Think Tank Photo Releases SKB Series Hard Cases with Think Tank Photo Soft Interiors for Photographers and Videographers

At long last, a company has recognized an issue that has increasingly been coming to the fore for travelling photographers and cinematographers, and has come up with a thoughtful, well-designed and well-made solution to it. Or rather, two companies in close collaboration, Think Tank Photo and SKB, and that issue is the increasing demand by airlines that we agree to stashing our precious, costly gear in the cargo hold instead of carrying it on as cabin luggage.

Think Tank Photo, a company whose soft camera bags and accessories I have used for some years, has collaborated with a maker of hard cases, SKB, a company new to me until now. Think Tank lists the products of this collaboration on its website under the SKB Hard Cases moniker and SBK has them on its website as the SKB Flyer Series.

There are similarities and differences between the two companies’ listings of the products of their collaboration, with SKB adding some video-oriented Flyer cases and a very useful long logistics hard case for carrying lighting and other production gear while Think Tank Photo appears to be  concentrating more on the stills side of things.

Think Tank Photo was a pioneer in supporting hybrid stills/video photographers/cinematographers with its brilliant but discontinued Wired Up Multimedia soft case range that I use to this very day. Think Tank Photo seems to have passed the hybrid thing by now, focussing on pure cinematography with a fourteen soft case-strong collection of video transport cases illustrated carrying RED, Canon Cinema EOS and DJI drone cameras.

A subset of Think Tank Photo SKB Hard Case photographs

Think Tank Photo has recently begun illustrating its products with Fujifilm X-Series mirrorless cameras in a hat-tip to the ever-growing popularity of APS-C and, one assumes, Micro Four Thirds hybrid stills/video cameras for professional photography and moviemaking, especially in the self-funded independent documentary and feature sector, a refreshing relief from their former concentration on 35mm format DSLRs from Canon and Nikon.

I do not use the inane and inaccurate “full frame”, “full format” and “crop sensors” terminology in reference to digital sensor sizes. Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium format camera makes such olde worlde 35mm absolutism appear ridiculous, especially given that its body is about the same size or just a little bigger than the average DSLR but with a much larger sensor, establishing a new standard for image quality to be judged against if one is so inclined.

Although M43 cameras are not shown in the product shots, it is safe to assume that a case that can carry Fujifilm X-T2 and X-Pro2 Super 35 APS-C cameras, lenses and accessories can also hold Panasonic or Olympus Super 16 M43 cameras, lenses and accessories.

That is good news for those like me who would prefer to transport our Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, DMC-GH4 or DMC-GX8 fully rigged and ready for fast camera case egress going straight into shooting documentary footage minus fussing about attaching microphones, recorders, monitors, cables, cages, rigging and the like.

The same assumptions should apply to transporting the GFX 50S for stills photography given its DSLR size but bigger and better sensor.

The Think Tank Photo cum SKB Flyer hard case cum soft internals series could not have come at a better time as I am currently having to radically rethink how to carry my stills and video production gear during shoots, going to and from shoots and, when this interminable subdivision process is finally completed so we can refinance our projects including Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success, travelling intercity, interstate and overseas.

I am on the verge of a major camera case cleanup, reducing my reliance on shoulder bags and even some backpacks unduly straining permanently damaged spine, shoulders, arms and back.

Another clean-up factor is leather now that Sydney’s weather veers towards sub-tropical with ever-advancing climate change and the danger of leather-loving, lens-destroying mould taking up permanent residence in most Australian homes. Add to that the cruelty and environmental impact aspects of leather production.

I want to see all camera bag and accessory makers abandon the use of leather and follow the examples of companies like Cosyspeed that use kinder, safer materials like synthetic leather as used in the automobile industry.

Meanwhile I am looking at the specifications of all ten of the SKB Hard Cases at Think Tank Photo’s website while remembering scenes I witnessed in the days when I carted aluminium hard cases and soft logistics cases around the deserts of Western Australia and the odd foray to the eastern states for corporate assignments.

Watching luggage handlers hurl bags on and off their trailers, topple them onto the ground or sling them into luggage chutes made me cringe every time. It is great if you can get away with carrying your gear into the cabin but best to be prepared for that odd stroppy ticket or gate attendant who disputes that your “airline carry-on approved size” really is the approved size or rejects it for breaching said size by a millimetre or two.

Think Tank Photo SKB iSeries 3i-2011-7BP Backpack & Rolling Case

The 3i-2011-7BP is the one hard case in the SKB Hard Cases collection that combines a removable backpack with a rolling case, for use in a way not unlike the one that Deanne Fitzmaurice demonstrates in her How to Pack Gear for a Regional Jet video.

I have been considering something similar for safely transporting a future mostly-video documentary production kit based around the GH5 and its predecessors the GH4 and GX8. I just need to determine whether the set-up illustrated above will carry everything I need for short and feature documentary projects. Time to make a list!

I will need a second camera bag for cabin-only documentary stills gear, to complement the cabin or cargo hold mostly-video case, as well as a safer way of carrying tripod, lights and lighting stands for my coming new travelling kit to be complete.

It would be terrific if a vendor turns up at the SMPTE 2017 at Darling Harbour mid-July with a massive collection of Think Tank Photo camera bags so I can work out some optimal carrying combinations.

The steady reduction of photography retailers in this part of the world and the ending of photography trade shows here makes seeing, trying and selecting the right gear even more difficult than before. Guessing which camera bags you need based on product shots with cameras, lens and accessory systems you don’t use can be a challenge!

Links:

Image Credits:

  • Header image made from product photograph kindly supplied by Think Tank Photo and SKB Cases, processed with Macphun Luminar Neptune using a preset from the Tintype Looks collection, in remembrance of Khadija Saye,  the emerging British artist tragically killed in the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Macphun: Celebrate! Macphun Photo Software is Coming to Windows PC

https://macphun.com/pc

Macphun Luminar Raw Processor/Image Editor Updated, More Speed and Power, Hot Deals

The Luminar all-in-one raw processing and image editing application by Macphun, makers of a suite of other great products including Aurora HDR 2017, is my default, go-to software for photography and image resizing and exporting duties. Luminar has just been updated to version 1.1.1 and it continues to get better every single time. 

macphun_luminar_version1-1-1_updater_screen

Luminar’s version 1.1.1 update arrived shortly after an X100F review loaner was kindly delivered by the folks at Fujifilm Australia and after processing my very first shot with the X100F, camera plus processing software feels like a match made in heaven.

Both outwardly appear stripped-down, simple even, but their unassuming interfaces hide real power. I am impressed by how well Luminar 1.1.1 handles X-Trans raw files from the X100F.

Most software companies take ages to get around to supporting the very latest cameras. Macphun is already on the ball with the X100F and I hope will be just as fast to support two other soon-to-be-released new cameras, Fujifilm’s GFX 50S and Panasonic’s GH5.

I made the above three snapshots with the Fujifilm X100F at lunch earlier today then quickly and minimally processed them in Luminar 1.1.1 using the Smart Image Enhancer preset from the Photo Essentials preset pack available for purchase from Macphun. The photograph at left was cropped while the other two were full-frame.*

I was after a naturalistic though richly coloured, dark-toned image reminiscent of slow transparency films from the analog era. The light is always challenging in this location, its centre lit with dark amber and with bright sunlight at both ends. Digital noise is not a concern with these types of images especially now that contemporary mirrorless cameramakers are doing such a great job making it appear organic.

This quick and dirty test showed that Luminar 1.1.1 has gained speed in loading raw files and when processing using filters. I have a heavy image processing session coming up later this week and that is when this latest Luminar update will really be put to the test.

Meanwhile, colour me impressed. The Macphun team published a list of coming updates to Luminar and this latest update has me looking forward to what is coming next. Right now Luminar is Mac-only but will be coming to Windows sometime this year.

Macphun Luminar Special Offer:

Macphun has a terrific hot deal going on at the moment for Luminar, so get in now!

Footnote:

* I have been noticing the term “full-frame” being applied to the 35mm digital photography format as if that sensor were some kind of yardstick by which to judge other sensor sizes. These other sensor sizes such as APS-C and Micro Four Thirds are being described as “crop sensors”. Really?

The photographs above have been made with an APS-C sensor camera. That camera has a full-frame sensor, one utilizing the full frame of the APS-C sensor. In one photograph above, the image is not full-frame but has been cropped. The sensor has not been cropped, only its output in this case. The other two images can be described as full-frame though.

The “full-frame” and “full-format” aficionados need to get over this misuse of terms that make the 35mm film format appear to be some sort of unassailable standard. It isn’t. It never was.

Throughout much of the history of analog photography, the 35mm format was regarded as “miniature”, and was often adversely compared to larger formats like 6×4.5cm, 6x6cm, 6x7cm, 6x8cm, 6x9cm and larger on 120 film, or sheet film in the 4″x5″ size, 5″x7″, 8″x10″ and larger sizes. The digital 35mm format is no more the standard or benchmark than 35mm film was.

Zack Arias has a terrific article and video on the subject at DEDPXL, Crop or Crap :: Math or Moment.

Ming Cai Shows How to Make Six Auto Bracket Exposures with Fujifilm X-T2 and X-Pro2 Cameras

One really big thing I have been hoping that Fujifilm will fix in firmware for its Fujifilm X-T2 and X-Pro2 APS-C cameras very soon is their automatic exposure bracketing functionality. Right now both cameras only allow 3 brackets to make landscape, cityscape or interiors High Dynamic Range (HDR) photographs at times when 5 or more brackets are more beneficial. 

Three-bracket handheld HDR processed in Macphun Aurora HDR 2017, exported to DxO ViewPoint 3 for optical correction then exported to Luminar for finishing. I am looking forward to Aurora and Luminar gaining optical and perspective correction functions. Under bright sunlight like this, 3 brackets are enough, but I would definitely want to use 5 brackets or more if shooting the same scene during sunrise or sunset.

Since Macphun released Aurora HDR 2017, currently the most full-featured HDR image merging and editing software available, I have been looking for ever more opportunities to shoot HDR when it will bring something extra to the image that cannot be obtained in just one exposure.

Three-exposure bracket handheld, when three is just enough.

I have been using 3 exposure brackets when handholding the camera to shoot portraits, 3 for landscape photographs handheld and 3 or 5 for close-up still life photographs on a tripod-mounted camera when I need a heightened sense of realism.

As neither the X-Pro2 or X-T2 currently permit 5 or more exposure brackets, I have been relying on my Panasonic GH4 and GX8 cameras for that. Both can make up to 7 exposure brackets. I want the very same ability on my Fujifilm cameras to bring them up to par for HDR.

Meanwhile photographer Ming Cai is sharing a 6-bracket HDR workaround for his Fujifilm X-T2 at his YouTube channel:

Tech Notes:

Riverside and portrait photographs made with Fujifilm X-Pro2, Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens for the landscape and Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens for the portrait which was lit with a Rotolight Neo LED light with barndoors and soft handle, and was held by the subject.

Macphun Luminar Pluto Update Coming on Friday, 16th December

Macphun Luminar, a powerful and promising new image editor and raw processor that debuted earlier this year, is about to receive an update, code named Pluto.

Pluto will add batch processing, dehazing (above), enhancements to the colour temperature filter including an eyedropper, a Golden Hour filter (above) for that soft amber glow at any time of day and the ability to add textures to custom presets.

ss_macphun_luminar_crop_1920px
Macphun Luminar Pluto has gained a number of crop presets including two Facebook formats.

Batch processing in particular is of interest to professional photographers and especially when covering events, and the eyedropper tool will bring Luminar’s colour temperature correction up to par with other professional photography software.

I am looking forward to the dehaze filter for cleaning up smog-tinged harbourside photographs and beachside shots early mornings, and the Golden Hour filter will be very useful on soggy, grey days like today.

The free Pluto update to Macphun Luminar will be released on Friday, 16th December.

Luminar itself is available as a trial version via the Luminar product page, and new purchasers can take advantage of holiday sale bonuses including sky overlays for sky replacement, presets, video tutorial and photography ebooks.

Macphun promises Luminar updates every month or so with dozens of new tools and further improvements in the queue, including Digital Asset Management aka DAM in 2017 as well as a version of Luminar for Windows PCs.

Cam Tech: First Look, Macphun Luminar

Luminar by Macphun is an exciting development in what has amounted to a banner year for photography image editing software. I take a first look at Luminar and list some of the most essential features I’d like to see appear in a future version of Luminar. 

At the time of writing, Luminar was already in version 1.0.2, with more updates on the way soon. This current version seems to have solved some rather odd problems seen when processing X-Trans raw files from Fujifilm cameras like the X-Pro2 and X-T2 in the beta and launch version. Phew!

Affinity Photo Update 1.5.1 Adds Camera and Lens Profiles, Focus Merge, HDR Merge, Batch Processing and More

This year, 2016, has been stellar for new raw processing and image editing software and updates to well-established products like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, and up-and-comers such as Macphun Aurora HDR 2017 and Luminar, Serif Affinity Photo, DxO OpticsPro 11, Capture One Pro 10PixelmatorAlien Skin Exposure X2 and soon-to-appear On1 Photo Raw by On1, Inc. And let’s not forget Photolemur, currently in beta. 

Affinity Photo raw developing with lens corrections applied.
Affinity Photo raw developing with lens corrections applied. Photograph made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 camera and Olympus M. 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R lens.
Affinity Photo 1.5.1 has an excellent HDR merge function and a set of presets including this one, Detailed. Three-bracket HDR image merged from raw files shot on Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R lens.
Having been developed from scratch without years’ worth of legacy code and concepts to build upon, Affinity Photo is fast, contemporary and contains features not usually seen in more traditional image editors. For example, a video-editing vectorscope view. Photograph made with Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens.

Serif has just released its version 1.5.1 update for Affinity Photo and the subset of additions and improvements in its full feature list is a doozy, and too long to cover in depth here.

Affinity Photo’s photographically-oriented additions and improvements include camera and lens profiles for raw processing, HDR merging and 32-bit photo processing, panorama image stitching, focus merging for deep-focus still-life close-up photography, 360-degree editing for immersive interactive images, dust and scratches filter, batch processing, live perspective projection and more.

As Affinity Photo is made for graphic designers as well as photographers, it contains a host of design-oriented features too including close integration with Affinity Designer, Serif’s vector graphics application and the coming Affinity Publisher, its offline and online publishing software.

Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer are made for the Mac and Windows.

Postscript

I have noticed some queries on online photography fora about Affinity Photo’s support for lens and sensor profiles. The folks at Affinity kindly sent me these links:

I am pleased to note that the list of Serif Labs-supported cameras includes the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and X-T2 flagships as well as a vast array of other digital stills and video cameras. The Lensfun list of supported lenses includes seven Fujinon XF zoom and prime lenses, a good start that I hope will grow to encompass all of Fujifilm’s interchangeable lenses.

Macphun Announces Luminar Raw Processing & Image Editing Software

I have been searching for quite some time now for the perfect software for beginners and professionals to use in editing their raw photo files, especially important given I have resumed teaching photography. 

Then an announcement appeared from Macphun, the software company responsible for Aurora HDR, Creative Kit and, in a previous incarnation, the now free Nik Collection of which my favourite is Viveza.

Although I have not seen a beta of Luminar or anything about it yet other than Macphun’s Luminar announcement page, based on the many positive traits of the company’s other software, this has the potential to be one of the best image editors and raw processors on the market.

According to Macphun:

To make a long story short, it is a truly complete photo editing powerhouse. … Luminar pre-order starts on the 2nd of November. And the launch is scheduled for November 17.

Time will tell!

Meanwhile, Macphun has released a sneak peak web page and video.