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Beyond the Lens with Matt Suess – Photography Journal & Blog

 

 

Sony Just Announced New 60MP Camera – Am I Bummed Now That I Switched to Olympus?

So right on the heals of me leaving Sony FF for Olympus, Sony today announces a 60MP upgrade to the camera I just got rid of. Am I upset? Am I regretting my choice??

Absolutely not, and this shot is just one reason why!

There is more to a camera than it’s megapixels, and what you can do with a camera is now more important to me than the megapixels. And the Live Composition feature in particular of my Olympus OM-D E-M1X camera is one such feature that allows me to create images that would have been either too difficult to do otherwise or it would have been such a pain that I probably wouldn’t have shot it to begin with.

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Luminar Flex from Skylum Updated to v1.1 – What is Flex and What About this Update

Skylum today has released a free update to Luminar Flex bringing it to version 1.1.

What is Luminar Flex? Don’t they have Luminar 3 too?

For those not familiar with Flex, think of all the great photo editing filters and tools from Luminar 3, minus the not-ready-for-primetime catalog features that Luminar 3 has. If you don’t want to use the “DAM” (digital asset manager) of Luminar 3 (and I can’t blame you as it has been a big disappointment from day 1) but still want to use Luminar’s filters to enhance your photos, then Flex might be for you.

Luminar Flex v1.1 running as a plugin inside Photoshop

I say “might be for you” because this is where things get a little confusing. And bear with me for a moment as I discuss Flex, as I never posted a review of it when it first came out. If you just want to see what’s new with Flex, scroll down to the New Features.

A Little History

Luminar 3 arrived back on December 18, 2018 and was initially marketed by Skylum as a Lightroom replacement, even though it barely had any more organizational power than Finder on Mac or Explorer on Windows. I was not a fan, and apparently I wasn’t alone as the majority of people in my Learn Skylum’s Luminar & Aurora HDR Facebook Group who voted in a poll I conducted just last month still couldn’t use the DAM because of missing features and/or performance issues. Only a small percentage were happy with Luminar 3 at the time. In fact, one of my most popular YouTube videos I have is a video I recorded showing how to use Luminar 3 without the catalog.

Results of my Facebook poll at time of this writing.

Skylum took notice of customer complaints and started dropping the Lightroom replacement marketing it was doing for Luminar 3. And then on April 4, 2019 they released Luminar Flex, calling it “Something Special for Adobe Artists”. Rather than try to compete with Adobe’s Lightroom, they marketed Flex as a plugin that works inside of Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, and Elements, and as an extension in Photos.

Here’s where things get confusing.

Luminar 3 works as both a standalone AND as a plugin in Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, and Photos. But once Flex arrived Skylum mentioned they will eventually update Luminar 3 so it doesn’t work as a plugin anymore and only as a standalone.

Luminar Flex works as a plugin and is marketed as such, yet it still runs as a standalone program even after this update, and if running as a standalone you get extra benefits of Batch Processing – something that can’t be done as a plugin. Skylum has mentioned they will eventually update Flex so it doesn’t run as a Standalone, but that hasn’t happened yet so it is odd to still see Batch Processing in Flex Standalone.

So if you want to use Luminar 3 and it’s library catalog but don’t need it as a plugin, you buy Luminar 3. If you don’t want the library catalog of Luminar 3 but want all the editing filters & tools and want to use it as a plugin, you get Flex. If you are still running Luminar 3 as a plugin in Photoshop it won’t work with Smart Objects, but Flex does along with Actions. If you want to work on RAW files with Flex you can’t with the plugin unless you are sending the file from Lightroom or are using it as a standalone (for now). If you want the option to use Luminar both as a standalone AND as a plugin, you have to get both – but you might want to hold off on that until Skylum figures out how to not have Flex run as a standalone. Lastly, if you bought Luminar 3 before a certain cutoff time, you might already have Flex. Sign into your account at Skylum to see.

Are you still with me?

Another confusing issue is that Skylum is not updating Luminar 3 and Flex on the same schedule. For example, Luminar 3 received an update on April 25 with a new Accent AI 2.0 filter and has heavily promoted it since. Flex, now 2.5 months later, is now finally getting that same filter.

On To the Flex v1.1 Update

In order to update the Flex plugin, you need to launch it as a standalone. You can find it in your Applications folder. Then on the Mac click on Luminar Flex/Check for Updates… and follow the instructions. On Windows you can find that under the Help menu.

New Features

I’ll outline the new features next. For each new feature I’ll first let Skylum explain it, then I’ll add my commentary.

1. Accent AI 2.0. “Enhance your photos in seconds with the power of Artificial Intelligence and let Luminar Flex do all the heavy lifting. Accent 2.0 is human aware and the perfect adjustment for EVERY photo.”

The Accent AI Filter 2.0 in the Standalone version of Flex v1.1. This is with a RAW file from the Olympus O-MD E-M1X camera – a RAW file format that Luminar still doesn’t support even thought the camera has been out since February. 

As I mentioned, getting this filter was a 2.5 month wait for Flex users, as Luminar 3 users received it back in late April. Was it worth the wait? It is definitely a solid filter, with one slider controlling many editing variables for you in the background to help enhance your photo quickly. Accent AI 2.0 is a big improvement in regards to image quality over their original Accent filter, and now it is aware of people in your photo so it can make appropriate adjustments.

2. Filter Catalog. “With this new update, whenever you open your Luminar Flex plugin, the Filters catalog will be open by default. It’s perfect to find your favorite filters, fast. It’s also searchable by keywords and tasks, automatically learns from you with the Recent feature, and you can even mark your favorites!”

The only real new “feature” here is that the Filter Catalog is open each and every time you now launch Flex. All the other “features” mentioned were there in the original Flex.

Lost screen real estate now that Flex defaults to always having the Filters Catalog open each time you launch the program.

The real bad thing here is that there is no way to now launch Flex with the Filter Catalog hidden, and I wish Skylum provided us with an option to have it hidden upon launch. The Filter Catalog takes up valuable screen real estate and was only one-click away when you needed it.

3. Improved Looks. “Looks are one of the best things about Luminar Flex. Install them right from the plugin or extension and transform your images into works of art in minutes. You can check them out in the Looks browser, and you can download even more Look packs from our marketplace.”

To install new looks you originally had to run the standalone Flex. Now you can do this via the file menu when running it as a plugin.

4. Install custom workspaces. “Now you have the option of using your own workspaces in the plugin or extension. Simply go to File > Show Workspaces Folder and add your custom workspaces to this folder. Make Luminar Flex even more comfortable.”

What is new here is being able to find your Workspaces Folder via the plugin. This was always available in the original Flex when running as a standalone.

5. Performance updates. “We love our users and try to fulfill your requests in the best way possible. We’re constantly working to improve the overall performance of Luminar Flex with every update. Enjoy the best version of Luminar Flex ever. FIXED: Filename doesn’t appear after exporting image from Lightroom to Luminar Flex, FIXED: Application crashes on applying clone & stamp in Luminar Flex as Plugin, FIXED: Doesn’t work auto activation from inside purchase, FIXED: Application crashes on opening document one by one.

I have nothing to add here except that I’ll take their word for it that they have optimized Flex to run better.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next 6 months regarding Luminar 3 and Flex. Skylum has definitely made a commitment to Flex for now, but from the outside looking in it appears that Flex arrived as a separate fix to the issues Skylum was having with Luminar 3 and running it as a plugin.

Luminar 3 was initially marketed as a way to move on from Photoshop and in particular Lightroom. Flex is marketed to keep you working inside of Photoshop and Lightroom. Luminar 3 received a major new filter (major based on the amount of marketing that announced it) and Flex took 2.5 months to get it. Is this the upgrade path of the future? Confusing strategies for sure! Interesting that companies such as ON1 can deliver just one product to run as a standalone AND as a plugin…

I don’t have any insider information here, but my guess is that Flex was not even a thought when Skylum was releasing Luminar 3 back in December of 2018. Now their resources are stretched even more trying to fix Luminar 3, maintain and advance Flex, and hmm did Skylum forget about Aurora HDR 2019? That program is still on it’s 1.0.0 release from way back in September of 2018 and they still haven’t updated it yet for the linking via Open In/Luminar to go to the newest version of Luminar instead of the old Luminar 2018.

RAW file was edited with Capture One Pro, tif file opened in Photoshop and then Flex was used as a plugin for final enhancement.

With all of that said, I am a big fan of the editing power in Flex and use it on almost all of my photos to put the finishing touches on them. It’s about time Skylum supported Smart Objects inside of Photoshop! Prior to Luminar 3 I was actually using Luminar 2018 to process my RAW files. But since Luminar 3 is still such a slow and feature-poor program I have gone back to using Capture One Pro for my RAW files and Flex for the finishing touches.

And the fact that it still runs as a standalone for now, users can think of Flex as a new version of Luminar 2018. Again Skylum says they will remove the ability to run as a standalone program at some point in the future, but the future isn’t now and right now you can run Flex just like you ran Luminar 2018 and have access to RAW editing without going through Lightroom as well as access to Batch Processing.

Interested in Flex? Skylum has a special promotion going on for new purchasers. Flex is currently available for $70 and it includes over 300 Looks. Prior owners should receive an email soon from Skylum giving them access to these Looks too.

You can save an additional $10 on Flex with coupon code mattsuess

I have been a big supporter of Macphun/Skylum since the very beginning of Aurora and Luminar and have recommended their products for years. I still love Aurora and was very disappointed with Luminar 3 – so much that I don’t even recommend it anymore to anyone.

Flex is the closest thing we have now to an upgraded Luminar 2018 even though it is supposed to be run as a plugin only. But the fact that it still runs as a Standalone program, I definitely still recommend Luminar – only the Flex version of Luminar however.

 


Disclosure about product links and affiliations: Some of the links I provide are affiliate links which means I get a small commission, with no additional cost to you, if you click it and end up buying something. It helps me provide free educational resources and articles. So if you use them, thank you! My affiliations however never influence my opinions on any products/services and I am only affiliated with companies whose products/services I personally use.

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Luminar Flex from Skylum Updated to v1.1 - What is Flex and What About this Update

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Ranch Horse on Cold Morning - Tetons

I am amazed at how insanely sharp the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 Pro lens is. Not to mention the great focal length too, equivalent to 80-300mm at f2.8 in the full-frame world, all in a lightweight design that makes it easy to carry around all day.

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Used Canon and Sony Camera Equipment For Sale

Now that I am officially switching full-time to Olympus, I have some great used gear for sale. Prices listed are asking prices and don’t include shipping. First come first serve. Contact Me if you want more details on any item, if you want photos of it, and to purchase. Feel free to share this post with your photography friends 😀
 
Sony Gear:
 
Sony a7R iii – less than 24K shutter activations, Condition 8 for $2,000
Sony FE 35mm f2.8 lens – Condition 9+ for $650
Sony FE 24-240mm f3.5-6.3 lens – Condition 9 for $775
Sony FE 90mm Macro G OSS F2.8 lens – Condition 10 for $900
Godox v860 II S Flash for Sony – Condition 10 for $145 each, and I have 3 of them
Godox x1 T S transmitter for Sony – Condition 10 for $35
Rokinon 24mm f1.4 lens – Condition 10 for $350
Sigma MC-11 Mount Converter/Lens Adapter to use Canon EF lenses on Sony E—mount – Condition 10 for $115
 
Canon Gear:
 
Canon EF 17-40mm L f.4 lens – Condition 8+ / 9 – SOLD
Canon EF 24-70mm L f2.8 lens – Condition 8+ / 9 for $795
Canon EF 100mm f2.8 lens – Condition 8+ / 9 for $400
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens for Canon EF – Condition 10 for $900 (this lens is awesome!!!)
Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Contemporary Lens – SOLD
Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens – SOLD
 
10 Preowned equipment, but appears as new
9+ Shows little or no signs of wear
9 Shows signs of use, but very clean
8+ Shows moderate wear or finish marks
8 Well used – may exhibit “dings” or finish marks
7 Shows considerable amount of use – More than average wear
6 Usable, but has considerable optical or mechanical imperfections

Registration Now Open for my 2019 Fall Grand Tetons Photo Workshop

Registration has just opened for my 5th Annual Fall Grand Teton Photography Workshop in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming!!

Here is some of the important info:

Dates: Monday, September 23 – Saturday, September 28, 2019

Location: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced

Class Size: Limited to just 6 students

Type: Field Workshop

Status: Open – Click Here for more info and to Register

Note: Previous fall workshops have sold out in the past so don’t delay in registering – only 6 seats are available! My other 2 Tetons workshops for 2019 sold out months in advance.

I have a complete information page dedicated to this workshop with a ton of information and a link to register.

View Info About Matt’s 2019 Tetons Fall Photo Workshop

Check out some photos taken during my past fall photo workshops in the Tetons or in that same time period:


Still Learning the AF System on the Olympus OM-D E-M1X Camera

In my continuing experiments with the Get Olympus system they have loaned me and the OM-D E-M1X camera in particular, I’ve had some focusing issues that I believe I am finding solutions to!

Switching camera systems is never easy nor is getting used to new AF systems. For most of my shots I have been using the 5-Target Group but have been finding a lot of images that were front-focused and the point of focus was just in front of my subject, making my subject soft.

Last night I switched to Small Target and the results were vastly better. The majority of what I was shooting last night was static images with no major focus tracking. Reviewing last nights results I hardly had any front-focused frames and most shots were tact sharp – success!!

Another issue I was having was with soft images using the M.Zuiko 300mm f4 IS Pro and 1.4 tele when shooting wide-open. Images often looked soft with no real focus point anywhere – kinda like how heat waves from the road in a distance can blur your photo, but image shouldn’t have been suffering from any heat waves. By stopping down to f7.1 it seems to have fixed my issues there. I have had some success shooting this combo wide open, but most shots seemed to have not worked out.

Female Downy Woodpecker in a tree in Bozeman, Montana

For this shot of a female Downy Woodpecker, I was using the M.Zuiko 300m f4 Pro lens and 1.4 tele. It was shot handheld at 1/800s at f7.1 and Auto ISO of 1250. This shot was super sharp with the Small Target AF, and check out that light I have in her eye!!

With this setup it gave me the equivalent focal length of 840mm when compared to a full-frame camera, without all that extra weight 🙂 I am really loving this part of the Olympus system!

 

Baby Mountain Cottontail Rabbit

OMG How darn cute is this little guy???

Baby Mountain Cottontail Rabbit

I first saw this baby Mountain Cottontail rabbit yesterday outside our fence when I was mowing. This morning we couldn’t figure out why the dogs were super excited in the backyard. Once the dogs were put inside, this little guy came back out from under the deck to finish breakfast eating grass and clovers. All I had to do was sit motionless in a chair in the yard and he/she came within 10 feet of me without even seeing me.

This was photographed hand-held with the Get Olympus OM-D E-M1X camera and the M.Zuiko 300mm f4 IS Pro lens. Shot at ISO 800 at 1/400s at f5.6.

 

Black and White Tulip

I have always loved black and white photography. In fact I was processing and printing my own b&w photos way back when I was 12 years old! But I can not recall right now when – or if – I ever created any serious black and white flower photographs before.

So here’s a start, with a tulip from our backyard here in Montana 🙂

This was photographed hand-held in the High-Res mode with the Get Olympus OM-D E-M1X camera and the M.Zuiko 300mm f4 IS Pro lens, which gave me a 50MP image. Shot at ISO 250 at 1/200s at f5.

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Pro Capture for Lightning with the Olympus OM-D E-M1X Camera?

Pro Capture for lightning with the OM-D E-M1X camera?

Yes, please!

We just had a small lightning storm pass overhead here in Montana and while it was on it’s way I ran outside to see if Pro Capture would work for getting shots of lightning.

And it does!

For those not familiar with Pro Capture on Olympus, what it does is keep a pre-set number of frames in a buffer which constantly gets overwritten with the newest images while slightly depressing the shutter button, so that when the action does happen you fully press down on the shutter to save those frames it had in the buffer.

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Bison and Spring Snowfall in Gallatin Gateway, Montana

I love watching bison forage for food when the ground is covered with snow. They use their head as a shovel to push the snow away to get to the grass below. This was photographed yesterday during a late April snowfall here in Montana.

It was photographed with the Olympus OM-D E-M1X camera and M.Zuiko 300mm f4 IS Pro lens that Olympus has loaned me for a couple months. It was shot hand-held at 1/160s, f8, at ISO 200. To get the same lens reach using a full-frame camera I’d be using a 600mm f4 lens and there is no way I’d be hand holding that monster of a lens at 1/160th of a second for any amount of time!

One concern I’ve had with MFT is that the camera is only 20MP (my current Sony a7R3 has more than double the megapixels) and I specialize in large prints. The more megapixels, the larger you can print, right? If I can’t get great looking prints out of the Olympus there’d be no reason for me to switch from Sony.

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