Luminar Neo Early Look Review: Looks Promising, But We’re Not Sold Yet

We are getting an early look at Luminar Neo’s four most important features, including Relight AI, Powerlines Remove Tool, Dust Spot Removal and Luminar Share App. Is Luminar Neo meeting our expectations with a complete release just around the corner?

Skylum’s latest photo editing app has been delayed with uncertainty and confusion. Skylum announced the Luminar Neo app for photo editing in the fall 2021 and also retired Luminar 4. Skylum’s release cycles have left users on edge, while others are questioning whether they should update. There is a lot riding on Neo’s success.

Luminar Neo’s Future and Present State

The Neo is still very much in its early stages. Many features were missing from the beta build that Skylum tested. However, Skylum stated that they intend to add these features before the public launch. Some features are still not working correctly, and performance can vary between macOS and Windows.

Skylum noted in a blog posting that all users will get the majority of the functionality available in Luminar AI in the February main release. This includes Presets and Layers. Skylum claims that the release will bring about better overall performance.

Luminar Neo roadmap

According to the company, Luminar Neo will release a free update later in the year that will include Portrait Background Removal AI and Mask AI. Other features will be added in future updates.

Luminar Neo: First Impressions

The software’s user interface is clean, simple, and distracting-free. All tools are located to the right. Skylum users will be familiar with Luminar Neo, which retains the same tools and overall design as Luminar AI or Luminar 4.

Luminar Neo Interface

Under the “Erase” panel, you will find both the Powerlines and Dust Spot Removal tools. It was surprising to see how long it took for the two important features of the early-access version to be found. You might not find them if you don’t know where to look.

Luminar Neo erase tools

Both tools make use of artificial intelligence (AI), which analyzes photos to remove unwanted elements. Although the process is quick and not perfect, it can be a great starting point for manually cleaning up the image. Luminar Neo comes with a manual brush that can be used to remove other elements. It is similar to Adobe Photoshop’s Spot Healing Brush tool.

powerlines removal tool in Luminar Neo
powerlines removal tool in Luminar Neo
powerlines removal tool in Luminar Neo
powerlines removal tool in Luminar Neo

This is because you must first “paint” any destructive elements, such as the birds left in the above example, then click “erase”. Adobe’s click and release method takes this extra step.

Overall, the editor’s performance is good and most tools load quickly. It’s an early release so it works well enough to be able to edit photos with ease. However, there are some limitations and compromises on other features.

Some features have been overlooked

I found that the early version of Luminar Neo was less flexible if you need to undo an action quickly using familiar shortcuts. If you have overpainted a section of the photo, and you want to undo your previous action, it won’t work.

That’s right, you are reading it correctly: This version of the software seems to lack an “undo” feature.

Neo currently has no option to delete all of your selections or to make any adjustments with each tool. You can also click the “Deselect” button to use the brush to erase specific parts of the image. Tedious.

Luminer Neo editing tools

Skylum said that the feature was missing in this early preview of the software. He also confirmed that the feature will be added to a later version.

This release does not include layers. You can view all the tools you have used by going to the “Edits” panel. This panel is not user-friendly, and it doesn’t provide instructions on how to interact with the software.

Luminar Neo mobile a pp

All your edits can be discarded or you can select one to view the way that it changed your original image. It was not a pleasant experience for me.

The new Luminar Share app, on the other hand works great. Pairing your mobile device and your desktop is easy. You can easily send photos from your phone to your desktop or share edits to your phone to your desktop. Due to the large files, both devices must be connected to the same WiFi network.

Photographers who love sharing their work via social media will find the app useful.

The AI is not perfect, but it does have fast tools

The majority of tools are sufficient for photographers to edit photos from beginning to end, without needing to add layers or AI tools. However, the AI tools are still in beta and need to be refined. Their functionality can be complicated at times. The new Relight AI is unable to distinguish between “near” or “far” parts of an image, for example.

The software can sometimes increase brightness in the entire image, and not just the subject, when you adjust the “Brightness Far” slider.

Relight AI tool in Luminar Neo

However, I was able to use the “Warmth Near” and the “Brightness Near”, sliders below and the AI responded well. It edited the correct parts of the image.

Luminar Neo Relight AI tools

This inconsistency could be attributed to the early nature Skylum software. However, it is something we need to pay attention to as Skylum nears the finish line.

You are not making the strongest case… yet

I don’t believe Luminar Neo is compelling enough for current Skylum users to purchase it, especially if they are already using LuminarAI. While the editor currently has all the core Luminar features, there aren’t many other exciting options. These new features are not enough to justify spending the money, at least not yet. After we see Neo in its full glory, my opinion may change. You can for now hold off on placing a pre-order.

If the company integrates the tools it promises, Luminar Neo could be a good option for anyone looking for layer-based photo editors.