It will feel like a big change to move away from Lightroom, but Luminar and Capture One are both looking like feasible options.