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 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.
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The latest shot in the US Government’s war on leading Chinese smartphone vendors is directed at Xiaomi, which today has landed on the US government’s list of “Communist Chinese Military Companies” via a new executive order. The declaration makes it illegal for US citizens to own Xiaomi stock.
The US and China have been trading blows for a year and a half now over Huawei, which was added to the “entity list” by the US Department of Commerce. While on the entity list, American companies can’t collaborate with Huawei or export products to it. It becomes illegal for Huawei to import any product of “US-Origin.” US Origin doesn’t just mean products made in the US by US companies; there’s also a “viral” component to the law, where any product made internationally with some US-origin components also counts as a US-origin product.
While Huawei got an all-encompassing ban, it doesn’t look like Xiaomi is in the same boat right now. Huawei landed on the Department of Commerce’s entity list, while Xiaomi is now on the Department of Defense’s list of “Communist Chinese Military Companies” (Huawei is also on this list). The DOD designation seems to only ban US investment in Xiaomi, and any American stakeholders need to divest their holdings by November 11, 2021. (Xiaomi is a public company and had an IPO back in 2018.) The suffocating supply chain restrictions that apply to Huawei don’t (yet?) apply to Xiaomi.
The DOD says the list is meant to “highlight and counter the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Military-Civil Fusion development strategy,” which the government says is a plan to funnel advanced technology to the Chinese Military through “PRC companies, universities, and research programs that appear to be civilian entities.”
Xiaomi has issued a response on Twitter, saying it “is not owned, controlled, or affiliated with the Chinese military, and is not a “Communist Chinese Military Company” as defined by the NDAA” (the NDAA is the National Defense Authorization Act that gives the DOD the power to make this list).
The IDC has Xiaomi as the number 3 smartphone manufacturer worldwide, behind Samsung and Huawei, and a spot ahead of Apple. Xiaomi regularly pumps out high-spec, low-cost Android phones to compete in the cutthroat Chinese and Indian markets. It started life as an Apple clone maker, but today Xiaomi is one of the fastest movers in the industry and regularly beats bigger companies in shipping new technologies and components to the market. It shipped the world’s first Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 phone, the Xiaomi Mi 11, and it’s leading the charge in under-display cameras. Being Chinese is a market advantage for Xiaomi. A company like Apple has to have US designers communicate to Chinese manufacturing across a 12-hour time zone difference and a language barrier, while Xiaomi’s Chinese designers and Chinese manufacturers can communicate more easily and quickly, allowing the company to develop products faster.
As Xiaomi may be the number 3 smartphone manufacturer worldwide, any kind of ban on the company in the US isn’t going to do much. Years ago, Xiaomi gave hints about entering the US smartphone market, but it never had the stomach to go through with it and instead only launched the US version of Mi.com as a seller of small accessories. In the US, you can buy a Xiaomi Android TV box, headphones, security cameras, and battery packs, along with stranger things like air purifiers, light bulbs, and toy robots.
According to a report in Bloomberg, Apple plans to launch new versions of its MacBook Pro laptops “around the middle of the year,” and these machines will feature speed and display enhancements, as well as a return of the MagSafe charging design seen in MacBook computers several generations ago.
Citing “a person with knowledge of the plans,” the Bloomberg story claims that Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro will get a 14-inch successor, just as the 15-inch MacBook Pro became a 16-inch model when the screen bezel was reduced to allow more screen real estate in a similarly sized chassis.
Both the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro are slated for the middle of the year and will incorporate Apple’s custom silicon. The company first introduced its own silicon with the M1 chip included in November refreshes of the low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini. The new machines described today would have a successor to Apple’s M1 chip with more CPU cores and “enhanced graphics.”
While the overall design of the laptops is not expected to be significantly different from current models (beyond the screen size in the smaller MacBook Pro), there is one major design change that may please fans of Macs prior to the Touch Bar and USB-C redesign introduced a few years ago: the return of the MagSafe charger.
Mac laptops once had charging cables that slotted easily into their ports, thanks to magnets, and were intended to gracefully disconnect without tugging on the laptop if someone pulled the cord or tripped on it. Over the past few years, the company purged this feature from its lineup, but it introduced a related tech using the same name in its iPhone 12 lineup last year.
According to the report, the MagSafe connector in the new MacBook Pro models will have a similar shape to that of MagSafe connectors in Macs of old. It will also allow the laptops to charge faster than before. The report does note that the computers will still have multiple USB-C ports as well, though.
The new MacBook Pros are also said to have brighter displays with better contrast. This report doesn’t explain how Apple will achieve this exactly, but recent supply-chain rumors and analysts have been predicting that Apple will incorporate Mini LED displays in its upcoming machines, which would likely produce that result.
Bloomberg’s source also says that Apple has been testing versions of the laptops without the Touch Bar, which was introduced to the lineup a few years back. The Touch Bar is a strip-shaped touch screen at the top of the keyboard that replaces the function keys with either virtual versions of those keys or other, app-specific functions.
While many apps support the Touch Bar, some power users have complained that they are not always as convenient as physical keys.
Finally, the report ends with a footnote that Apple plans to also update the MacBook Air with a new design but that it won’t arrive as soon as the MacBook Pro updates. It doesn’t outline any details about the MacBook Air redesign.
As expected, AMD took to the CES stage this week to announce new laptop CPUs. Most of the new Ryzen 5000 mobile family of chips share similarities with the desktop CPUs the company announced a few months ago, and they’ll start shipping with laptops from some of the bigger computer-makers in February.
The new chips are divided into two sub-families, both at least in part based on 7nm Zen 3 tech: there’s the H-series, which is meant for high-end, performance-oriented gaming and content creation notebooks, and the U-series, which takes aim at Intel’s dominance in the ultraportable space with a greater focus on power efficiency.
The lineup’s biggest lifters are the Ryzen 9 5980HX and 5980HS. The former is a gaming-oriented chip that will be unlocked for overclocking in some machines. The latter, meanwhile, is tuned more for laptops made for creatives. Both of these (and all but two of the chips in the Ryzen 5000 mobile family) sport eight CPU cores and 16 threads at up to 4.8Hz.
Here’s a chart including specs for all the chips announced, from AMD’s website:
The U-series lineup also includes 8-core chips, but as you can see, a couple 6-core ones are in there, too. While AMD has been making rival Intel’s life difficult in performance-oriented machines of late, Intel still dominates the ultraportable space (for now), so AMD is surely hoping to achieve some growth there. To that point, AMD claims that the 5800U can deliver almost 18 hours of battery life for normal use cases and up to 21 for video playback. (Intel announced its own laptop chips this week, too.)
On the gaming side, AMD says the 5900HX beats Intel’s Core i9-10980HK by more than 20 percent in 3DMark, which certainly seems plausible given what we saw on the desktop side—though it would of course be wise to wait and see benchmarks from someone other than AMD.
OEMs have already started announcing laptops with these chips, so we expect to see those illuminating benchmarks as early as next month.