Initial HDR output screen

Luminance HDR Review – An Efficient and Powerful HDR Processor

Luminance HDR Review
  • Layout
  • Ease of Use
  • HDR Quality
  • Post Processing
3.3

Luminance HDR Review

In this Luminance HDR review we tested the software extensively. The user interface and ease of use were inconsistent – we had some major issues with the UI, but once we learnt the basics, it was easy to use.

In terms of quality, Luminance HDR is excellent – it allows you to create fantastic HDR images with great detail and colors. It is not a fully-fledged editing program, however. It lacks the editing and post-processing features that other HDR software offers. This program should be used for creating high-quality basic HDR images only.

Luminance HDR is a dedicated HDR processing program that allows for the quick creation of high-quality HDR composites. This is not an all-encompassing software that can be used for advanced edits. In this Luminance HDR review, you will see that this program is highly effective at what it does, but ideally, it should be used in conjunction with other post-processing software.

It is an open-source project that is free to download and use. Currently, Luminance HDR is available on Windows, MAC, and Linux devices. It offers a variety of supported file types and once you get used to the process, offers speedy HDR creation.

System requirements & basic features

For the first part of this Luminance HDR review, let’s look at its specifications and basic features. As mentioned, the code is open source and you can freely download this HDR software. The download page does not list any system requirements, but we have created a list that we think is suitable:

System requirements

  • Windows – Windows 7 or later
  • Screen Resolution – 1024 x 768 or larger
  • Memory – 2GB of RAM
  • CPU – Any CPU manufactured after 2006
  • HDD – 1GB of free storage
  • MAC – macOS 10.10 or later
  • Screen Resolution – 1024 x 768 or larger
  • Memory – 2GB of RAM
  • CPU – Any CPU manufactured after 2006
  • HDD – 1GB of free storage

The program is not process intense – we used an average computer to test the software and everything ran smoothly. There was no lag and the image previews loaded quickly.

Basic Features

  • Supported file formats – JPEG, PNG, BMP, TIFF, PBM, PSD
  • Automatic ghost removal
  • Automated HDR merging
  • Tone mapping
  • Basic image transformations
  • Preset image effects
  • Batch HDR processing

The basic features are sparse – it is not an advanced program. It offers minimal editing and transformation features, but it does offer a comprehensive set of tools for the HDR merging process itself.

Layout

One of the main parts of this Luminance HDR review is to analyze the layout of the software. At first glance, the layout is logical although we found the large tone map and processing toolbars confusing. It took us a while to realize that you can resize these toolbars and shrink them down to make the preview pane large – we feel this is something that should be done by default.

Standard program layout screen

Aside from this, the main toolbar running along the top of the screen is easy to use – it is not cluttered and you can quickly understand how to load images and start the HDR process.

Once you have resized the toolbars, the general layout is OK. On the left, you have the aforementioned tone map and processing toolbars. In the center, you have the main preview box. Underneath this is the preset bar – different thumbnails with the various preset HDR settings are shown. It is a basic layout once you understand how to configure and use it properly.

Ease of Use

To start, we found this program difficult to use. The starting layout is not user-friendly. As mentioned above, the tone map and preset panels take up ¾ of the screen – if you load an HDR image, a preview is shown on the right-hand side of the screen as shown below:

Initial layout showing poor design

This makes it extremely difficult to see your image. It was not until we realized that you can resize the panels, that we improve the layout. This is basic user interface aesthetics and we feel, as standard, those initial toolbars should be smaller when loading the program.

Aside from this initial poor design feature, when creating our Luminance HDR review, we found the program relatively easy to use. The processes are simple, loading times are quick, and the different buttons and tools are logically placed.

HDR Process

The HDR process could not be easier. Creating an HDR image is a simple process – we understood quickly how to create an HDR image without the need for additional instructions.

1. Click on the New HDR Image to open the load image dialogue box.

Initial dialogue box for HDR input

2. Use the green plus icon to open the file dialogue box and select the bracketed shots.

HDR exposure editing screen

3. Check the different exposure values of each image and adjust if necessary.

4. Check the final settings, look at the preview, and press finish.

Initial HDR input screen

That’s all there is to it. Using the HDR process was one of the easiest aspects of this Luminance HDR review. It should be noted that to access the “finish” button, you must untick the preview box. Creating an HDR image takes a few minutes.

Once you have finished the process, you are taken to the main edit screen. Here you can apply different presets and change the basic settings of the HDR process.

Initial HDR output screen

To export the file, simply click on the “Save As” button on the top menu. This allows you to save the image as a JPEG or other file formats. The save dialogue box is not detailed – you can simply change the quality, size, and filename as shown below:

Luminance HDR review – save dialogue box

HDR Quality

The HDR quality is excellent. The HDR processing engine is intelligent and the output images we tested all look superb. Furthermore, the contrast, colors, and brightness were all spot on. In addition to this, the different presets are high-quality too. For basic HDR quality, this is one of the best programs we have tested.

Final HDR image 1 - Lischinski
Luminance HDR 2.6.0 Tonemapping parameters: Operator: Lischinski06 Parameters: Alpha: 1 —— PreGamma: 1

Post Processing Features

Luminance HDR is not a comprehensive HDR program like AuroraHDR or ON1 HDR 2020. It is meant for basic HDR processing only and has virtually no post-processing options at all. When creating this Luminance HDR review, it quickly became clear that this program is meant for the quick and efficient creation of high-quality HDR images.

These should then be imported into other editing software like Lightroom if you want to create advanced edits or artistic styles. The only post-processing available is the following tools:

  • White balance
  • Adjust levels
  • Resize
  • Rotate
  • Crop
  • Projective transformation

Once the HDR image is processed, you can alter the white balance – this effectively adjusts the overall exposure of the image which provides a greater degree of control as shown below. You can also adjust the levels which allow you to adjust the overall tone map of the image.

Luminance HDR review – white balance editing

There is also a range of transformation tools which does provide freedom to change the composition and size of your images. These tools are easy to use and are accessed through the top menu. You can crop and resize the image as you see fit, but the rotation tools are limited to 90-degree increments only.

Crop tool

In addition to this, there is a projective transformation tool. This allows you to transform the image via various axis and create some interesting effects. For example, you can use the Yaw angle to almost create a 360-degree image effect. We would advise using this tool carefully until you understand exactly how each rotation transforms the image.

Luminance HDR review – projective transformation editing

Presets

Luminance HDR has 15 presets in total. This might not seem like a lot, but these are not “artistic” presets. They are basic presets to improve the quality of your HDR images. They are essentially like a full edit packed into a single preset.

HDR presets

Each preset has a different name and provides a high-quality transformation of your HDR image. We tested each preset and the differences are subtle but give you greater freedom for your core HDR image.

Final HDR image 2 – Durand
Luminance HDR 2.6.0 Tonemapping parameters: Operator: Durand Parameters: Spatial Kernel Sigma: 2 Range Kernel Sigma: 2 Base Contrast: 5 —— PreGamma: 1

HDR Examples

To conclude this Luminance HDR review we have created a plethora of examples to show the different presets available. We have used the same source images that we used for our other HDR reviews like EasyHDR, ON1 HDR 2020, and Photomatix Pro. This provides consistency and allows you to compare the HDR quality between the different programs.

Final HDR image 1 - Draco
Luminance HDR 2.6.0 Tonemapping parameters: Operator: Drago Parameters: Bias: 0.85 —— PreGamma: 1

Be sure to check out our other HDR reviews too so you can see how they compare to Luminance HDR! As you can see, the basic HDR quality is fantastic and the different presets do create some strong HDR compositions:

FAQ

Is Luminance HDR available in different languages?

No, not natively – it is only available by default in English, German, and Portuguese. They do provide instructions, however, on how to translate the software into other languages here.

Is there a paid version of Luminance HDR?

No, it is open source and completely free to use. If you do want to support the developers, you can leave a donation on their Source Forge page.

Is Luminance HDR available as a plugin for other editing software?

No, it is a standalone program only. The files created in Luminance HDR can be imported into other software.

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