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MindShift Gear BackLight 18L Backpack from Think Tank Photo Preview

My friends from Think Tank Photo just sent me for review a MindShift Gear BackLight 18L Backpack just in time for a 10-day trip to Cody and Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming I am about ready to leave for. I’ll be sure to do a field review once I return, but in the meantime here are my first impressions.

First off, Think Tank Photo has been a favorite of mine for years. I already own four of their bags and I have a feeling my collection is about to grow. Built by photographers for photographers, I have always been impressed with their quality and attention to detail. Their bags perform great and are built to last.

Their MindShift Gear is designed for those who love to “Engage with Nature” and their BackLight series is especially geared for that. And one feature in particular that I am very interested in trying out in the field is their rear-panel compartment for photo gear, which allows you to access your gear without taking off the backpack!

While I don’t have any photos yet of that specific feature in-action, here’s a couple quick photos of just some of the gear I’m able to fit in the 18L version. (They also have 26L and 36L sizes too).

 

How much of that Olympus gear can I get inside of the BackLight 18L?

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Skylum Announces AI-Powered Portrait and Skin Enhancement Tools for Luminar 4

Today Skylum continues to unwrap new features for the upcoming Luminar 4 by announcing new AI-powered portrait and skin enhancement tools. Portrait photographers – and really anyone who photographs people – are sure to be excited about these new tools to quickly enhance the look of people in their photos.

While I have not yet been able to use this hands-on, I have watched a presentation on these new tools working on a beta version of Luminar 4 and I have to be honest, the presentation was quite impressive making quick work of portrait enhancements such as smoothing of the skin, blemish removal, along with eye & teeth & lip enhancements.

AI Skin Enhancer

Using AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology Luminar 4 can automatically detect faces & skin in your photos. The AI Skin Enhancer will allow for the automatic removal of various skin imperfections like acne, freckles, and moles all while smoothing the skin. It does this while also keeping small details like hair & eyelashes & skin pores preserved.

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Think Tank Photo releases Retrospective V2.0 Shoulder Camera Bags in Black

My friends at Think Tank Photo let me know that they just released their Retrospective V2.0 shoulder bag series in a brand new color – BLACK. And from the pictures I’ve seen it looks pretty stunning!

The original Retrospective series came out in 2016 featuring a classic “retro” minimalist & stylish look with a lightweight and form-fitting design. Since May of 2018 I’ve been carrying around the original Retrospective 10 shoulder bag and it immediately became my favorite lightweight shoulder bag for when I don’t need to take all my camera gear with me. The bag is extremely well made with a super comfortable strap and is just a joy to use out in the field. It’s no wonder that the Retrospective shoulder bag series has become one of their most popular lines.

My Original Retrospective 10 camera bag with some of the gear I often have in my bag

While the V2.0 bags have been out for a little while now, the new Black bag includes all the new features including lighter weight, greater security with a zippered opening under the main flap that tucks away when not in use, dedicated interior tablet or laptop pocket, luggage handle pass-through, and a compressible water bottle pocket (something sorely missing from my v1.0 bag).

The Retrospective V2.0 line consists of 5 different bag sizes (5, 7, 10, 20, 30) with a completely customizable divider system which includes extra dividers to further organize compartments for smaller lenses or equipment. A seam-sealed rain cover is also included.

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Skylum Today Announces Luminar 4 – What Now Happens to Luminar 3?

Today Skylum has announced Luminar 4, a paid upgrade to Luminar 3, shipping this fall. Details however are still vague as to what new features Luminar 4 will have outside of the one new feature being mentioned at today’s announcement, even though Luminar 4 is now available for pre-order.

What is that new feature, and what now happens with Luminar 3? Let’s take a look.

New Luminar 4 with Sky Replacement

As I just mentioned, outside of the new Sky Replacement feature I will discuss, Skylum is not mentioning any other new features coming to Luminar 4 at this time. This is a real curious marketing strategy for a number of reasons, but first I’ll talk about this new feature.

For years I as well as many other photographers have been requesting and waiting for Skylum to give us a content-aware smart brush for those of us who need to to cutouts or to do sky replacement. Something like what ON1 Photo RAW has as well as other programs.

Well for those looking for such a brush, it isn’t looking like this is it.

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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.

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Where is the Noise in High ISO with the Olympus OM-D E-M1X Micro Four Thirds Camera?

As I continue evaluating the Olympus OM-D E-M1X Micro Four Thirds Camera that Olympus has loaned me for 2 months free of charge (and with no obligation at all to write these reviews) one aspect I will be studying is how usable high ISO images are with this camera.

I have been shooting full-frame digital since I purchased my first full-frame camera back in 2002 with the $8,000 Canon EOS-1Ds, an 11.1 megapixel camera. And simply because of the physical size difference between a full-frame sensor and a four thirds sensor, full-frame sensors by and large have less noise at higher ISO’s and thus are better in lower light situations.

But how big of a difference is the noise in higher ISO’s?

If you believe everything you read in internet forums, people are saying anything over ISO 800 is basically non-usable with four thirds cameras. This was concerning because I am often shooting ISO 800 or higher with my Sony a7R3, particularly with wildlife, and if this Olympus camera couldn’t handle higher ISO’s I would lose pretty much all interest in the Olympus system.

So I went out to a local zoo the other day to get some test shots at higher ISO’s. And this writeup is about my reflections from that day.

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