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Leica Q2 Monochrom is a $5k camera that only shoots in black & white

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Leica has launched a new version of its infamous Q line of cameras, with the Leica Q2 Monochrom promising to be the only full frame compact camera to use a dedicated monochrome sensor. Tapping the same processing hardware and design as the existing Q2, the new Q2 Monochrom switches out the color sensor for a specially-developed 47.3-megapixel monochrome version.

It’s paired with a Leica Summilux 28 mm f/1.7 ASPH. prime lens, with an initial aperture of f/1.7. A digital zoom can crop in as much as 75mm, from the uncrossed 28mm focal length, with presets for 35, 50, and 75mm shooting. Don’t fret about absent data, though, since the Q2 Monochrom will simultaneously save the cropped image as a JPEG and the full frame as a RAW DNG file.

As always, a fair proportion of the charm is the aesthetics. Alongside the matte black paint there’s a new leather covering, while gray and white engravings pick out the legends, labels, and controls. Leica intentionally left off its traditional red logo, too, the company said. Still, there’s little confusing it for any other brand.

The attention to design detail goes further than just the casing, however. It’s IP52 complaint for dust and water spray, and there’s a simple locking element to hold the Q2 Monochrom in manual or automatic focusing modes. Switching to macro mode – which can get as close as 17cm, or around 7.7 inches – is via a simple control on the lens.

There’s ISO support up to 100,000 for both still images and 4K video, with the latter supporting up to 30 fps or 24 fps. Full HD video can be captured at up to 120 fps. Leica says the camera’s autofocus can lock in under 0.15 seconds, and there’s 10 fps burst shooting at full resolution.

On the back, there’s a 3.68-megapixel OLED viewfinder, with a retractable diopter wheel to avoid accidental changes. A touchscreen, meanwhile, features pared-back menus that leave out irrelevant features like color settings. However there are some new additions just for the Q2 Monochrom, like settings to adjust the tint of black and white images including blue, sepia, and selenium.

Bluetooth and WiFi work with Leica’s FOTOS apps for smartphones and tablets, allowing the Q2 Monochrom to be remotely controlled and for its photos and videos to be wirelessly transferred over.

Clearly, a camera that can only capture monochrome pictures and footage is a fairly niche sell. Leica’s Q2 has monochrome modes of its own, after all, as do most cameras, and you can always convert color footage to black and white in post-processing. Nonetheless the idea of a sensor specifically tailored to monochrome is appealing, as are the three new special E49 color filters – yellow, green, and orange – to tweak the visible light that reaches the sensor.

Preorders of the Leica Q2 Monochrom kick off today, with the camera priced at $4,995.

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Galaxy S21+ leaks – the 2021 edge of reality

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Today we’re getting our first good look at solid leaks of the Samsung Galaxy S21+. This next-generation device will mark another big move by Samsung away from traditional industrial design into design that’s a bit more… daring. Before this, Samsung’s biggest industrial design transition points were the Infinity-O (punch hole) display, and the “Galaxy Edge” or “Infinity” display curve.

The Samsung Galaxy S21+ looks a whole lot like the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Ultra leaks we’ve seen in the last few weeks. This design isn’t a surprise, only because we’ve seen a few other views of the rest of the device family. Take a peek at the rest of the family in the Samsung Galaxy S21 leaks article published on November 16 – it is a good place to start.

Imagery from CoverPigtou and xLeaks7 show this device both front and back, side to side, using CAD drawings as their own source. These are renderings based on leaked specifications generally made to act as guide for accessory-makers and protective case-makers.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 family has a set of displays that are fairly similar to the Galaxy S20. The display bezels are thinner, the punch-hole is smaller. Otherwise we’re pretty much on-track with the year-by-year ever-more-sleek simplicity of a full frontside coverage display panel, courtesy of Samsung’s Galaxy S lineup.

ABOVE: The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge – the first Samsung phone with a display that cascaded off it’s side. BELOW: The Samsung Galaxy S10 “escapes the notch curse” with a punch hole.

The big change comes in the sides and the back of the device. If we look at the Samsung Galaxy S21+, we see the most obvious design move in the camera array. There, three cameras live in an array that sits above the rest of the device’s backside – like the Galaxy S20 – with one big change. Here, the camera array island becomes a bit more like a peninsula.

The camera array connects with the silver metal edge of the smartphone, an edge that also contains the power button and the volume rocker.

This is a solution that allows the raised array of cameras to sit above the majority of the back of the device without feeling like an element inflicted negatively upon the device. When we first started seeing backside cameras on smartphones that sat above the flatness of the back of the phone, it was an ugly situation. This might well be the most elegant integration of said design requirement yet.

We’ll likely see the Samsung Galaxy S21 family appear officially in the first several weeks of 2021. The Samsung Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, and Galaxy S21 Ultra will likely be revealed in late January or early February, 2021, with release dates closer to the tail end of February, if history acts as guide for the near future – we shall see!

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Google names the best Android games and apps of 2020

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Today Google released a list of games and apps for Android that they named “best” of the year 2020. Included in the mix were categories like Best Competitive, Indies, Pick Up & Play, Game Changers, Everyday Essentials, Personal Growth, Hidden Gems, “Best for Fun”, and “Best Apps for Good”. As it is each year, this list of lists makes for a good first place to look for the apps and games that have the best chance at allowing users to make the most of their smart device experience.

Google’s best apps of 2020

Google’s choice for best app of the year, 2020, was “Loona: Bedtime Calm & Relax.” This app includes soothing sounds, simple stories, and calming game-like experiences to get users in the mood for sleep. The Loona app is free and offers in-app purchases for expanded experiences. The User’s Choice for Best App of 2020 was… Disney+, the streaming platform.

Google’s Best Everyday Essentials apps included Calmaria (for calming down, not entirely unlike Loona,) and Grid Diary (a top notch journal and planner app). Also in the mix were The Pattern (to explore your personality with astrology… only… not astrology.) Whisk was on the list, as was Zoom Cloud Meetings.

Personal Growth apps included “Centr, by Chris Hemsworth” and “Intellect: Create a Better You”, as well as “Jumprope: How-to Videos”, “Paired: Couples App” and the language app Speekoo. The best Hidden Gems included Cappuccino for mini-podcasts, Paperless Post, and Explorest – Photo Locations. And don’t forget Tayasui Sketches for a new approach to digital brush painting.

Best For Good apps included apps like ShareTheMeal and GreenChoice for Healthy Grocery Shopping.

If you’re looking for FUN apps, Google’s best-of collection included Bazaart: Photo Editor & Graphic Design, Disney+, Dolby On: Record Audio & Music, Reface, and the video editor Vita.

Google’s best games of 2020

The User’s Choice best game of the year was SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off, which is absolutely bonkers. This game contains both in-app purchases and advertisements and all sorts of “unlocks” and such. But who am I to argue? Google’s own best game of the year was Genshin Impact!

Google named Brawlhalla the best competitive game of the year, as well as Bullet Echo, GWENT (the Witcher card game), Legends of Runeterra, and The Seven Deadly Since: Grand Cross. Google’s Best “Indies” included Cookies Must Die, GRIS (by Devolver Digital), Inbento, Maze Machina, and Sky: Children of the Light.

The best Pick Up & Play games of the year included Disney Frozen Adventures: Customize the Kingdom, as well as another game with an impossibly long title: DreamWorks Trolls Pop: Bubble Shooter & Collection. Also on the list was EverMerge, Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells, and the SpongeBob game mentioned above.

The Game Changers list this year included some truly odd pieces of work. You’ll find Fancade, Genshin Impact, Minimal Dungeon RPG, and the game Ord. The game The Gardens Between was also included on the list – easily one of the most expensive up-front costs on the list, with good reason – no ads, no in-app purchases, just one cost and you’ve got it!

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Wyze Watch arrives for preorder: Major smartwatch features at $20

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Budget smart home company Wyze has introduced its new Wyze Watch, a smartwatch with a very budget-tier cost of $19.99, but one that promises to eclipse other offerings in the same price range. The Wyze Watch is made from aluminum and includes a number of features found on more expensive models, including a blood oxygen sensor, heart rate monitoring, and more.

Smartwatches have become a common personal gadget, but the cost keeps many people from picking one up. Wyze aims to change that with its new smartwatch — simply called the Wyze Watch — which resembles the Apple Watch and promises high-end features despite the low cost. Key features include a heart rate sensor and blood oxygen sensor, as mentioned, immediately distinguishing it from many other budget smartwatches.

Wyze notes that it has made its watch out of aluminum, not plastic, and includes a very large 1.75-inch display (if you pick up the larger 47mm model). The model features an IP68 weatherproof construction, meaning it can handle water exposure to depths of no more than two meters.

In addition to its own sleep monitoring, step, and menstrual cycle tracking features, the Wyze Watch is compatible with a number of third-party apps, including Messenger and Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Gmail, Twitter, and the Wyze app itself. Users can, as you’d expect, control their Wyze IoT products like smart lights using the watch.

Other features include up to nine days of battery life and a charge time of only 2.5 hours. Users can also purchase optional upgrades for the watch, namely silicone or leather watch straps in various colors for an additional $10. The Wyze Watch is available to preorder now for $19.99, but the company notes that there’s a limited number available.

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