Gadgets & Gizmos

We're not really writing an anti-Photoshop page here, promise! Photoshop is the top dog with a few idiosyncracies and a monthly payment plan of $14.29 including GST in Australia. It also comes with Lightroom, so it is actually very affordable – the same as a cup of coffee each week. Long live Photoshop!

However, for just $99 you can purchase Skylum's Luminar and it's a one-off purchase. It can also be used in conjunction with Photoshop and Lightroom as a plug-in, so you don't need to transfer across to Luminar completely. And while Luminar offers raw file support, it's not clear what will happen in the medium future as new raw file formats are introduced and whether you may eventually need to purchase a new version of the software to support your new camera's new raw format (which is what you do with Lightroom and Capture One).

However, we're looking at Luminar to replace Photoshop. Can it? Photoshop is highly technical, Luminar is highly accessible. Luminar offers layers and masks like Photoshop, but it's not quite as sophisticated in that, for example, channel masks are not offered (but luminosity masking is).

Luminar appears to offer more than Lightroom, but are we comparing it with plain-vanilla Lightroom, or Lightroom with a series of plug-ins, such as the Nik Software series? Luminar is similar in application to both Capture One and Lightroom, but it has a series of features that are already included.

For instance, Luminar boasts an ‘artificial intelligence’ that enhances your image automatically. Is this a good idea? For photographers learning to edit, it's a great idea because it provides a starting point. However, to leave it at that seems a little boring, so Luminar has a full suite of image enhancement and editing tools, generally applied by a slider control, with the effects easily observed immediately on-screen.

Two features promoted to landscape photographers are the AI Sky Enhancer and the Sun Rays – easy as moving some sliders around.

Luminar also offers a cataloging and file management system, which is important to compete with Lightroom and Capture One, and there are over 60 presets or 'looks' to get you started.

There's a 30-day free trial, so certainly worth investigating.

Find out more at www.skylum.com/luminar

When it comes to editing our photographs, Photoshop has been the leading program for over two decades. However, in terms of popularity, Lightroom must be making a big impact given you can do 80% of what you need to do, without going into Photoshop. How long will it be before you can do everything in Lightroom?

Or in Capture One? The latest version, Capture One 12, offers yet more capabilities with the introduction of luminosity masking as part of its layers menu.

In comparison to Lightroom's adjustment brush and graduated filters, Capture One's adjustment layers are far more user-friendly – and much more similar to the way layers work in Photoshop. The big benefit is that layers can be turned on and off easily in Capture One, whereas in Lightroom it's much more challenging to isolate one of a number of adjustments to see its individual impact.

While Capture One has had adjustment layers for many years, only in version 12 does it offer luminosity masking. It's not as sophisticated as Photoshop or one of the many luminosity masking plug-ins, but it does make creating accurate masks for clearly defined subjects much easier. For instance, isolating a grey seal against a snowy white background is very straightforward – because the tones (the luminosity) in the subject are so different to the tones in the background.

One of the benefits of masks in Capture One is that they are easy to modify, so once you've used the luminosity menu to mask your subject, you can switch to the brush and eraser tools to modify the mask – perhaps removing other areas that have been picked up by the luminosity mask, but are not required.

Other new features include an improved gradient mask, a new radial mask, inclusion of Fujifilm's film simulations and an upgraded interface.

The reality today is you can use Capture One without Photoshop for 90-95% of your work. However, it's not inexpensive with a monthly plan costing $33 (if you commit to at least 12 months, or $39 per month if you don't), or purchasing it outright for $481.

The best way to work out if Capture One is for you is to download the 30-day trial and compare the same raw file processed in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. If you prefer the way Capture One works, you have your answer!

For more information, visit www.captureone.com

With photographers pushing the limits of where they position their cameras, it's no surprise tripod manufacturers are seeing new market opportunities. A great example is Sirui's W-2204 Carbon Fibre Waterproof Tripod. In fact, it's a monopod and tripod in one!

The tripod is protected from water, dirt and dust. In addition, it has a newly designed locking mechanism for comfortable operation and a spirit level for accurate alignment - so you know your camera is level, even if your camera's built-in level is out of alignment!

The tripod tubes are manufactured from 10-layer carbon fibre (which means reduced weight, increased stability and vibration-free performance).

Another special feature of Sirui's W-2204 is that one leg can be removed and used as a monopod. The centre column is also made of two sections of different lengths. The short section can be used with the tripod for ground-level shots. The long section can be used to increase the height of the monopod to 177 cm.

The legs have three ratchet positions and can be folded up by 180° so that the tripod measures just 52 cm when collapsed – and great for attaching to a backpack-style camera bag.

Each leg is made of four sections with three sealed twist locks. Rubber feet and metal spikes ensure that the tripod is stable on any surface.

A stabilising hook on the centre column is a Sirui standard (you hang something heavy from it to give the tripod more stability in windy conditions, for example), as are cold weather grips and a transport bag. The bag strap can also be used as a tripod strap.

Other features include a reversible 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch screw for heads/cameras, weight of 1.7 kg and a maximum carry load of 18 kg.

The tripod offers camera holding heights of 15.5 – 180 cm, while the monopod extends from 48 – 177 cm. RRP $549.

For more details, visit www.sirui-photo.com.au

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