Another Look at Luminar for Fuji Raw Processing
Please note that if you're coming to this article from Google, this was written in 2017 and is about the older 2017 version of Luminar. Luminar has changed significantly in the newer 2018 version, so most of the information here is no longer relevant.
A little while ago I reviewed Luminar from Macphun. At the time I pointed out some issues with the processing RAW files in the software, and Fuji files in particular. Since I wrote that the company has released a new version which addresses some of the issues, and so I thought I would take another quick look at it.
First of all, let me tell you what was fixed. In particular the zipper like artifacts that were present in the version that I reviewed have now been fixed. This for me was one of the biggest issues with the software. The tonality seems a little improved too, although, it’s still a little flat. This can be easily fixed with a curve adjustment though.
There are still some issues with RAW files, and some of those are to do with the current architecture of Luminar. There is still no way to remove aberration artifacts in the software, although this is slated to be added at some point, as far as I’m aware. The same goes for lens corrections. How much this affects your image will depend on the type of lens you shoot with. Edges on Fuji files, while no longer showing zipper like artifacts, are still a little noisy. Loading time for X-Trans files has been improved, but it’s still a little slow.
I also still have issue with the way Luminar goes about noise reduction. It relies on using a pass of the company’s Noiseless technology from the like minded stand alone application. This is way too slow, but more importantly, it’s applied at the wrong stage in the conversion. If you make changes to the image after you’ve applied the noise reduction, you’ll have to go an apply it again, and it can take minutes to process.
There needs to be RAW level noise reduction going on at the decoding stage. What I would love to see is some kind of RAW control adjustment which is added by default at the top of the tree every time you go to load a raw file, which would behave like the raw options brick from Aperture or the controls in the new Raw Power Photos plug-in. This would allow you a bit more control over the process. I would also like to be able to tweak the amount of sharpening that is applied at the raw decoding stage. I know you can add a sharpening adjustment, but this just adds sharpening, and is not the same thing. I think in some cases I think there’s actually a little too much sharpening going on at the raw stage, but that may be just me being picky!
Having said all that, I don’t want to be too negative, as it is improved. Before, I don’t think it was useable for processing Fuji files, but now, while still needing a lot of improvement, it is at certainly something that you could use (well, if you don’t need lens corrections ). You will however need to make some basic tweaks to images in order to get good results out of the box. And, I’ve gone ahead and done some of the work for you. I’ve created a preset that you can use to add a few things by default, such as a tone curve and so on. It’s not a magic bullet, and it’s really just a “starting point” but it should help.
I don’t have detailed install instructions for this, so you’ll need to google them if you can’t figure out how to do it. Basically, go to the file menu, choose to show the presets folder, and copy the (unzipped) file into this folder and restart Luminar.
Also, once you’ve finished tweaking, if you find that your image is a little noisy, then I suggest using the noiseless layer, set on the lowest setting with an opacity of 50%. This should help smooth off any of the noise from the decoding process. Be warned though, this can take a lot of tie to process. Note though, that this suggestion is for normal level iso files (ISO 200-400). You may need to use a different approach for higher levels.
To sum up, it’s much better, but still needs work. I still think that this software, while great as a plug- in, or for editing non raw files, needs some more features before it’s something I would use as my everyday a go-to RAW converter. (I do use it a lot as a pug-in to Photoshop and Lightroom though) In my opinion anyway. The quality has improved, but it needs a little more work. It is being aggressively developed though, so I expect a lot of these issues will be ironed out in due course.
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If you're a Fuji X-Trans shooter and Lightroom user, check out my guide to post processing X-Trans files in Lightroom. I also have a guides for processing X-Trans files in Capture One and Iridient Developer.
For Sony Alpha shooters I have a new guide with tips on how to get the best from processing your A6000 Images in Lightroom.