Version 1.0
Price: $0.99 until August 23, 2011

Rating 3 1/2 stars

Bottom Line: I really like it. It’s a good image editor with some great, advanced features, but it’s lacking some basic functionality to make it a great app.

Luminance by Subsplash is a new photo editor that gives you pro photo editing capabilities in a simple and elegant interface. Effortlessly add effects to your photos, choose from many built-in presets, and take edits from one photo and apply them to multiple photos.

Luminance is a serious image editor with few effects and frills beyond image editing.

Luminance has a thorough range of color and light image adjustments — more color and tonal qualities for pre-filtering scrubbing. The filters are easy to use. i particularly like the Tone Curves filter where adjustments are further broken out into highlights, lights, darks and shadows which allow you to really target your adjustments.

Luminance has a clean UI. In edit mode, pinch and zoom allows you to better preview color moves. One tap easily switches between the edit screen and full screen preview. For adjustments, Luminance uses linear sliders not curves, but has good slider control with excellent visual cues when making adjustments.

The coolest feature of Luminance is its ability to go back to any edit or move in the workflow. Other apps let you go back to a particular edit, but I found Luminance to be the most Photoshop-like in its implementation of this feature. If you work regularly in Photoshop, it means almost no learning curve.

Rather than applying unchangeable edits, Luminance applies all filters as a non-destructive layer, very similar to Photoshop’s Adjustment Layers. It’s a really cool professional feature that gives you the ability to go back later and tweak or change any single move without losing any of your other edits. It’s an excellent workflow that many photo retouchers and prepress technicians use. This feature is really well-implemented here in the app.

Another cool feature is the app’s ability to copy and paste edits from a photo to apply them to multiple photos directly from the Library screen without ever opening the editor screen. This is a great timesaver for applying similar moves over a number of images.

Luminance has a bunch of preset actions for one-button application of various color and vintage looks to an image. Some users may be put off by the fact that there are none of the frames, textures, light effects or other treatments found in many of the all-in-one image editors. This makes Luminance less of a “fun” photo app and more an editor for critical color moves.

Luminance supports greater than the iPhone 4’s full resolution. I worked a 3500×3500 px image without the app breaking a sweat. It does, however, strip out most of a photo’s EXIF data, including geotag information.

There are no crop, straighten or rotate tools. Also, no sharpen or blur filters. The lack of a sharpen filter to help compensate for fuzzy focus limits the app’s usefulness as a full-blown image editor for some, but Luminance is about color and light and it does both extremely well. Still, these omissions dropped my rating half a star for me. I think it’s a four-star app otherwise.

Luminance is not as full-featured as Filterstorm which is now my go-to image editing, Photoshop-type app for iPhone, but it has the tools you’re likely to use most of the time for making finely tuned color moves. It’s more powerful than PhotoToaster, but lacks the frames and PhotoToaster’s broad range of presets.

Luminance reminds me of the classic app Mill Colour’s focus on honing the color and, well, luminance of an image, plus it supports the latest iOS and iPhone 4 full resolution. The market for this class of app is getting more crowded, admittedly with some good apps. Luminance is a great tool for making fine color and light adjustments to a photograph and applying some filter effects. It’s not an all-in-one, though, and you’ll need other apps to make “fun” moves as well as some basic edits.

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Luminance is old iPhone-friendly and requires iOS 3.2 or later.

Luminance - Subsplash