hits
counter

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.

Read More

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.

Recent Blog Posts

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Skylum Publishes Roadmap for Upcoming Luminar 3 with Libraries

Skylum has published a roadmap for the upcoming Luminar 3 with Libraries, a free upgrade for users of Luminar 2018.

Luminar 3 comes out on December 18, 2018 and Skylum has promised free updates to it through late 2019 to add features and enhance the program.

Photo from Skylum

 

Here is a look at what’s coming up as mentioned on their roadmap.

December 2018 Update(s)

For Mac Users

  • Libraries – You will be able to conveniently & quickly browse photos in a Gallery, review and rate images, organize photos in Albums, access the right pictures faster with a Calendar mode, and speed up your workflow with smart shortcuts.
  • Sync Adjustments – You will be able to enhance a single image to your liking, and then apply the same edits across all your photos with a single click.
  • Info Panel – You’ll be able to view EXIF data for your images.
  • New LOOKs – Presets become history. Luminar brings a collection of new LOOKs that will allow you to enhance and stylize your images much faster.

For Windows Users

  • Libraries – You will be able to conveniently & quickly browse photos in a Gallery, review and rate images, organize photos in Albums, access the right pictures faster with a Calendar mode, and speed up your workflow with smart shortcuts.
  • Sync Adjustments – You will be able to enhance a single image to your liking, and then apply the same edits across all your photos with a single click.
  • Info Panel – You will be able to view EXIF data for your images.
  • New LOOKs – Presets become history. Luminar brings a collection of new LOOKs that will allow you to enhance and stylize your images much faster.
  • Color Management Improvements – Issue Fixed. You’ll be able to properly manage colors between Luminar, monitor and 3rd part devices.
  • Various Improvements – Speed improvements, Image Export improvements, more controls for filters, plug-in performance improvements, share pop-over updated, drag & drop issue fixed and other.

 

Photo from Skylum

Planned Updates from January – July, 2019

For Both Mac & Windows Users

  • Raw + JPG (Luminar Libraries) – You’ll be able to work with Raw & JPG versions of the same image in a more convenient way. View as a single image, but switch between versions in real time.
  • Virtual Copies (Luminar Libraries) – You’ll be able to create versions of a photo with different styles, adjustments, editing history, etc. This is especially useful when you want to try different looks on the same image.
  • IPTC edit & sync (Luminar Libraries) – You’ll be able to edit core IPTC info. Plus create custom presets related to IPTC data and sync these presets across multiple images.
  • Hidden Features (Powered by AI) – We are busy working on more smart tools powered by Artificial Intelligence to give you more powers when editing skin on portraits, architecture; removing objects or simply applying masks on your images.
  • Lightroom Migration Tool – You will be able to move your data and images from Adobe Lightroom to Skylum Luminar.
  • Smart Search (Luminar Libraries) – You’ll be able to quickly find the image you need, using keywords, EXIF information and file names.

Remember that this is a FREE upgrade for all Luminar 2018 users. If you don’t yet have Luminar 2018 you can get it here. You can also save 10% with coupon code: mattsuess

 



Announcing my Mastering Luminar 3 Online Course

 

 

Learn how to organize and edit your photos with Luminar 3 in my comprehensive step-by-step online course. This is the most complete training video course available for Skylum’s Luminar! It officially launches when Luminar 3 becomes available on December 18, 2018 (but you can enroll in it today).

Check out all the details on my new Luminar 3 course here and enroll today!

Want to become an Affiliate Partner for my online course? Contact me today and let me know and I will fill you in on the details!

 


 

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.

Bug with Photo Mechanic and Sony a7R3 Files for Pixel Shift

Any Sony a7R3 shooters out there who also use the awesome Photo Mechanic software from Camera Bits?
Be careful right now with Pixel Shift images.
 
I just picked up my a7R3 the other week and noticed an issue today. I have been using Photo Mechanic for a long, long, long time to batch rename & caption all my photos prior to adding them to my catalog in Capture One Pro. But I discovered a bug with the Pixel Shift images you might want to be aware of.
 
If you batch caption/rename your photos in Photo Mechanic, then use the Sony software to merge your Pixel Shift images into Sony’s RAW .ARQ file, the Sony Viewer and Edit programs will not be able to then recognize the .ARQ file. In the screenshot I posted here, you can see normal .ARQ files processed before I captioned/renamed them and blank thumbnails on .ARQ files that were first captioned/renamed in Photo Mechanic. Sony Viewer and Edit will not read these files now after the merge into .ARQ.
 
I just got off the phone with Camera Bits. They were not yet aware of the issue having just received their own a7R3 camera today. But they were able to repeat the problem on their end and told me the engineers will begin working on a fix to be released soon.
 
So in the meantime, you might want to hold off just yet on renaming & captioning your a7R3 files that were shot for Pixel Shift until they release the fix.

Photographing the Total Solar Eclipse, With and Without Solar Filters

Tomorrow I will be photographing the Total Solar Eclipse above the Tetons in Wyoming on the Idaho side with a spectacular view of the Grand Tetons.

Here’s how I am doing it with 2 different camera setups.

Wide Angle

I am using my Sony a7R with a Canon 17-40mm f4 lens set at 28mm or 24mm – still deciding on the exact shot I want with this. I will be using a Formatt-Hitech 16-stop solid neutral density filter.

This is definitely NOT a filter recommended for photographing the sun as it doesn’t have any proper solar viewing certificates!

But many photographers have been asking me if solid density filters like this are OK for the eclipse.

Here’s the deal – if you do decide to use one it is at your own risk. You could potentially fry your camera sensor and worse you could potentially do permanent damage to your eyes.

If you decide to take such risks you are on your own. I am not recommending the following tips but rather telling you how I am photographing with these filters while assuming my own risk.

So here is how I am using this filter. I ran tests this morning while photographing the sun and did no damage to my eyes nor my camera.

For starters I have a mirrorless camera. This saves my eyes, as when I am looking through the viewfinder I am only looking at an LCD screen.

If you don’t have a mirrorless camera DO NOT LOOK at the sun through the viewfinder or you could ruin your eyes even with this filter on. Instead use live-view and only for short periods of time.

Next I was concerned with the lens being pointed at the sun for a few hours. Even with the camera turned off, my sensor is still exposed.

To protect my sensor in-between shots during the length of the eclipse I cut a piece of cardboard to cover my filter and used tape to allow me to flip the cardboard up to take a photo and back down to protect the sensor during the eclipse. It may not look pretty but it sure is effective!



With this setup my camera settings were ISO 100 at 1/250s at f16.

Telephoto

For this I am using my Sony a7 on a Sigma 150-600mm lens.

And with this setup I am definitely using the proper solar filter. I got it the other week from Bozeman Camera for $80 and it fits over my lens hood.

I had to make some modifications for my setup.

First I noticed the lens hood has holes at the base that were letting in light under certain circumstances so I taped those up.


Next, because my filter is made of a flimsy and delicate film I wanted to protect it better from rubbing or puncture. I used some foam core and tape to protect the front surface when the filter is transported in the cardboard box that it came with. This keeps the filter from direct contact twith he top of the box.


Again it may not look pretty but it works.

My camera settings with this setup photographing the sun are are ISO 100 at 1/500s at f8.

Other Things To Consider

Here are some other tips for getting the perfect shot!

  • Practice with your gear to be 100% familiar with what you will be doing during the eclipse
  • If you are in an area of 100% totality, when – and only when – it is at 100% totality it will be safe to look at the eclipse. Take your filters off at this time and bracket your exposures. The moment 100% ends back to the filters.
  • In regards to bracketing set your camera to 1-stop increments instead of 1/3rd which most photographers use. You only have at most just over 2 minutes of totality and it will be quicker adjusting shutter speeds and f-stops when dials are set for 1-stop. During totality do extreme bracketing with up to 10 brackets at 1-stop each
  • When photographing the sun rely more on the flashing blinkies than the histogram to judge exposure. Adjust your exposure until they disappear. If you are still seeing them you are over-exposing your shot.
  • Look for other photos during totality such as the crowds and look away from your camera every once in a while to fully experience it. This will be my first total eclipse and I will definitely need to remind myself of this tip.

I hope these last minute tips help out! Have fun, be safe, and enjoy the moment!!

%d bloggers like this: