All posts in “optics”

Leica releases the CL Street Kit for all of your decisive moments

Leica’s pricey – but sexy – CL camera is the closest thing you can get to an original portable luxury shooter without spending more than a used Toyota Corolla. The CL, which launched last year, is essentially a pared down M series camera that has gotten rave reviews over the past year. Now, in time for Noel, Leica is offering a Street Kit that includes the CL along with a Leica Summicron-TL 23 mm f/2 lens. This flat pancake lens gives you a “tried and true 35 mm equivalent focal length for the quintessential reportage style of shooting” and should suffice for street shots taken on the wing while wandering the darkened alleyways of certain Central European cities.

Now for the bad news. Leica is traditionally some of the most expensive and best made camera gear on the market and this is no different. While you get a camera that should last you well into the next millennium, you’ll pay a mere $4,195 for the privilege, making it considerably less than the M series but considerably more than the camera on your phone. The package a saves you a little over $800 if you purchased each item separately.

That said, it’s nice to see a bundle like this still exists for a solid, beautifully-wrought camera, a nice lens, and even a leather carrying strap. Besides, isn’t the creation of photographic art worth the price of admission? As noted Leica lover Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “Au fond, ce n’est pas la photo en soi qui m’interesse. Ce que je veux c’est de capter une fraction de seconde du reel.” Preach, brother.

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?

Researchers find a new material for quantum computing

Rumors of commercial quantum computing systems have been coming hot and heavy these past few years but there are still a number of issues to work out in the technology. For example, researchers at the Moscow Institute Of Physics And Technology have begun using silicon carbine to create a system to release single photons in ambient i.e. room temperature conditions. To maintain security quantum computers need to output quantum bits – essentially single photons. This currently requires a supercooled material that proves to be unworkable in the real world. From the release:

Photons — the quanta of light — are the best carriers for quantum bits. It is important to emphasize that only single photons can be used, otherwise an eavesdropper might intercept one of the transmitted photons and thus get a copy of the message. The principle of single-photon generation is quite simple: An excited quantum system can relax into the ground state by emitting exactly one photon. From an engineering standpoint, one needs a real-world physical system that reliably generates single photons under ambient conditions. However, such a system is not easy to find. For example, quantum dots could be a good option, but they only work well when cooled below -200 degrees Celsius, while the newly emerged two-dimensional materials, such as graphene, are simply unable to generate single-photons at a high repetition rate under electrical excitation.

Researchers used silicon carbide in early LEDs and has been used to create electroluminescent electronics in the past. This new system will allow manufacturers to place silicon carbide emitters right on the quantum computer chips, a massive improvement over the complex systems used today.

“Using their theory, the researchers have shown how a single-photon emitting diode based on silicon carbide can be improved to emit up to several billion photons per second. That is exactly what one needs to implement quantum cryptography protocols at data transfer rates on the order of 1 Gbps,” the researchers write. “Silicon carbide-based single-photon sources are compatible with the CMOS technology, which is a standard for manufacturing electronic integrated circuits. This makes silicon carbide by far the most promising material for building practical ultrawide-bandwidth unconditionally secure data communication lines.”

There is no timeline for commercialization of the technology but given the interest in quantum computing we can expect these little chips to shoot out single photons sometime soon.

The Ring Floodlight Cam is an outdoor security slam dunk

A good home security camera is easy to install while offering surprising peace of mind. The Ring Floodlight Cam, $249 and available now, offers both.

The camera mounts where your old floodlight would have been – if you have a standard outdoor electrical box it will connect right into your current setup and it even worked with my older “pancake” style electric box – and it connects to your network via Wi-Fi. It works flawlessly right out of the box and all you have to remember is to not turn off the light switch (thankfully they include a sticker for your switch). Once it’s set up you can make the cam react to motion and light up when it senses an intruder nearby or simply stay on all night, maintaining vigil over your car or fruit trees. It also includes a night vision mode that keeps an eye on things even in the dark.

The system will send notifications when it senses motion and a $30/year monitoring plan will keep video for up to 60 days. The video, as you can see below, is good enough to make out motion and possibly identify people but it doesn’t quite offer enough resolution to read a license plate a few feet away.

Finally, like other Ring devices, you can speak to folks who are approaching the light through the app and even set off a siren that, while loud, will probably get swallowed in the sea of city noise. It is, however, nice to know it’s there.

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After using a number of these cameras, including the Netatmo Presence, I’m pleased with the durability of the Ring Cam. While it doesn’t have Netatmo’s sci-fi styling, the floodlight looks just like what it purports to be: a big light for dark places. Further, because there is no internal SD card the Ring is completely watertight, an issue that came up when I was running the Presence.

Ring did everything right. Unlike other camera solutions that are either standalone or must be installed into new construction, the Floodlight Cam is backwards compatible and very well made. The entire system installed quickly and works flawlessly (so far) although time will tell if it can survive Brooklyn rainstorms.

If you’re in the market for a floodlight and high design isn’t a concern this is the way to go.

Fujifilm’s X-H1 camera adds top video chops to X Series still shooting prowess

Fujifilm’s mirrorless lineup of X Series cameras has an excellent reputation, especially thanks to their ability to produce great-looking images comparable to full-frame competitors from crop sensors due to their unique image processing. Among still photographers, the X-Pro 2 and X-T2 especially have earned top marks and even replaced the standard Canon and Nikon gear of more than a few pros. Now, Fujifilm is introducing the X-H1, a brand new top-tier camera in the X lineup that could make converts of more than a few more, including those that want great video capabilities from their mirrorless kit.

Already, the X-T2 and X-Pro 2 offer 4K video capture, but the X-H1 is designed to be better all around at recording video, thanks to in-body image stabilization (a first for the X Series line), as well as a brand new flicker reduction feature for dealing with fluorescent and mercury lighting, DCI 4K format recording for maximum editing flexibility when working on captured footage, and with the ability to combine stabilization features with certain Fuji lenses for an extra half-a-stop of stabilization.

The IS features alone are likely to turn heads for Fuji fans and people considering the X Series over competitors including Sony and more traditional DSLRs from the likes of Canon and Nikon. Fuji is promising 5 stops of stabilization form the in-body IS alone, which includes a dual-processor with a range of accelerometers and gyros for use with nay of Fuji’s XF and XC lenses. As mentioned, when working together with the built-in IS features of certain lenses, you’ll also get an additional half-stop of compensation. Fujifilm is also touting a redesigned mechanical shutter with a new spring mechanism to decrease resulting vibration, and the camera has an electronic shutter for avoiding any micro vibrations altogether.

Other movie-making features unique to the X-H1 include a new film simulation mode designed to mimic “cinematic” film, all well as a 120 fps 1080p slow-mo shooting mode. The anti-flicker features mentioned above will help for shooting in less than ideal indoor shooting, and it works with burst shots, too. Finally, a titling touch-panel LCD is good for framing up shots, both in motion and when shooting stills.

The X-H1 sounds like it’ll also be the most durable of Fujfilm’s X Series cameras, with dust and weather-resistance, as well as a magnesium body that’s 25 percent thicker than the X-T2’s for maximum protection of the insides. It’s still relatively compact, especially compared to bulky DSLRs, but it also includes a new, smaller LCD display on the top of the camera that looks like the one on Fuji’s digital medium format GFX 50S for seeing your shot settings at a glance.

X-H1 has the X-Trans 24.3 APS-C CMOS III sensor of the X-T2 and X-Pro 2, as well as the X-Processor Pro image processing engine, as well as on-baord Bluetooth connectivity. It sounds like a tremendous camera with a lot of potential to rival not only all others in the X Series lineup both for still shooting and for movies, but also to maybe topple some of the leading other camera makers. Price plays a factor there, too: It’s retailing for $1,899.95 when it goes on sales March 1 in North America for the body only, which makes it Fujiflm’s most expensive APS-C camera, but also potentially a much better deal in terms of value for money compared to top offerings from many of its closest competitors.

At the same time as Fuji is launching this camera, it’s also introducing new ultra-compact cinema lenses designed for shooting video on X Series bodies, including an 18-55 constant T2.9 aperture lens, and a 50-135 constant T2.9 aperture offering. Both of these should make it possible to get terrific, continuous depth of field across the zoom range while maintaining exposure and sharpness. It’s clear Fujifilm wants to woo crossover photographers who shoot video as well as stills, and this looks like a tough combo to beat.

I’m a big X Series fan myself, and often shoot an X-Pro 2 or X100F depending on what I need in the moment, but I still primarily rely on Canon for work: The X-H1 looks like it could finally convince to go all-in on Fuji’s system for good.