Raw Converter Shootout Part #5c – Luminar and Smart Photo Editor

In the previous post I looked at DXO, Lightroom and Exposure X3. They all have a similar approach to RAW development and image editing.

Luminar and the Smart Photo Editor are different in their approaches and I will now examine them.


Luminar is, as far as the Windows version is concerned, the new kid on the block in the RAW development world. It has a different approach to most of the others. For a start it has no image browsing capabilities at all. These are going to be added in a future version, scheduled for this year. It can do batch processing where a preset can be applied to a set of images and the usual controls for output are available. A nice touch is that you specify the amount of sharpening to apply, although it is limited to None, Low, Medium and High.

As far as individual images are concerned, this is what you see after opening one:

At the bottom of the page are the Presets, grouped into various categories. But what about doing some serious image editing? To do that, you need to use the innocuous little blue button towards the top right of the screen: Add Filters.

Click this and Luminar presents a large series of options to choose from:



This is a huge set of possible edits. You choose one of these options and its parameters appear in the right hand panel. For example, clicking RAW Develop:

Luminar Raw Adjustments

Luminar Raw Adjustments

The RAW development settings has 3 tabs:

  • Adjust – the ‘usual’ RAW development settings
  • Lens – lens specific adjustments
  • Transform – image rotation and distortion removal

Unlike Lightroom, it does not offer a way to create lens profiles. It either supports your lens or it doesn’t.

You choose how much of the filter to apply to the image. With RAW development you’d probably want all of it.

Other filters

You can choose from a huge range of options and there doesn’t seem to be a limit as to how many can be applied to any one image. It is a very neat interface – you are not presented with a bewildering array of adjustment tools where you have to scroll back and forth to find the one you are after. Instead, you just pick the ones you want and work with them.

You save combinations of filters as presets, which aids with batch processing or editing similar images.

Local adjustments

A nice touch is that most of the filters can either be applied globally or locally. The filter itself offers a brush, a gradiant filer, a radial filter and the ability to create a mask for selective edits.


Luminar also offers layer support, complete with masks and even blend options. It’s a much fuller implementation of layers than X3 offers and Luminar’s user guide is really good at explaining how to use them. It contains tutorial for such things as adding a Watermark to an image and even replacing an image’s sky with one from another image.

The Smart Photo Editor (SPE)

This editor’s interface starts simply, looking much like Luminar’s:

Smart Photo Editor
Smart Photo Editor

You access the basic editing settings by clicking Image Treatment on the right hand panel. I discussed this in an earlier post. Other option on the right hand panel include:

  • Area treatment
  • Composite
  • Red eye
  • Text
  • Crop
  • Straighten
  • Rotate

These are all failry straightforward and most of the tools I have considered can do these.

Local edits

To perform local edits, you select Area Treatment, which offers you two basic selection methods:

  • Edge finding
  • Lassoo tool

The edge finder is similar to the Magic Wand tool in Photoshop and the Lassoo tool likewise reflects its Photoshop counterpart. Once the selection is complete, edits affect only the selected area.

You can select multiple areas and apply all the available adjustments and effects to them. Layers are not supported. At least, not in the usual way…

Compsite images

You can use layers in SPE in the sense that you can open another image ‘behind’ or ‘in front’ of your image and then paint in which parts are visible. It’s easier to show you an example than it is to explain. Here’s my granddaughter surveying the mountains:

Composite Image
Composite Image

It’s not perfect, but I did this in 5 minutes and it was the first time I had tried this. There are plenty of adjustment tools available. So, you can certainly tweak the image. And you can apply the full range of effects and settings on the foreground/background image.

User defined effects

SPE’s unique selling point is that it is a collaborative tool. You can create your own effects (think preset but on steroids) and then share them with the SPE community. The list of available effects is huge and growing daily. The ones I have tried (see the noise reduction and sharpening posts) worked well, but there are so many to explore.

Considering that this is a very low priced editor, it is an impressive tool.

Next, I will show the results that each RAW converter managed to produce from the test image.

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Recommended software

Image Resizing

The best image resize program is Topaz A.I.Gigapixel

Image sharpening & noise reduction

Topaz A.I.Sharpen can not only sharpen images but correct slightly out of focus and blurred images.

Topaz A.I.Clear both sharpens and removes noise. It is the best noise reduction program around.

Photoshop and Lightroom Alternatives

Exposure X4 is the best alternative to Lightroom as far as image browsing and management goes. It is also a decent RAW converter and image editor.

Affinity Photo is the complete Photoshop replacement.

RAW Development

Skylum Luminar is a full featured RAW converter with a basic image browser. Its shadow recovery is the best in the business.

Photolemur is an automatic RAW converter, based on Luminar. Its results are very decent with facial detection and enhancement.

Photo Ninja is a purists RAW converter. It is not as fully featured as the others but it produces some of the best results, especially if you are prepared to build camera profiles.

July 2018
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