It’s hard to believe but Luminar Neo has gone from £35 to £268 in less than six months! Ridiculous? Read on, it gets worse!
- With Skylum’s recent restructuring of the Luminar Neo product line, a perpetual licence for Luminar Neo has risen in price from £35 GBP to £268 GBP in less than six months. That’s a percentage increase of around 665%!
This feels a little ridiculous given the fact that it’s first generation software of this type putting it on a head-on collision with products like Capture One, ON1 PhotoRAW and DxO etc.
Given that it is relatively early in its life cycle, can Luminar Neo really compete with the big boys or is Skylum playing a dangerous game?
Some Background on Luminar
Skylum’s earlier versions of Luminar, which from my perspective started with using Luminar 2018, were in general terms very good. Initially we had Luminar 2018, then Luminar 3 and finally Luminar 4 before Skylum retired Luminar 4 in favour of Luminar Ai around the end of 2019 beginning of 2020. Lumnar Ai was then superceded by Luminar Neo in the early part of 2022.
This created a bumpy ride for many users, myself included.
For my part I had dropped Luminar as a mainstream editor when Luminar Ai was released because it just didn’t fit my requirements for a robust, professional editor along the lines of Capture One, ON1 PhotoRAW, Photoshop etc. There was just too much missing and the templated approach being offered felt too constraining.
The first marketing hype regarding Luminar Neo started to emerge around the middle of 2021. Draw dropping headline tools such as Relight Ai, Bokah Ai and Background Removal Ai etc were heavily promoted building an expectant fan base looking for professional level tools at bargain basement prices.
Delivered to expectant customers in April 2022, Luminar Neo proved not to be the hit that people expected.
The code was ultra slow to load, ultra slow to export and the sliders were laggy on practically every tool. In truth, speed is still a problem that dogs it today. It also lacked a lot of core functionality needed to complete basic edits, Clone & Heal for example.
Rather than being the slick tool promised, it tended to feel like a bag of tools that don’t really fit together very well.
What Skylum did do well though was to deliver the headline tools promised, even if these tended to be drip fed into the product over the space of a few releases. Customers received Portrait Bokah Ai and Relight Ai early on in but still not available though some four months after v1.0.0 was delivered is Clone & Heal which to me is much more useful.
All this being said, Skylum’s marketing and pricing strategy for Luminar Neo was hugely compelling. Early adoptors were able to buy Luminar Neo, when released in the following spring of 2022, for an upfront payment of just £35 GBP. At that price, purchase was a no-brainer because even if all of the hype failed to materialise and the product was a dog, the ride would undoubtadly be interesting.
Indeed, that turned out to be the case.
Don’t Wash Your Dirty Linen in Public!
Anyone who’s used Skylum products in the past will know that the company took quite a hammering on facebook and across the web with their earlier releases of Luminar.
To avoid this with Neo, Skylum opted tp create a private space for owners thereby putting beyond reach of the general pubic, and potential new customers, any disaffection with the product or the company’s services and strategy.
As an existing Skylum customer, I am of course a member of that private space so I am party to insider talk.
Interestingly, and for the most part, a vast number of owners appear relatively happy with Luminar Neo. There is of course a lot of disapointment with Neo’s sluggish performance and lack of tools but more recently, Skylum business strategy and recent pricing hikes have come under a lot of pressure.
Skylums drive to monitorise everything, althouh accetable to some, is somewhat worrying as Neo really does lack some core features routinely found in other software of its type.
The Model appears to be Profit before Customer Satisfaction
As a customer I’m just now starting to receive their offers for the new ownership models they’ve recently introduced. These are basically an all new subscription model, currently £49 GBP for this coming year, £69 GBP / year thereafter.
These prices include the extensions pack which are designed to enhance the core Neo product. Also available will be a perpetual licence option and an extensions pack.
It might also be possibly to buy extensions individually and as required.
“Remember though, a subscription means that you’re only renting the software, you never own it!”
What this all means is that as a new customer today, if you want to buy Luminar Neo on a perpetual licence, it’ll cost you a whopping £228 with everything.
For existing owners, myself included, this means that Luminar Neo has risen in price from it’s pre-release price of £35 to a whopping £268 in less than 4 months! A rise of 664% by my calculation.
While I understand the need to “increase profits”, Skylum’s timing seems a little awkward and misjudged. This is especially true today given that buyers here in the UK, and I suspect in Europe and elsewhere, are much more likely to be focused on keeping the lights on than buying expensive photo editing tools.
Had Skylum adopted a more thoughtful approach I suspect that more people would have just paid and been relativeley happy. With their new pricing strategy though, particularly for a perpetual licence, I simply don’t believe that this will be the case.
And while the new subscription pricing looks advantageous today, remember that a subscription means that you’re only renting the software, you never own it. Stop paying the subscription fee and you lose access to all the tools and of course all of the edits you did on your images!
For new customers that prefer to own the software outright the offerings are not so good.
If you want to buy Luminar Neo on a perpetual licence today you would have to pay £79 GBP for the core software, which is currently sitting at v1.3.0.
If you want to add the extensions pack, in order to add back the functionality extracted from the core product, then the total, including all of the promised extensions would be an eye watering £268 GBP.
“The total cost of outright ownership today then, including all of the promised extensions for Luminar Neo is an eye watering £268 if you want everything”
This huge price increase is now putting Luminar Neo smack up against Capture One and DxO, both of which are exceptional editors as well as making it considerably more expensive than a Lr/Ps subscription and the new version of ON1 PhotoRAW 2023 which is being released in October.
What about Existing Customers?
As an existing customer there is of course some discounting available, the full extension pack would cost me £149 which when added to the £35 I paid for Neo back at the end of 2021 means that I will have paid Skylum a total of £184 this year. That is crazily expensive to my mind especially given that Luminar Neo lacks a lot of core features I can easily find in competitor products.
How Does Luminar Neo Compare with other applications?
I’m lucky in that I have access to several other mainstream editors, my favourites being ON1 PhotoRAW and Affinity Photo. I also have Darktable, Topaz Studio, Dynamic Auto Painter and GIMP2.
Of these, ON1 PhotoRAW is the obvious product to compare Neo with as it most closely ressembles the tool set within Luminar Neo. The other applications mentioned have much to commend but they arn’t close enough for a like for like comparison.
ON1 PhotoRAW 2022 includes within the core application most if not all of the tools Skylum sells as extensions.
You can also opt to buy these tools for stand-alone usage and these also then work as plug-ins to Affinity Photo and Photoshop.
This approach is vastly different to Luminar Neo in that each extension they sell is missing from the core application.
For example, ON1 PhotoRAW includes HDR Merge as standard which in Luminar Neo, you have to buy seperately. This costs £49 GBP so it’s not cheap.
Similarly, in ON1 PhotoRAW you will find NoNoise Ai as part of the core product whereas again, in Luminar Neo you have to buy this as a seperate extension for £49 GBP. Note also that extensions are not plug-ins, they will not work with other applications such as Photoshop. I think you can see the direction that this is going in!
This strategy not only makes Luminar Neo hugely expensive you will find that you have a very limited tool set to work with unless you have purchased the extensions pack. For this reason, and although on paper Luminar Neo and ON1 PhotoRAW should stand shoulder to shoulder, Luminar Neo is very much the inferior product all things considered.
That is not to say that it isn’t usable. It is and very much so.
The problems come though when you want to do something specific like apply a channel mixer to an edit, Luminar Neo 1.2.1 sadly doesn’t have one.
Similarly in this version of Neo there is no Dodge & Burn or Clone & Heal so cleaning up images is tricky. I have to say though that both are muted for supply in forthcoming versions.
That’s not to say that ON1 PhotoRAW isn’t becoming a tad expensive itself.
The latest offer I have for the next release, ON1 PhotoRAW 2023, is £159 GBP although this does include all of the latest standalone plug-ins. Last year I bought ON1 PhotoRAW 2022 including the Professional Plugin Pack for £94 GBP. If I forgo these latest plugins and just continue to the core software only I will pay £87 GBP. Last year I would have paid £64 GBP. As I mentioned, everything is getting dearer.
It seems then that no one is immune from the crazy pricing strategy currently being implemented by some of the larger software businesses despite the social and economic catastrophy that exists today!
While some people might point the finger and say that this is typical of Skylums business practice, my take is somewhat different.
In my opinion Skylum customers are more likely to be victims of not asking the right questions or learning from past history.
Even so, I doubt anyone could have expected this scenario because Skylum rarely if ever share their product route-maps or their future pricing strategy. Customers are effectively buying blind-folded and very much on trust. And trust is and area where Skylum in my opinion so often seem to be lacking.
Skylum have clearly lacked any long term view for Luminar. In fact, their short history is littered with the corpses of dead and dying products. Examples of this are Luminar 4 and Luminar AI. Yet still new customers flock to buy their software seduced I suspect by the headline tools Skylum so often include in their product marketing.
It’s probably not unfair then to call their marketing approach click bait.
Customers all too often are blindsided by changes in direction and increasing prices downstream. All of this means that the cost of future ownership, as is shown today, is significantly more than anyone could have imagined back at the beginning of 2022.
Fortunately for me, using Luminar Neo even as it stands today as a plugin to Affinity Photo works brilliantly. It’s the way I work now and I can’t recommend this approach enough.
That being said, I’m still coming to terms with the huge price increases which I personally feel amounts to sharp practice. To my mind, Skylum have systematically extracted capability that should be core functionality simply to increase profits.
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