Soviet camera company Zenit is reborn!

Soviet camera company Zenit is reborn!
If you’re familiar with 20th century Soviet camera clones you’ll probably be familiar with Zenit. Created by Krasnogorsky Zavod, the Nikon/Leica clones were a fan favorite behind the Iron Curtain and, like the Lomo, was a beloved brand that just doesn’t get its due. The firm stopped making cameras in 2005 but in its long history it defined Eastern European photography for decades and introduced the rifle-like Photo Sniper camera looked like something out of James Bond.
Now, thanks to a partnership with Leica, Zenit is back and is here to remind you that in Mother Russia, picture takes you.
The camera is based on the Leica M Type 240 platform but has been modified to look and act like an old Zenit. It comes with a Zenitar 35 mm f/1.0 lens that is completely Russian-made. You can use it for bokeh and soft-focus effects without digital processing.
The Leica M platform offers a 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor, a 3-inch LCD screen, HD video recording, live view focusing, a 0.68x viewfinder, ISO 6400, and 3fps continuous shooting. It will be available this year in the US, Europe, and Russia.
How much does the privilege of returning to the past cost? An estimated $5,900-$7,000 if previous incarnations of the Leica M are any indication. I have a few old film Zenits lying around the house, however. I wonder I can stick in some digital guts and create the ultimate Franken-Zenit?

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Watch this tiny robot crawl through a wet stomach

Watch this tiny robot crawl through a wet stomach

While this video shows a tiny robot from the City University of Hong Kong doing what amounts to a mitzvah, we can all imagine a future in which this little fellow could stab you in the kishkes.
This wild little robot uses electromagnetic force to swim or flop back and forth to pull itself forward through harsh environments. Researchers can remotely control it from outside of the body.
“Most animals have a leg-length to leg-gap ratio of 2:1 to 1:1. So we decided to create our robot using 1:1 proportion,” said Dr. Shen Yajing of CityU’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.
The legs are .65 mm long and pointed, reducing friction. The robot is made of “silicon material called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) embedded with magnetic particles which enables it to be remotely controlled by applying electromagnetic force.” It can bend almost 90 degrees to climb over obstacles.
The researchers have sent the little fellow through multiple rough environments, including this wet model of a stomach. It also can carry medicines and drop them off as needed.
“The rugged surface and changing texture of different tissues inside the human body make transportation challenging. Our multi-legged robot shows an impressive performance in various terrains and hence open wide applications for drug delivery inside the body,” said Professor Wang Zuankai.
The team hopes to create a biodegradable robot in the future, which would allow the little fellow to climb down your esophagus and into your guts and then, when it has dropped its payload, dissolve into nothingness or come out your tuchus.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

GoPro’s stock price opens over 10% on stock upgrade

GoPro’s stock price opens over 10% on stock upgrade
GoPro’s stock price is on a bit of rebound this morning. The stock opened at $7.36, up from its previous close of $6.62, and is continuing to climb on news that Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz is now bullish on the action camera maker. He cites optimism around GoPro’s refreshed product line.
Uerkwitz changed his rating on the company from perform to outperform and issued a stock price target of $9, up 36 percent from GoPro’s most recent close of $6.62. GoPro last traded at $9 a share in November 2017.
GoPro’s latest products bring improved mechanics and additional features to the action cameras. The new flagship model retails for $400 and includes built-in stabilization and the ability to live-stream video to the internet. The company also introduced two less expensive cameras and cancelled the GoPro Session product line. The new offering is streamlined and cohesive.
The Oppenheimer analyst seemingly agrees, writing to clients, “With compelling features such as live streaming and gimbal-like image stabilization, we believe the products are compelling,” and adding, “In summary, overlooked GoPro should be a buy.”

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Alexa is reported down across Europe

Alexa is reported down across Europe
Reports are coming in that Amazon’s Alexa service is down in parts of UK, Spain, Germany and Austria. According to Down Detector and Twitter, the problem started surfacing around 8am local time and still continues. Interestingly, some users are reporting the issue is isolated to Echo Dot 2 models and while other Echo devices are still working. Sometimes. Other reports say everything is down. When users try to talk to their Echo devices, Alexa will report an error with connectivity and spin a red ring around the top.
Because of this outage, users will have to use wall switches to turn on lights, press buttons to make coffee and look outside to assess the weather. Sucks. I know.
As Engadget points out in their coverage, the outage could stem from Amazon Web Service issues at the company’s Ireland facility. Amazon is now reporting that those issues have been resolved so there’s a chance Alexa will be coming back online shortly.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

See the new iPhone’s ‘focus pixels’ up close

See the new iPhone’s ‘focus pixels’ up close
The new iPhones have excellent cameras, to be sure. But it’s always good to verify Apple’s breathless onstage claims with first-hand reports. We have our own review of the phones and their photography systems, but teardowns provide the invaluable service of letting you see the biggest changes with your own eyes — augmented, of course, by a high-powered microscope.
We’ve already seen iFixit’s solid-as-always disassembly of the phone, but TechInsights gets a lot closer to the device’s components — including the improved camera of the iPhone XS and XS Max.
Although the optics of the new camera are as far as we can tell unchanged since the X, the sensor is a new one and is worth looking closely at.
Microphotography of the sensor die show that Apple’s claims are borne out and then some. The sensor size has increased from 32.8mm2 to 40.6mm2 — a huge difference despite the small units. Every tiny bit counts at this scale. (For comparison, the Galaxy S9 is 45mm2, and the soon-to-be-replaced Pixel 2 is 25mm2.)

The pixels themselves also, as advertised, grew from 1.22 microns (micrometers) across to 1.4 microns — which should help with image quality across the board. But there’s an interesting, subtler development that has continually but quietly changed ever since its introduction: the “focus pixels.”
That’s Apple’s brand name for phase detection autofocus (PDAF) points, found in plenty of other devices. The basic idea is that you mask off half a sub-pixel every once in a while (which I guess makes it a sub-sub-pixel), and by observing how light enters these half-covered detectors you can tell whether something is in focus or not.
Of course, you need a bunch of them to sense the image patterns with high fidelity, but you have to strike a balance: losing half a pixel may not sound like much, but if you do it a million times, that’s half a megapixel effectively down the drain. Wondering why all the PDAF points are green? Many camera sensors use an “RGBG” sub-pixel pattern, meaning there are two green sub-pixels for each red and blue one — it’s complicated why. But there are twice as many green sub-pixels and therefore the green channel is more robust to losing a bit of information.Apple introduced PDAF in the iPhone 6, but as you can see in TechInsights’ great diagram, the points are pretty scarce. There’s one for maybe every 64 sub-pixels, and not only that, they’re all masked off in the same orientation: either the left or right half gone.
The 6S and 7 Pluses saw the number double to one PDAF point per 32 sub-pixels. And in the 8 Plus, the number is improved to one per 20 — but there’s another addition: now the phase detection masks are on the tops and bottoms of the sub-pixels as well. As you can imagine, doing phase detection in multiple directions is a more sophisticated proposal, but it could also significantly improve the accuracy of the process. Autofocus systems all have their weaknesses, and this may have addressed one Apple regretted in earlier iterations.
Which brings us to the XS (and Max, of course), in which the PDAF points are now one per 16 sub-pixels, having increased the frequency of the vertical phase detection points so that they’re equal in number to the horizontal one. Clearly the experiment paid off and any consequent light loss has been mitigated or accounted for.
I’m curious how the sub-pixel patterns of Samsung, Huawei and Google phones compare, and I’m looking into it. But I wanted to highlight this interesting little evolution. It’s an interesting example of the kind of changes that are hard to understand when explained in simple number form — we’ve doubled this, or there are a million more of that — but which make sense when you see them in physical form.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Big cameras and big rivalries take center stage at Photokina

Big cameras and big rivalries take center stage at Photokina
Photokina is underway in London and the theme of the show is “large.” Unusually for an industry that is trending towards the compact, the cameras on stage at this show sport big sensors, big lenses, and big price tags. But though they may not be for the average shooter, these cameras are impressive pieces of hardware that hint at things to come for the industry as a whole.
The most exciting announcement is perhaps that from Panasonic, which surprised everyone with the S1 and S1R, a pair of not-quite-final full frame cameras that aim to steal a bit of the thunder from Canon and Nikon’s entries into the mirrorless full frame world.
Panasonic’s cameras have generally had impressive video performance, and these are no exception. They’ll shoot 4K at 60 FPS, which in a compact body like that shown is going to be extremely valuable to videographers. Meanwhile the S1R, with 47 megapixels to the S1’s 24, will be optimized for stills. Both will have dual card slots (which Canon and Nikon declined to add to their newest gear), weather sealing, and in-body image stabilization.

Nikon embraces a mirrorless future with Z series cameras and lenses

The timing and inclusion of so many desired features indicates either that Panasonic was clued in to what photographers wanted all along, or they waited for the other guys to move and then promised the things their competitors wouldn’t or couldn’t. Whatever the case, the S1 and S1R are sure to make a splash, whatever their prices.
Panasonic was also part of an announcement that may have larger long-term implications: a lens mount collaboration with Leica and Sigma aimed at maximum flexibility for the emerging mirrorless full-frame and medium format market. L-mount lenses will work on any of the group’s devices (including the S1 and S1R) and should help promote usage across the board.
Leica, for its part, announced the S3, a new version of its medium format S series that switches over to the L-mount system as well as bumping a few specs. No price yet but if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.
Sigma had no camera to show, but announced it would be taking its Foveon sensor tech to full frame and that upcoming bodies would be using the L mount as well.
This Fuji looks small here, but it’s no lightweight. It’s only small in comparison to previous medium format cameras.
Fujifilm made its own push on the medium format front with the new GFX 50R, which sticks a larger than full frame (but smaller than “traditional” medium format) sensor inside an impressively small body. That’s not to say it’s insubstantial: Fuji’s cameras are generally quite hefty, and the 50R is no exception, but it’s much smaller and lighter than its predecessor and, surprisingly, costs $2,000 less at $4,499 for the body.
The theme, as you can see, is big and expensive. But the subtext is that these cameras are not only capable of extraordinary imagery, but they don’t have to be enormous to do it. This combination of versatility with portability is one of the strengths of the latest generation of cameras, and clearly Fuji, Panasonic and Leica are eager to show that it extends to the pro-level, multi-thousand dollar bodies as well as the consumer and enthusiast lineup.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

The Horological Machine 9 puts a rocket on your wrist

The Horological Machine 9 puts a rocket on your wrist
If you’ve been keeping up with watchmaker MB&F you’ll be familiar with their Horological Machine series, watches that are similar in construction but wildly different when it comes to design. This watch, the HM9, is called the Flow and hearkens back to roadsters, jets and 1950s space ships.

The watch, limited to a run of 33 pieces, shows the time on a small forward-facing face in one of the cones. The other two cones contain dual balance wheels. The balance wheel is what causes the watch to tick and controls the energy released by the main spring. Interestingly, MB&F added two to this watch in an effort to ensure accuracy. “The twin balance wheels of the HM9 engine feed two sets of chronometric data to a central differential for an averaged reading,” they wrote. “The balances are individually impulsed and spatially separated to ensure that they beat at their own independent cadences of 2.5Hz (18,000bph) each. This is important to ensure a meaningful average, just as how a statistically robust mathematical average should be derived from discrete points of information.”

There are two versions, called the Road and Air, and they cost a mere $182,000 (tax not included). Considering nearly every piece of this is made by hand — from the case to the curved crystal to the intricate movement — you’re essentially paying a team of craftsman a yearly wage just to build your watch.
While it’s no Apple Watch, the MB&F HM9 is a unique and weird little timepiece. While it’s obviously not for everyone, with enough cash and a little luck you can easily join a fairly exclusive club of HM9 owners.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

New tech uses Wi-Fi to count people through walls

New tech uses Wi-Fi to count people through walls

Whether you’re trying to figure out how many students are attending your lectures or how many evil aliens have taken your Space Force brethren hostage, Wi-Fi can now be used to count them all.
The system, created by researchers at UC Santa Barbara, uses a single Wi-Fi router outside of the room to measure attenuation and signal drops. From the release:
The transmitter sends a wireless signal whose received signal strength (RSSI) is measured by the receiver. Using only such received signal power measurements, the receiver estimates how many people are inside the room — an estimate that closely matches the actual number. It is noteworthy that the researchers do not do any prior measurements or calibration in the area of interest; their approach has only a very short calibration phase that need not be done in the same area.
This means that you could simply walk up to a wall and press a button to count, with a high degree of accuracy, how many people are walking around. The system can measure up to 20 people in its current form.
The system uses a mathematical model to “see” people in the room based on signal strength and attenuation. The system uses off-the-shelf components and they’ve tested it in multiple locations and found that their total accuracy is two people or less with only one Wi-Fi device nearby.
Bodies and objects essentially absorb Wi-Fi as they move around in rooms, allowing the system to find discrete things in the space. Sadly it can’t yet map their position in the room, a feature that could be even more helpful in the future.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Technology doesn’t have to be disposable

Technology doesn’t have to be disposable
Dust off your old Bose 501 speakers. New devices are coming that will give traditional audio equipment a voice.
Amazon recently announced a mess of new Echo devices and among the lot are several small, diminutive add-ons. These models did not have a smart speaker built into the devices but rather turned other speakers into smart speakers.
Sonos has a similar device. Called the Sonos Amp, the device connects the Sonos service to audio receivers and can drive traditional speakers. There’s a new version coming out in 2019 that adds Alexa and AirPlay 2.
This movement back towards traditional speaker systems could be a boon for audio companies reeling from the explosion of smart speakers. Suddenly, consumers do not have to choose between the ease of use in an inexpensive smart speaker and the vastly superior audio quality of a pair of high-end speakers. Consumers can have voice services and listen to Cake, too.
Echo devices are everywhere in my house. They’re in three bedrooms, my office, our living room, my workshop and outside on the deck. But besides the Tap in the workshop and Echo in the kitchen, every Echo is connected to an amp and speakers. For instance, in my office, I have an Onkyo receiver and standalone Onkyo amp that powers a pair of Definitive Technology bookshelf speakers. The bedrooms have various speakers connected to older A/V receivers. Outside there’s a pair of Yamaha speakers powered by cheap mini-amp. Each system sounds dramatically better than any smart speaker available.
There’s a quiet comfort in building an audio system: To pick out each piece and connect everything; to solder banana clips to speaker wire and ensure the proper power is flowing to each speaker.
Amazon and Google built one of the best interfaces for audio in Alexa and Google Assistant. But that could change in the future. In the end, Alexa and Google Assistant are just another component in an audio stack, and to some consumers, it makes sense to treat them as a turntable or equalizer — a part that can be swapped out in the future.
The world of consumer electronics survives because of the disposable nature of gadgets. There’s always something better coming soon. Cell phones last a couple of years and TVs last a few years longer. But bookshelf speakers purchased today will still sound great in 20 years.
There’s a thriving secondary market for vintage audio equipment, and unlike old computer equipment, buyers want this gear actually to use it.
If you see a pair of giant Bose speakers at a garage sale, buy them and use them. Look at the prices for used Bose 901 speakers: they’re the cost of three Apple HomePods. Look at ShopGoodwill.com — Goodwill’s fantastic auction site. It’s filled with vintage audio equipment with some pieces going for multiple thousands of dollars. Last year’s smart speakers are on there, too, available for pennies on the dollar.
For the most part, audio equipment will last generations. Speakers can blow and wear out. Amps can get hit by surges and components can randomly fail. It happens, but most of the time, speakers survive.
This is where Amazon and Sonos come in. Besides selling standalone speakers, both companies have products available that adds services to independent speaker systems. A person doesn’t have to ditch their Pioneer stack to gain access to Alexa. They have to plug in a new component, and in the future, if something better is available, that component can be swapped out for something else.
Amazon first introduced this ability in the little Echo Dot. The $50 speaker has a 3.5mm output that makes it easy to add to a speaker system. A $35 version is coming soon that lacks the speaker found in the Dot and features a 3.5mm output. It’s set to be the easiest and cheapest way to add voice services to speakers.
Amazon and Sonos also have higher-end components nearing release. The Amazon Echo Link features digital and discrete audio outputs that should result in improved audio. The Amazon Echo Amp adds an amplifier to power a set of passive speakers directly. Sonos offers something similar in the upcoming Sonos Amp with 125 watts per channel and HDMI to allow it to be connected to a TV.
These add-on products give consumers dramatically more options than a handful of plastic smart speakers.
There are several ways to take advantage of these components. The easiest is to look at powered speakers. These speakers have built-in amplifiers and unlike traditional speakers, plug into an outlet for power. Look at models from Edifier, Klipsch or Yamaha. Buyers just need to connect a few cables to have superior sound to most smart speakers.
Another option is to piece together a component system. Pick any A/V receiver and add a couple of speakers and a subwoofer. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Small $30 amps like from Lepy or Pyle can drive a set of speakers — that’s what I use to drive outdoor speakers. Or, look at Onkyo or Denon A/V surround sound receivers and build a home theater system and throw in an Amazon Echo Link on top. As for speakers Polk, Klipsch, Definitive Technology, KEF, B&W, and many more produce fantastic speakers that will still work years after Amazon stops making Echo devices.
Best of all, both options are modular and allows owners to modify the system overtime. Want to add a turntable? Just plug it in. That’s not possible with a Google Home.
Technology doesn’t have to be disposable.
These add-on products offer the same solution as Roku or Fire TV devices — just plug in this device to add new tricks to old gear. When it gets old, don’t throw out the TV (or in this case speakers), just plug in the latest dongle.
Sure, it’s easy to buy a Google Home Max, and the speaker sounds great, too. For some people, it’s the perfect way to get Spotify in their living space. It’s never been easier to listen to music or NPR.
There are a few great options for smart speakers. The $350 Apple HomePod sounds glorious though Siri lacks a lot of smarts of Alexa or Google Assistant. I love the Echo Dot for its utility and price point, and in a small space, it sounds okay. For my money, the best smart speaker is the Sonos One. It sounds great, is priced right, and Sonos has the best ecosystem available.
I’m excited about Amazon’s Echo and Sub bundle. For $249, buyers get two Echos and the new Echo Sub. The software forces the two Echos to work in stereo while the new subwoofer supplements the low-end. I haven’t heard the system yet, but I expect it to sound as good as the Google Home Max or Apple HomePod and the separate component operation should help the audio fill larger spaces.
Sonos has similar systems available. The fantastic Sonos One speaker can be used as a standalone speaker, part of a multiroom system, or as a surround speaker with other Sonos One speakers and the Sonos Beam audio bar. To me, Sonos is compelling because of their ecosystem and tendency to have a longer product refresh cycle. In the past, Sonos has been much slower to roll out new products but instead added services to existing products. The company seems to respect the owners of its products rather than forcing them to buy new products to gain new abilities.
In the end, though, smart speakers from Apple, Sonos, Google or Amazon will stop working. Eventually, the company will stop supporting the services powering the speakers and owners will throw the speakers in the trash. It’s depressing in the same way Spotify is depressing. Your grandkids are not going to dig through your digital Spotify milk crate. When the service is gone, the playlists are gone.
That’s the draw of component audio equipment. A turntable purchased in the ’70s could still work today. Speakers bought during the first dot-com boom will still pound when the cryptocurrency bubble pops. As for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, to me, it makes sense to treat it as another component in a larger system and enjoy it while it lasts.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Watch this self-solving Rubik’s cube march its way across a table

Watch this self-solving Rubik’s cube march its way across a table

This wild, 3D-printed self-solving Rubik’s cube is amazing. To make it work, a Japanese inventor used servo motors and Arduino boards to actuate the cube as it solves itself. Sadly, there isn’t much of a build description available but it looks to be very compact and surprisingly fast.
There is a description of the project on DMM-Make and you can watch the little cube scoot around a table as it solves itself in less than a minute. The creator also built the Human Controller, a cute system for controlling a human as they walk down the street, and the Human Crane Game which is equally inexplicable. If this Ru-bot is real and ready for prime time it could be an amazing Kickstarter.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch