Skylum release details of Luminar Neo but can it conquer the editing space!
What is Luminar Neo?
Luminar Neo is Skylums current flagship product. It is also their latest product. Prior to this, and this is over perhaps just a five year period, they have launched Luminar 2018, Luminar 3 & 4, Luminar Ai and laterly, Luminar Neo. Not bad going for such a short amount of time. While some of these releases built on previous ones, for example Luminar 3 was an upgrade from Luminar 2018 adding some additional functionality and a rudimentary DAM. Luminar 4 built on Luminar 3 but sadly introduced a lot of buggy code which made it prone to crashing on both Windows and iOS platforms.
A Little History about Skylum & Luminar
On my hardware, the best release, other than Luminar 2018 which was probably my favourite, was Luminar 4.2 which for me worked the best in terms of stability and functionality. That being said, Luminar 4 only lasted about 18 months or so being replaced by Luminar Ai which was a templating editing system completely different in structure and form to Luminar 4. This meant that users either had to bite the bullet with regards leaving Luminar 4 and move to a completely new editor or jump ship. I chose the latter having already bought into On1 PhotoRAW a year earlier but many others put their faith in Skylum and moved to the new eco-system wrapped around Luminar Ai.
Sadly, and although Luminar Ai is maintenace supported, to my knowledge no additional functionality or upgrades are planned for the Luminar Ai framework. In fact Luminar Ai only lasted about 18 months or so before being replaced by another all new eco-system called Luminar Neo. This must be gaulling to the many purchasers of Ai although Skylum have conceded that some of the eco-system used in Luminar Ai will be available in Luminar Neo.
How Do Skylum Compare with Other Companies?
Over this time, pretty much every other software company in the same space has simply launched major updates to their editors. For example, On1 PhotoRAW is now On1 PhotoRAW 2022, Capture One is sitting at Capture One Pro 22 and DxO’s offering is DxO PhotoLab 5. However, over time, all of these editors have become more and more expensive which opens the door for companies like Skylum to exploit the low end of the market.
For example DxO offer comprehensive range of add-on tools which make the total price eye-wateringly expensive, about £650 if you purchase every tool although there are some bundle deals available. Capture One is sitting at £299 so again, not a cheap solution, while On1 PhotoRAW 2022 will set you back £104 at this moment in time.
To put this into some perspective, you could buy the Adobe creative cloud bundle of Lightroom and Photoshop for just £119 per year (cheaper if you buy when discounted), Affinity Photo for just £49 and Darktable for nothing, zero, zilch! As they say, you pays your money and makes your choice.
Is Luminar Neo a Cheap Option?
So, what will Luminar Neo set you back today? Well, if you just want to buy the core software it’s a steal at £79 although I bought it for just £35 pre-launch and recently it was selling for about £65. Skylum’s pricing does tend to be elastic. However, if you want to add on HDR Merge plus a number of yet unreleased extensions then that price rockets to £228 for a perpetual licence. This seems a little strange to me as they may only launch a couple more extensions this year whereas next year your £228 might buy you half a dozen. Who knows as theres no road map to where Skylum is heading to my knowledge so today your £228 will only buy you Luminar Neo core with one extension, this being HDR Merge.
Of course, like all of these companies they really want you to buy subscriptions and Skylum is no different in this respect. Their subscription package, which includes Luminar Neo and all of their extensions, as and when these are released is currenly billed at £11/monthly (£149 / year total) or £5/monthly if you pay upfront in full which although this should be £60 / year is actually £69 / year according to Skylum math. Go figure. These prices do include VAT here in the UK.
Skylum are very very clever with their marketing
Now, Skylum are very very clever with their marketing. Luminar Neo is jam packed with innovative tools such as Bokah Ai, Portrait Bokah Ai, Relight Ai etc, all headline tools lauded back at the end of 2021 for delivery some time after initial launch. I bought into this marketing hype and TBH, it’s a really good editor albeit that it does lack some really important and useful tools such as clone & heal, last edit undo, mask refinement, histograms etc. It’s also very slow, and very big. The download for Luminar Neo is about 2x that of On1 PhotoRAW 2022. It does however do a great job providing you don’t need to remove objects in your edit. If you do, you’ve had it. You’ll need to export and then fix that problem using another editor. For this reason I use On1 PhotoRAW 2022 much more than I do Luminar Neo, infact I tend to use Luminar Neo more as a plugin to Affinity Photo than as a stand alone editor. This however is a win-win combo with amazing functionality and shouldn’t be overlooked as a perfectly practical solution.
What Does the Future look like for Luminar Neo?
Skylum then, with deft slight of hand, are seemingly moving Luminar Neo to a point where it’s development slows in favour of extensions. I can imagine a scenario then where core cababilities, those provided in other editors, remain absent in Luminar Neo and can only be obtained by buying the add-on pack, which we know means paying £228 today or by buying the far cheaper subscription package at just £69 / year. My guess is that this low price today will propel many users to buy the subscription and why not, it’s a really good deal if you trust Skylum. What the price of this subscription will be in 2023 and beyond though is anyone’s guess as software companies aren’t our friends, as Skylum have demonstrated previously, they are businesses looking to turn a profit.
So, what am I intending to do? Well, for me Luminar Neo is a great plugin to Affinity Photo and therefore the missing functionality in Neo can be overcome pretty easily. Affinity Photo is the powerhouse of the partnership and Neo is the creative genius which makes your images look stylish and finished. I could very easily live with just this combo and get rid of On1 PhotoRAW 2022 which although an excellent all around editor, is itself a litte laggy in use especially when masking and making local adjustments. I know that this is often considered to be related hardware issues but if you join enough groups and forums, or you use enough software, you do start to see quite quickly that some editors are simply more stable than others in this respect. A good example of a bulletproof editor is Affinity Photo which for me has been head and shoulders above every other editor I have tried in terms of stability and performance on the exact same hardware.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
I have used Darktable, which is free although it’s not for the faint-hearted as it doesn’t have the front-end beauty and ease of use of Neo or On1. That being said it can do practically everything I want. I am also very familar with Affinity Photo and I’ve done some great work both stand alone and using Luminar Neo as a plugin. In truth I could stick with what I have now and not pay a penny more. On1 PhotoRAW, my main squeeze today, is getting more expensive every year so I think their pricing policy at the next release, normally around Autumn time, will colour my decision. If they follow their normal route of pricing On1 at stupidly expensive levels then they are toast, I really don’t need to spend huge sums of money to do good editing.
And what of Luminar Neo? Well, their £69 / year subscription is hugely tempting. However, in the back of my head is the knowledge that Skylum don’t really seem to put their customers first prefering instead to move on to the next big thing when users get jumpy or start slating their software for buggy, laggy performance or because it lacks core functionality. That business model has left a lot of customers floundering, me included, particularly when they drop on-going development for a product, case in point Luminar Ai and move off in a different direction.
When Neo reaches end of life will we see this behavior repeated? I honestly don’t know but it’s often really difficult for a Leopard to change its spots as they say.
More great articles on Skylum Luminar Neo
- Skylum Luminar Neo Pricing Update
- Luminar Neo has gone from £35 to £268 in less than six months!
- Skylum release HDR Merge but are they up to their old tricks?
Interested in buying Luminar Neo? Visit Skylums website at https://skylum.com/checkout/luminar-neo/sub-special-offer for pricing and additional information.