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.

This DIY Enigma machine fits inside a pocket watch

The year is 1940. Through the use of arcane atomic technologies, the Axis have brought back modern technology from the year 2018. Their main prize? This amazing Enigma Pocket Watch. This tiny watch, created by a maker calling himself asciimation, uses an Arduino Pro Micro and a small OLED screen to recreate the Enigma machine in pure code.

Asciimation previously built an Enigma wristwatch and he is working on an 3D-printed Enigma machine. The Enigma was a seemingly unbreakable encoding machine used by the Germans during World War II and was about the size of a small briefcase. Stuffing all of the logic into a tiny watch case – of WWII vintage – is an amazing feat.

Luckily the aforementioned time travel device was never built and this wild little pocket watch never made it into enemy hands but we can only imagine the havoc it would wreak if some Panzer captain somewhere had one of these on his belt. You can read all about the build on Asciimation’s site.

Duet Display 2 uses hardware acceleration to catch up with Luna Display

Duet Display is an app that lets you turn your iPad into a second Mac monitor. And the team behind it just released a major update that makes it much more efficient — it consumes less CPU resources and is now recognized as a true external display.

If you’ve used Duet Display over the past few years, you may have seen a change that made it worse, not better. At some point, Apple updated macOS and broke Duet Display’s method.

Duet Display had to use AirPlay as a fallback method. It made the app much less versatile as you were restricted to a handful of 16:9 resolutions with black bars.

But this is a thing of the past as Duet Display found a way to leverage GPU acceleration. It means that your iPad now appears as a display in macOS settings. It also should be more energy-efficient. In my experience, it’s now much closer to a normal external display. If you’re traveling and need a lot of screen real estate, it’s a good solution.

Luna Display has been able to do the same thing using a hardware dongle. Duet Display is now catching up with its competitor by releasing this update.

Version 2.0 is a free update. Make sure to download the latest version on your iPad and your Mac. For new users, Duet Display costs $10. You can optionally pay $20 or $25 per year for additional features, such as wireless connectivity and Apple Pencil support.

Hit the trackless nuclear wastes with this Laco RAD-AUX watch

Laco is a small German watch company famous for its Flieger watches – pieces designed for pilots featuring big crowns and legible faces. Now brand has teamed up with ABlogToWatch on a Fallout-themed watch that looks like something pulled out of a deserted vault.

The $2,950 watch contains an ETA 2824.2 movement and features a massively distressed case and band along with a clever case that hearkens back to 1950s A-Bomb/military design. It’s limited to 143 pieces and you can pre-order it for shipment in March. The entire package looks like something out of the Fallout game. Bethesda is not involved in the product, incidentally, but the entire thing is an homage to the Fallout universe.

From the site:

On the outside of the heavily-worn tin box, we see a stamp showing that it was issued to the Overseer of Vault #43. Inside the box, you’ll find the Laco RAD-AUX, a user manual, and an accumulation of a few odds and ends. Presumably, the additional artifacts were collected by the owner of the Laco RAD-AUX before it was discovered. There are realistic Polaroid-style photos depicting abandoned landscapes, mutated plant-life, and a curious panther named Gloria. A bottle cap bearing the mark of a sunset, which has been turned into a pin. There is also a New California Republic ’protection postcard’ which instructs you to place it near the entrance of your domicile, and each item included looks realistically tattered and aged.

The most interesting thing about this watch is the partnership with ABlogToWatch, a popular watch blog run by Ariel Adams, and Laco. These sorts of partnerships usually result in a boring, branded watch with an ugly blog logo hidden somewhere on the case. This partnership is more about Laco and Adams’ imagination taking flight over a mushroom cloud. Regardless, this is a great piece for folks who haven’t yet picked up a 3D-printed Pip Boy. Good luck, Vault Dweller!

Samsung fakes test photo by using a stock DSLR image

Samsung’s Malaysian arm has some explaining to do. The company, in an effort to show off the Galaxy A8 Star’s amazing photo retouching abilities, used a cleverly-shot portrait, modified it, and then ostensibly passed it off as one taken by the A8.

The trouble began when Serbian photographer Dunja Djudjic noticed someone had bought one of her photos from a service called EyeEm that supplies pictures to Getty Images, a renowned photo reseller. Djudjic, curious as to the buyer, did a quick reverse search and found her image – adulterated to within an inch of its life – on Samsung’s Malaysian product page.

Djudjic, for her part, was a good sport.

My first reaction was to burst out into laughter. Just look at the Photoshop job they did on my face and hair! I’ve always liked my natural hair color (even though it’s turning gray black and white), but I guess the creator of this franken-image prefers reddish tones. Except in the eyes though, where they removed all of the blood vessels.

Whoever created this image, they also cut me out of the original background and pasted me onto a random photo of a park. I mean, the original photo was taken at f/2.0 if I remember well, and they needed the “before” and “after” – a photo with a sharp background, and another one where the almighty “portrait mode” blurred it out. So Samsung’s Photoshop master resolved it by using a different background.

This move follows a decision by Huawei to pull the same stunt with a demo photo in August.

To be fair, Samsung warned us this would happen. “The contents within the screen are simulated images and are for demonstration purposes only,” they write in the fine print, way at the bottom of the page. Luckily for Djudjic, Samsung paid her for her photo.

Qualcomm announces the Snapdragon 855 and its new under-display fingerprint sensor

This week, Qualcomm is hosting press and analysts on Maui for its annual Snapdragon Summit. Sadly, we’re not there, but a couple of weeks ago, Qualcomm gave us a preview of the news. There’ll be three days of news and the company decided to start with a focus on 5G, as well as a preview of its new Snapdragon 855 mobile platform. In addition, the company announced its new ultrasonic fingerprint solution for sensors that can sit under the display.

It’ll probably still be a while before there’ll be a 5G tower in your neighborhood, but after years of buzz, it’s fair to say that we’re now getting to the point where 5G is becoming real. Indeed, AT&T and Verizon are showing off live 5G networks on Maui this week. Qualcomm described its event as the “coming out party for 5G,” though I’m sure we’ll hear from plenty of other players who will claim the same in the coming months.

In the short term, what’s maybe more interesting is that Qualcomm also announced its new flagship 855 mobile platform today. While the company didn’t release all of the details yet, it stressed that the 855 is “the world’s first commercial mobile platform supporting multi-gigabit 5G.”

The 855 also features a new multi-core AI engine that promises up to 3x better AI performance compared to its previous mobile platform, as well as specialized computer vision silicon for enhanced computational photography (think something akin to Google’s Night Light) and video capture.

The company also briefly noted that the new platform has been optimized for gaming. The product name for this is “Snapdragon Elite Gaming,” but details remain sparse. Qualcomm also continues to bet on AR (or “extended reality” as the company brands it).

The last piece of news is likely the most interesting here. Fingerprint sensors are now standard, even on mid-market phones. With its new 3D Sonic Sensors, Qualcomm promises an enhanced ultrasonic fingerprint solution that can sit under the display. In part, this is a rebranding of Qualcomm’s existing under-display sensor, but there’s some new technology here, too. The promise here is that the scanner will work, even if the display is very dirty or if the user installs a screen protector. Chances are, we’ll see quite a few new flagship phones in the next few months (Mobile World Congress is coming up quickly, after all) that will feature these new fingerprint scanners.

Researchers use AI and 3D printing to recreate paintings from photographs

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have created a system that can reproduce paintings from a single photo, allowing museums and art lovers to snap their favorite pictures and print new copies complete with paint textures.

Called RePaint, the project uses machine learning to recreate the exact colors of each painting and then prints it using a high-end 3D printer that can output thousands of colors using half-toning.

The researchers, however, found a better way to capture a fuller spectrum of Degas and Dali. They used a special technique they developed called “color-contoning”, which involves using a 3-D printer and 10 different transparent inks stacked in very thin layers, much like the wafers and chocolate in a Kit-Kat bar. They combined their method with a decades-old technique called “halftoning”, where an image is created by tons of little ink dots, rather than continuous tones. Combining these, the team says, better captured the nuances of the colors.

“If you just reproduce the color of a painting as it looks in the gallery, it might look different in your home,” said researcher Changil Kim. “Our system works under any lighting condition, which shows a far greater color reproduction capability than almost any other previous work.”

Sadly the prints are only about as big as a business card. The system also can’t yet support matte finishes and detailed surface textures but the team is working on improving the algorithms and the 3D printing tech so you’ll finally be able to recreate that picture of dogs playing poker in 3D plastic.

Check out Prague’s Old Town in this 405 gigapixel photo

Jeffrey Martin takes massive panoramic photographs of the world and his photos let you go from from the panoramic to the intimate in a single mouse swipe. Now he’s truly outdone himself with a 900,000 pixel wide photo of Prague’s Old Town that took six months to build.

The photo, viewable here, has a total spherical resolution of 405 gigapixels and amazing. Martin used a 600mm lens and 50MP DSLR to take photos of nearly everything in the Old Town. You can see the Cathedral, Castle Hill, and even spot street signs, building signs, and pigeons. It’s a fascinating view of a beautiful city.

Martin said it took him over six months to post-process the picture and it required thousands of photos and tweaks. He said the files are six times bigger than anything Photoshop can manage so he found himself working with delicate fixes as he stitched this amazing photo together.