If you seen my Leash by Peak Design review, you would have seen that I really like it and plan to use it from now on as my main strap. The Cuff is in many ways very similar. It uses the same great material and attachment loops. You get the same versatility of how to connect it to the camera or to anything else. It’s a very practical if you don’t want to use the full strap, and you still want to have the camera attached to you body.

cuff-01

All this is great and I would love this product, if there wasn’t one major flaw. The cuff is too short. It is so short that it was absolutely not usable for me. It didn’t even look like the box shots. As I though there is some problem there, I contacted Peak design, to get some explanations.

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And I got my reply. There was a series of cuff made, which was shorter. And due to a design flaw, they are too short for most people. Peak Design offered to send me a new one, with a regular size, so I have to wait for it now.

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Overall currently the cuff is not usable for me. I have to wait for a new one to test it. I presume it would be very practical and useful in certain cases, but hard to say now.

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My suggestion is,  if you buy it in a shop, try it out first, so you don’t end up with a wrong lenghts. If you already bought it, and it’s too short, try to contact Peak Design support. I will be updating this review once I have the correct length one.

For more information, please visit the Peak design site.

View all my other reviews here.

Every photographer needs a good way to show off his photos. The blog is great for the background story, for a chronological view of how the photographer evolves, but it’s not suitable for a portfolio so much. And that’s where Smugmug comes in play.

I’ve been using Smugmug as my portfolio and picture host for over three years now. It one of the services I use the most in sharing my photos. There are different areas one has to take into account with a service like this, and there are part that I like and that I don’t like. So let’s take a look at them.

smugmug-1

Customisation

Since the last update, it’s very easy to customize your portfolio. Smugmug includes a nice editor and a good set of page elements you can put together to customize your site. Parts as menus, links, images, dividers and more can be just dragged into position and then with few settings tweaked to fit your site. It’s also very nice that you can create different looks without altering your live site, so you can experiment as much as you want. For advanced users you can also go into the html code and create you own page elements.

As I said this is easy to work with, but not without it’s fault. One thing that really initiates me when I customize my site is, that when I place an element onto the page, set the width (for instance 20%) and then place a second element next to it, the editor will set both to 50%. I hate this, because each time I setup my elements, just one click can reset all my settings. Good thing that usually you don’t need to customize it that often.

smugmug-3Customisation interface
smugmug-7Page preview with different theme

Galleries and photos

The photos look great on Smugmug. If you need you can upload full size images and Smugmug will create all the sizes for you. You can also change the look of galleries, have unlisted galleries, have password protected galleries, have Smugmug automatically adding a watermark (depends on the service plan you have activated), have smart galleries, which are populated based on criteria you set and much more. I love being able to create a password protected unlisted gallery to be able to send just a link to a client.

I personally use only one gallery. I used to have multiple, based on the place I took the photo at, but I than moved that to my blog. But still if I ever have time, I will create those as smart galleries.

smugmug-2Default gallery view
smugmug-6Gallery security settings

Reliability

There are two parts to reliability. Let’s look at the good part first. In all the years I’ve been using Smugmug, there was’t a single day when my photos were not accessible. The site was always up and also my blog always displayed all my Smugmug photos without problems. So the visitors always saw the photos that they should see.

On the other side, the one more in the background, I had problems with the site. They newer persisted for long, but they return from time to time. It happened to me that I was not able to upload new photos, that photo thumbnails were not generated, that uploader didn’t load at all, the page constantly logs me out of my account (this one happens a lot), that the android app refuses to refresh and few more. You could think that there is something with my internet connection or my computer, but in the time I been using Smugmug, I changed my computer, I changed the operating system I use, I changed the browser and I been using Smugmug also from other PCs, and it still happens. After the last updates they made, the issues pop up less often, but they are still there from time to time.

smugmug-4Available themes
smugmug-5Photo organizer

Other features and plans

Smugmug offers multiple plans, each one with different pricing. The one to choose is based a lot if you want to use Smugmug to sell prints. As I don’t do that, I use the Power plan, as that gives me the best price/features ratio. But if you want to use also that, Smugmug allows to use multiple printing companies, customize shopping carts and more.

Overall I really like Smugmug. Even with the few bugs I meet with there, I still really suggest you give it a try, and I think that speaks for itself. It is and for a long time to come will be the home for all my photos.

You can try Smugmug for free for a month, but I think you will stay with it once you try :) You can go to the signup page and see all the predefined themes here and you can see my Smugmug page under www.hdrshooter.net.

View all my other reviews here.

For a longer time I’ve been looking for a replacement for my camera strap. As a landscape photographer, I use it very rarely, but I also didn’t wanted to be without one for those few occasions when I need it (usually just to hold the camera for safety). So I wanted something that can be easily detached and reattached to the camera. As I was ordering the Capture Camera clip v2 from Peak design, I also took the Leash with it.
leash-4

My impressions with it are very positive. The material is great to the touch and very soft. It glides very nicely across the clothing (as its the same material as seat-belts) and feels very strong. The attachment loops are around the right size, so they are not in the way if you leave them on the camera. The attachment feels secure and it’s not so easy do detach. I actually like that, as it should be harder to detach it accidentally. The length is also more then adequate. You can expand the leash from 48cm up to 152cm, with the anchors being rated to hold up to 45kg.

leash-02
leash-2

I would not use this strap to hang my camera from my neck. The strap is just too thin for that. Maybe with addition of some padding this could be OK. On the other hand, having it hanging across a shoulder is much better. With my Canon 5D mark II it was quite comfortable. As I said, the material glides very nicely across clothing, so moving the camera back and forth is also very smooth.

leash-06
leash-5

You get 4 attachment loops with the leash. This are meant to be attached to the camera, the leash itself, your backpack or anything else. I like this approach, as you can attach you camera to anything. I can think of many times when I wanted to secure my camera to the railing, or just have it connected to my belt so I don’t have to fear it falling down from a cliff. It also works nicely with the Camera clip v2, as that special holes for the loops to be attached.

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Overall I like it very much and it will replace my old strap permanently for now. This should have been a Leach & Cuff review, but I have some issues with the Cuff, so I will get to that in a separate review.

For more information, please visit the Peak design site.

View all my other reviews here.

Your need for noise reduction depends very much on the way you process your photos. Especially HDR processing can create an enormous amount of noise, which has to be dealt with. There are different ways you can do this and I think Imagenomic is one of the best.
noise-1
Imagenomic Noiseware gives you a big amount of sliders you can push around to remove noise, but in the years I’ve been using it, I never used one. I bet that will make the results better, but the results you get just using the first two under Noise level are good enough in almost all cases.

I also never use it at strong settings. The values go from -20 to +20 and I usually don’t go above 0 for most of my photos. In the sample screenshots I included different situations with different settings.
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Recently with Lightroom noise reduction getting much better, the need for a separate noise reduction plugins was not that big. But for some photos, Lightroom can remove very much detail when removing noise. Noiseware can have better results there. I personally use both, Lightroom noise reduction by weaker noise, Imagenomic by stronger noise. Sometimes even both, Lightroom for the initial noise reduction and Imagenomic for finishing touches.
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Btw. same as with all noise reduction, be careful not to overdo it. It can remove photo detail and also introduce color banding into your photos.

You can find more information on the plugin on the Imagenomic Noiseware site.

View all my other reviews here.

As plugins go, this one creates a very particular effect. I think you all have seen photos, where the lights or the sun look like starts. This can be usually achieved in the camera, by using a smaller aperture. But what if you don’t get the look you wanted, or you had to use a bigger aperture, as you needed a shorter exposure time. In that case, this plugin can help you.

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Topaz Star Effects will create a star from any bright area in you photo. You can specify the look, color, brightness, opacity and many more. You can also brush it only on the places you want it to be applied, or have it applied based on the strength of the light. It also can create a light glow, or a sun flare.

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There are many presets, but I find the they create just to strong of an effect. They are good for a start, but you will probably go and change the settings right away.

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Overall I like the look of the starts, even if I don’t tend to use them. If you need this kind of effects in your work (maybe you are creating and add for diamonds and you want to add few sparkles here and there) or you just like the look, I suggest you try it out.

For additional information please visit the Topaz Star Effects site. And if you want to buy it, between the December 10th and December 31st 2013, you can use the code “decstar” for a 50% discount.

View all my other reviews here.

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