VERDICT: LigthZone is an advanced image editor that provides straightforward photo enhancement process and absolute control over the changes made. In terms of usability, it resembles Aurora, and will certainly appeal to users interested in fast and effortless workflow without the necessity to tweak numerous controls. Besides, LightZone Project is a handy tool if you need to fix the exposure issues in your pictures.
In general, LightZone is open-source software for quick photo editing that is shared for free. It was designed by Light Crafts and was initially distributed as a commercial program.
LightZone is basically oriented on non-destructive editing of images of various RAW formats. The program is praised for trouble-free photo post-production and can be treated as a decent free Lightroom alternative.
LightZone is a RAW converter and open source photo editor that resembles Lightroom and can be downloaded free of charge. Though there are some similarities with Adobe product, you still need to consider distinct differences. The biggest advantage of the program that I’d like to highlight in my LightZone review is non-destructive photo processing. In such a way, your original pictures are left intact, so you can return to them if such a necessity arises.
The software first appears in 2005 and was advertised as a commercial program. Six years later, the developer company stopped upgrading and releasing the soft. However, in 2013, the program appeared again, but under a BSD open source license.
The truth is that 2013-version is identical to that released in 2011 with upgraded RAW profiles being the only difference. In other words, the program acquired support for many DSLRs that have been released since 2011.
LightZone has a clean and stylish user interface with a dark gray theme that you can also see in other popular image editing applications.
The UI is divided into two separate sections: the “Browse” window for navigating files and the “Edit” window for working with specific images. This layout is very intuitive and may be familiar to people, who have already used Darktable on Windows, RawTherapee or other similar programs.
There is a navigator under the preview section, which displays image files contained in the currently selected folder. In this section you can also add a rating to your photos.
When you open LightZone, you primarily see the “Browse” window. It is subdivided into 3 separate columns. If you want, you can collapse 2 side ones.
The left-hand column functions as a file exporter allowing you to browse through your online and hard drives as quickly as possible.
The central column is further broken down horizontally into 2 parts, with the upper one supporting the preview of the selected picture(s). You can also make use of the supplementary menu bar located above this section, which features the Styles list.
The navigator function is called an advantage in many LightZone reviews, as it allows users to see the content of the selected folder without the need to open it separately. However, you can’t tag the files in a folder, which is certainly the feature that should be improved.
The “Edit” window is also split into three columns. The left column is common for styles and history, and the right one contains tools. The image that is being edited is displayed in the center. You can click on one style or apply several styles, combining them together to form new effects.
Each time you apply a style, it is added to the “Layers” section of the “Tools” column, and you can further adjust the intensity of the style using the available options or reducing the opacity of the layer.
You can also save your own styles, making it easy to repeat your favorite effects in the future or apply them to a pack of images in the “Browse” window.
The “History” tab opens a simple list of changes that have been made to the file since it was last opened, and you can easily scroll through this list to compare the image at different points of the editing process.
If you previously worked in a RAW converter or a graphic editor, then it will be very easy for you to master LightZone. It looks like the Curves Tool, but it is presented in completely different way as a vertically graded series of tones from white to black.
A zone preview at the top of the column divides the image into zones corresponding to these shades of gray. You can use the Zone Mapper to stretch or compress individual tonal ranges, and you will see the changes reflected in both the Zones preview and the image.
By default, the settings are applied to your image globally, but there is also the Regions tool, which allows you to isolate areas of the image and apply corrections only to them. You can draw areas in the form of polygons, splines or Bezier curves.
Contours are not so easy to manage compared to the Pen tool in Photoshop vs GIMP, but this should be enough for most cases.
LightZone contains powerful and highly customizable tools. The photo editor always works in 16-bit linear color space (16-bit linear color), with a wide range of ProPhoto RGB (ROMM RGB/Reference Output Medium Metric). Many tools are traditional for most modern photo editors, but have more flexible settings. The software supports all graphic formats used in modern cameras.
LightZone also has some unusual tools for controlling the tone (adjusting brightness, contrast, shadows, highlights, etc.). Some of them are inspired by the color scheme of the Zone System, and some are affected by the tone of HDR images.
These tools allow classifying LightZone as one of the programs for editing black-and-white photos (black-and-white imagery), but they are also useful when working with color photographs (especially with those taken in mixed lighting).