|, Macphun, ON1 Photo, Photography, Software|Comparing Luminar and ON1 Photo RAW

Comparing Luminar and ON1 Photo RAW

By | 2017-11-09T12:07:11+00:00 November 8th, 2017|32 Comments

With Adobe’s recent announcement regarding Lightroom, many photographers are looking for an alternative solution to their raw photo organization and post-processing. And I completely get it; not everyone is ready to switch to a cloud-based service (for those looking to Lightroom CC), and many photographers don’t want to be on a monthly (or yearly) subscription, even for the “standard” Lightroom Classic CC. The good news is that there are alternatives! This article stems from a question I get very regularly: how does Luminar compare with ON1 Photo RAW? Hopefully, this helps clear things up for those of you with the same concerns.

As a disclosure and a reminder, I have partnered with both of these companies and will continue to do so in the near future. This post is about helping you decide which program is best for your needs. You might even find that both options are excellent tools for your processing requirements. I personally use both programs regularly, but I still use Lightroom as my main “hub” for all of my organization and raw processing. A typical workflow for me is to process the raw image in Lightroom and then edit it in either Luminar or ON1 Photo to “polish” or enhance the photo beyond Lightroom’s capabilities.

Learn More about ON1 Photo RAW
Learn More about Luminar 2018


TL;DR

ON1 Photo RAW is more expensive but offers more tools and features. This obviously can be a good thing, but also overwhelming if you are looking for something that is easy to use right away but might unfamiliar with the software. Fortunately there are several training options on the ON1 Photo website, as well as in the Nicolesy Store.

Luminar is a lower price but has fewer bells and whistles than ON1. However, it is very user-friendly to new users and allows you to create both basic and advanced enhancements to images. With that said, the Macphun/Skylum website offers free video tutorials on their software, and there are is third party training as well (including some new tutorials in the coming months to the Nicolesy Store).


Feature Comparison

Let’s begin by comparing the features of each application. I have chosen many of what I feel are the standout and important features that we look for with photo organization and processing. Here is my take on how the applications compare with each of the following features and categories.

• Image Organization (DAM):

ON1 Photo: ON1 Photo has a dedicated module called Browse which allows you to view and index existing folders on your computer. The previews are fast and make it easy to quickly browse through several photos in a short period of time. You can also add presets, edit metadata, and export images from this module.

Luminar: As of writing this article, Luminar does not yet have Digital Asset Management (DAM) capabilities. However, they do have a free update coming in 2018 which will add a DAM to Luminar. But you can edit and export (including batch processing) using the main Luminar application window.

The ON1 Photo RAW 2018 Browse module

• Raw Processing:

ON1 Photo: Last year, ON1 Photo updated their software to include non-destructive raw processing. In fact, they have an entire module called “Develop” that is specifically for working with raw files.

Luminar: Luminar also has the ability to non-destructively process raw photographs and has a “Develop” filter created specifically for editing the white balance, exposure, contrast, and other tonal elements of the raw image.

• HDR & Pano:

ON1 Photo: In the new version of ON1 Photo RAW 2018, they have added both HDR and panorama capabilities to the software.

Luminar: Luminar does not have HDR or Panorama capabilities, however, its “sister” application, Aurora HDR, does allow you to process HDR photographs. Click here to watch a video to see how this program works.

• Filter Selection:

ON1 Photo RAW & Luminar: Both ON1 Photo RAW (the Effects module) and Luminar have a good selection of filters, and all filters in both applications can be stacked, blended, and selectively masked. In many ways the filter selections are similar, however, I personally prefer the filter selection in Luminar over ON1 Photo RAW. I find the filters in Luminar to be easier to adjust and have fewer “hidden” features, whereas the ON1 Photo filter options have a lot of detailed features that can be overlooked. However, while Luminar appears to have a larger selection of filters, many of the filter options in ON1 Photo RAW allow you to achieve comparable effects to what you can achieve with the filters in Luminar.

• Special Effects Filters:

Both applications are made primarily for standard photo processing but do have some ability to add special effects as well:

ON1 Photo: ON1 Photo RAW has two main “special effects” filters: Lens Blur and Lens Flare. The Lens BLur filter can be fun if you want to add blur or a tilt-shift effect, and the Lens Flare filter is an attempt to create a flare from a part of the scene (however I’ve honestly never been too thrilled with it and think it can use some updating to make the effect more realistic).

Luminar: The most intense (and newest) filter in Luminar is the Sun Rays filter. You can add distinct rays of light as if they were coming from the sun, or you can use the effect to create a more subtle beam of light (my personal preference). Either way, it can add a unique and beautiful presence to a photograph.

An image processed in ON1 Photo, including the use of the Lens Blur filter:

An image processed in Luminar, including the use of the Sun Rays filter:

• Masking:

ON1 Photo: Both applications have the ability to mask, but if you are looking for something with advanced masking tools, then ON1 Photo RAW might be a better fit. ON1 Photo RAW’s masking tools not only allow you to mask filters with a brush and gradient/radial tools, it also has an entire module—Layers—that allows you to stack images and colors. It also has Luminosity Masking support. Plus it has an array of advanced masking tools to easily swap out backgrounds or skies. I find the masking tools in ON1 Photo to be complementary to Photoshop and an efficient way to either mask an area completely, or to give me a head start so that I can refine the mask in Photoshop (or vice versa). I even have an entire book on masking in ON1 Photo in the Nicolesy Store (click here to view).

Luminar: Luminar’s masking tools consist of a masking brush, as well as gradient and radial masking tools, plus the ability to create a luminosity mask. The masking is straightforward and doesn’t allow quick masking based on color or contrast (with the exception of a handy trick I shared on my blog). However, the masking tools work well and are ideal if you are primarily looking to mask filters for selective edits.

• Photoshop Integration:

ON1 Photo: One of the advantages of ON1 Photo RAW for Photoshop users is that it creates PSD files (particularly when saving from within the Layers module), and the individual layers are cross-compatible with the layers in Photoshop. Features such as layers, blending modes, color fill layers, and even masks will transfer back-and-forth between the two programs. Some edits, such as smart layers (ON1 Photo) and smart filters (Photoshop) are not compatible between the two, but can still be brought over as flattened/rasterized layers, and the program can be used from within Photoshop as a plugin as well.

Luminar: If you use Photoshop, then you can edit files into Luminar using a plugin. However, a file saved from the Luminar application with layers intact is saved as a proprietary .lmnr file, which can only be re-edited within the Luminar application in which it was created.


Price

There is quite a significant price difference between the two programs, which I feel are both appropriate. ON1 Photo RAW costs almost twice as much as Luminar but also has many more features and modules.

ON1 Photo RAW: Full price = $119.99, upgrade price = $99.99 (click here to learn more)

Luminar: Full price = $69, upgrade price = $49 (click here to learn more)


The “X Factor”

There are still many small factors that may lead you to one program over the other, many of which I am unable to comment on here because they stem from personal experience and feelings towards a company or application. Such as: how good is their customer service? Are you looking for something that is user-friendly or more complex? How much training are you able to find about each application?

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that each of these products tends to update on a yearly cycle. Historically, ON1 releases a new version each Fall, and while Luminar is still very new (it was released in the Fall of 2016) Skylum has begun its update cycle with a new version this Fall as well. So if you like to stay up-to-date on your software (which is always the best plan of action) then you will want to pay the upgrade price each year. This will ensure that you have the best and fastest version of the software.

If you would like to discuss the software or ask questions of current users, I would suggest checking out each of my discussion groups over on Facebook:


Can’t decide?

The great thing about each of these applications is that you can download a free trial to test it out before you buy. Use the links below to download a free trial of each version. (Please note that during Luminar preorders, free trial downloads may not be available):

Learn More about ON1 Photo RAW
Learn More about Luminar 2018

Learn more about ON1 Photo RAW 2018 | Learn more about Luminar 2018

 

 

 

About the Author:

My name is Nicole and I'm a photographer, author, & educator living in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. When I'm not making photos I'm writing books and tutorials for my online store, Learn more about me and my story here.

32 Comments

  1. JPTurner November 8, 2017 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    I really like your summary. One point worth exploring, perhaps as an X Factor, is that Luminar tends to much more stable, and less “wonky” in operation. Now perhaps because it does (a little) less, but ON1 has had memory leak and more operating/crash issues. I think it is fair to say that with On1, you really get about 6 months use of the program between upgrade cycles because it just doesn’t work well for the first 5-6 months after it releases. Maybe this year will be better. I personally didn’t upgrade to ON1 RAW til this summer because friends had such a hard time of it.

    • Zed November 9, 2017 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      As I Windows user – have only seen the very limited Luminar version with hardly any tools but it has indeed been stable on my Lenovo i7 laptop. Regarding ON1 2018 beta I have had a disappointing experience – as was 2017 for me – but in fairness to ON1 lots of users have had no problems at all and rave about its features. It has been frustrating not to have seen “issues” which I still call “bugs” fully resolved on both Mac and Windows systems during the beta phase – Mac has a problem with High Sierra apparently. The 1st full 2018 RAW version has been released today so maybe that will be better? I have pre-paid for the forthcoming Luminar Windows version and look forward to testing it on 15 Nov.

    • nancy November 9, 2017 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      JP TURNER, I appreciate your comment. Thanks!

    • Thomas November 10, 2017 at 4:52 am - Reply

      As a ON1 User since Photo Suite 8, I did buy every upgade since then. But I will pass this time.
      Photo RAW 2017.x still is so unstable, clunky and looks so unfinished all around, I barely used it, not even as a plugin for Lightroom. I just can not justify paying $100 for an upgrade to what may seem like a final, more polished version of its predecessor.

  2. Bob Barr November 8, 2017 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this comparison. I have been using ON1 products for about 2-3 years. I like the program. However, like JPTurner mentioned, ON1 has given me memory problems since release 2017.6. The 2018 betas were no better. I still ordered release 2018 to see if they improved on this in the full release, but if not I am afraid I will have to stop using it. I also pre-ordered Luminar 2018 because the beta was much more stable, as is their Aurora HDR 2018 product. I look forward to trying the full Luminar release.

    • J. Michael Morelli November 13, 2017 at 6:14 pm - Reply

      Hey Bob – Be on the lookout for an email from our team. I want to have one of our engineers dive in and figure out what’s going on here. You should see this email come through in the next few moments.

  3. John Mills November 9, 2017 at 2:43 am - Reply

    Yes. Thanks for this Nicole. I’ve been an ON1 user for some years now and am looking to PR2018 to be a key part of my ‘Leaving Lightroom’ project. The Luminar pre-order offer was intriguing but as far as I can tell there is no option to trial it first. Your comparison has helped a lot. And the bottom line for me is I see no compelling reason for me to move to Luminar, or even to use it as an additional editor.

    As to stability as an X Factor I had problems installing the first release of PR2017 but after ON1-TechSupport helped me over that hurdle it crashed just once, and subsequent releases and the PR2018 Beta releases not at all – despite my best efforts to induce one. I’m on Win10 and am wary of a first-time port of Luminar from MacOS to Windows.

    I

  4. Gerhard Reiter November 9, 2017 at 8:27 am - Reply

    Is there a possibility to import an existing Lightroom catalog into one of these 2 Programs? I’m having about 40.000 pictures in my Lightroom catalog. Most of them edited, labeled and cataloged.
    I want to leave Lightroom as well but would like to have all my pictures structured in the same way as in Lightroom in my new program

    • jimlewis November 10, 2017 at 1:39 pm - Reply

      On1 has a feature that allows you to migrate your Lightroom collections to On1, where they are treated as albums. There are two limitations. The first is that the process does not recognize collection sets, resulting in a flat file structure. You can fix this manually by editing the names of albums, so that, for instance, all folders that were in a “family” collection set are edited to begin with something like “FAM_”. The second is that it does not carry over edits that you made to RAW files, but you can optionally export copies as jpg, tiff, or psd files. The downside here is that the process works indiscriminately on all images to which you’ve applied ANY develop settings, so an image that has only had a lens correction is treated the same as one on which you’ve spent fifteen minutes work. And I’ve never gotten that option to work — thankfully, I think, since it was at that point that I discovered that it was going to convert 30% of all 36,000 images in my file.

  5. jsnover November 9, 2017 at 9:46 am - Reply

    I tried Beta 4 of ON1 Photo Raw to see if they’d fixed problems with Fuji XT-2 RAW files that I saw in earlier betas, but they hadn’t. Using my older Canon RAW files produced much better results, leading me to assume the X-Trans sensor was giving them problems. Luminar did much better (though Capture One is what I’m using as it does best of all IMO). If the quality of the RAW conversion isn’t up to snuff, none of the other feature issues matter (and I did report the problems as beta feedback (on beta 2, I think).

    • J. Shiever November 13, 2017 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      I have an x-trans raw file I always test on ON1 … 2018 still has some artifacts on high contrast areas with this file. On1 is getting better, but not there yet. Thomas Fitzgerald, on his blog, noted that using Luminar 2018 beta, x-trans conversion was very close to Capture One’s conversions. Currently testing my use of Capture One/Affinity Photo versus Luminar with over 60 identical files…having an innocent third party judge the results has the two applications in a tie. I need to make a choice soon (after Luminar DAM is available) because I am losing track of what or how I did something to an image.

  6. David Price November 9, 2017 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    I can’t comment on things like the handling of Fuji raw files, because I use micro 4/3rds cameras and lenses. There is a little disappointment, in that ON1 don’t, as yet, include corrections for all of the micro 4/3rds lenses. But, in my experience Photo Raw 2018 Beta Four, is reliable, and very capable.

    I use my copy of Beta Four on a low powered (AMD) Windows 10 lap top. I have not encountered any of the legendary memory leaks. In fact I’d say that it crashes at about the same frequency as good old Lightroom 5. Where as in truth, both ON1’s Photo 10.5 and Photo Raw 2017 were/are quite crash prone. ON1 do seem to have listened to their customers, and as far as I can see, they have fixed the product.

    It looks like both ON1 and Luminar are making a pitch for some of the disatisfied Adobe Users. (And, why shouldn’t they?) I don’t know about Luminar, but ON1 has launched conversion software to allow you to extract your Lightroom Photos and raw files, and to use them in Photo Raw. I would be surprised if Luminar doesn’t have something similar. I suggest that you have a look at ON1’s and Luminar’s web sites.

    The only reason that I still have to occasionally start up Lightroom 5, is if I want to soft proof prints. (Presently Photo Raw can’t soft proof). But, when it comes to completing almost any other task, I turn to Photo Raw, and it does a great job.

  7. R D Howard November 9, 2017 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Have been using both Luminar and ON1 for years. Have been forced to rely on my ON1 Photo10 version because of computer problems with ON1 RAW 2017 & 2018. However one very useful feature which Luminar doesn’t have is the ON1 Resize which I think maybe an important difference for people who shoot photos on their cellphone. I end up using this ON1 capability a lot on those photos even though my cellphone shoots 38 mega pixels in raw mode!

  8. Bill Robulack November 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    Interesting comparison.

    I had used Lightroom and found it too slow in opening and editing. Didn’t use photoshop so any integration to it is of no interest to me. Switched to Capture 1 a year ago and have found it to be fast and extensive. Also have copy of On1 raw 2017, but don’t use it often.

  9. David Rogers November 9, 2017 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Neither of these applications provide very good RAW conversion and are therefore not able to be complete replacements for anything. In my personal testing only Capture One and DxO Optics Pro (now DxO Photo Lab) have excellent RAW conversion. Both of these programs give at least two more stops of dynamic range as well as great lens corrections. So if you shoot high contrast scenes, low light, high ISO or any other challenging images you should use DxO or Capture One to do the RAW conversion first before processing in Luminar, ON1 Photo Raw, Lightroom or Photoshop.

    One thing you left out of the review is that Luminar has in app purchases for functions that come standard with ON1 Photo Raw. So in the short run Luminar is not cheaper.

    • ELLIOT STERN November 9, 2017 at 4:35 pm - Reply

      the only extra fluminar eatures they sell are presets. Those are not features but provide head starts for those who want them. Capture one is superb, you are right and produces a very clean image. DXO does not support my Fuji X cameras. (their choices).

  10. Tam November 9, 2017 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    Does Luminar work with Topaz Studio?

    • bradashbrook November 12, 2017 at 9:40 am - Reply

      Unfortunately no.. In the current version (2018), the Edit In only supports other MacPhun (Skylum) applications and Aperture, Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom and Photos (Apple).

  11. ELLIOT STERN November 9, 2017 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the comparison Nicole. I have 2018 On1 Photo and many other raw processors. They all have their good and bad things going on but my trust in On1 Photo Raw is gone. Having started with a pre release beta for 2017 and then going through each and every upgrade only to crash, lose data, and go through living hell to once again be stuck in a beta mode with 2018 which they want me to pay for after going through unusable hell with 2017. They finally gave in and gave me a free upgrade to 2018 and it seems they have changed the layouts controls, etc and it has crashed 5 times on my Mac. It also sucks on Fuji X files.

    I feel Luminar is a far better program and with Luminar 2018 coming they shall be completing some DAM things that were promised early on. Also the Fuji renditions have greatly improved. This program can be as complex or simple as you want it to be. On1 is a fight on all levels.

    • J. Michael Morelli November 13, 2017 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      Hey Elliot,

      Reaching out to let you know that we are going to have one of our lead engineers reach out to you regarding the issues you are running into. Looks like we already have your email, so be on the lookout for a note from us. I do apologize for the troubles you are encountering.

  12. Rob Tobin November 9, 2017 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Great comparison Nicole.I have been an on1 user since version 7. The upgrades are nice to have, but pricing wise it’s no different to a subscription with Adobe,if you buying it outside the US as the exchange rate makes it just as expensive.
    My daughter is using Luminar,and as you mentioned it is a lot easier and intuitive than Photo Raw.
    I also use Aurora over photomatix ( I know Lightroom has it , but I’m a workflow sort of guy)
    I use Lightroom as my DAM and like the mobile Lightroom immensely.
    It saves so much time.
    If either Luminar or Photoraw get this time saver. I’ll consider changing – The Dropbox offering from photo raw sounds way too ” Clunky”

  13. Zed November 9, 2017 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    Thank you Nicole for what I found to be an extremely clear and well illustrated comparison review. Very interesting and sound comments also. I think it would be a great idea if you could do an “Update” comparison in Jan 2018 to look at changes/additions in each program’s new full versions released this week and next week.

  14. Rocky Funk November 10, 2017 at 8:48 am - Reply

    Am glad to see the other posts about stability issues with OnOne Every version. It is frankly unusable considering the frustration factor. AM using Dxo photolab demo for raw conversion and pre-ordered luminar. Lightroom is out due to Adobes lack of concern for joe average photographer. All these posts helped me decide to not throw more money at a bad unstable product in OnOne.

    Thanks

  15. Michael Ward November 10, 2017 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    I agree with JP Turner and RD Howered ON 1 has had many stability issues the worst was a simple PW problem after the app crashed. The fecking thing would not respond to the PW even after a clean install it kept repeating an error message from the previous install/download.
    Because I’m building a new studio I haven’t had time to pursue nasty little issues like that.
    Luminar on the other hand has never missed a beat! I’m looking forward to 2018 version with a DAM and just hoping that it will accept my file naming scheme.

  16. Rodger November 11, 2017 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    I jumped on the On1 bandwagon a year ago with hopes of getting away from paying Adobe $120 a year for Lightroom. On1 RAW 2017 was and still is so unstable that I’ve hardly gotten any use of it during the last 12 months and now they want another $100 to upgrade! What would I save from dumping Lightroom, $20 in exchange for what in all likelihood will be another unstable product, no thanks.

  17. Александр November 12, 2017 at 10:25 am - Reply

    I agree with most the comments about the Luminar@ON1. Due to active marketing On 1 acquired new customers in 2017. I’m one of them. I’m disappointed commercial policy ON1: sell crude product 2017 for$ 100 and offer an upgrade for the same 100$ ? Rarely running the app: not intuitive menu, slow rendering, used as a plugin after developing the raw in DxO. Tested Luminar for Windows.Processing with layers not enough memory: not saved when you export process. Got a discount for testing, but I’m not sure that memory issues will bypass my editing process in the future. Stay with DxO + Topaz Studio. Subscribe to Adobe does not look so wasteful for the Amateur photographer :-)

  18. !ark Allen November 19, 2017 at 10:23 am - Reply

    Just for information, the official ON1 Facebook group is at
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/ON1Photo/

  19. Priscilla Messinger November 19, 2017 at 10:27 am - Reply

    I like ON1, but it has issues that won’t have me giving up LightRoom/PhotoShop any time soon. 1. I get much better results with highlights and shadows with LR. 2. Can’t save a file back to LR because it goes into a stack with original on top, which won’t unstack, so I can’t get to it in LR. 3. Can’t seem to export multiple files at a time, as I can in LR, as the process crashes and I have to reboot. Nonetheless, I do like some of the features, especially re-editable layers, masking and the presets.

  20. Christopher Hollister November 21, 2017 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    I have both programs, and I think your article nails the differences, pros and cons rather well.

    Back in 2013, I made the (in hindsight) wise decision to purchase the expensive stand alone version of Adobe Photoshop CS6, and it’s companion programs in the CS package. After many trials, hopeful experiments with On1, Macphun, and more recently Affinity Photo, I have not found any which are able to duplicate the image quality I get from using Adobe’s Camera Raw, which came packaged with Photoshop, for basic raw image developing/processing. Now, to be fair I also haven’t gone out and updated either program to their most recent 2018 versions.

    If I were to choose between the two, which I certainly may do in the future, it will likely be On1 over Luminar. I have had more problems with Luminar crashing, or having crappy processing results, compared to On1. I once did a break down under exposed raw processing comparison between Adobe Camera Raw, ON1, Affinity photo, and Luminar and the results where exactly in this order. The Luminar image was horrible, and completely unusable. I sure hope the improved their raw imaging software, because other wise, I may abandon them after such a terrible showing..

    The problem I have with On1 is that there isn’t a plug-in for Affinity photo. I suspect it is only a matter of time, before I can no longer use the stand-alone adobe programs and having to first develop a photo in Affinity and then eventually safe it to a folder and then do editing from within On1 doesn’t exactly fill me with excitement. I suppose I could just hope On1 improved their raw processing, and cross my fingers..

    Again, thank you for a good article and review.

  21. Thomas Herren November 22, 2017 at 4:47 am - Reply

    Luminar 2018 is a joke, at least in the Windows version. After opening of Nikon D750 NEF-file, there is no “RAW develop” filter available, just “Develop” with colour temperature and tint sliders, but no catalog of colour temperature settings and no pipette for manual selection.

    • Nicole S. Young November 22, 2017 at 8:27 am - Reply

      They are updating the Windows version in December and January to add the missing features. This was something they stated during the prerelease sales, too.

  22. BJ November 22, 2017 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    Thanks for a great article, Nicole. I noticed – after installing the trial of Luminar 2018 – that the Develop filter does not seem to include the White Balance control you described. I found it odd that such a key tool would be missing. Still on the fence about purchasing, though the program looks interesting. I also own ON1 Photo Raw, but couldn’t justify paying again to upgrade to the 2018 version, as others have mentioned. It seems like every product has its strengths and its weaknesses.

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