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Sony’s new A7R IV camera is a 61 MP full-frame mirrorless beast – TechCrunch

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Sony unveiled the latest in its line of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras on Tuesday, debuting the A7R IV, its top-of-the-line full-frame digital shooter aimed at pros. The new camera packs a walloping 61-megapixel sensor, and will retail for $3,500 when it goes on sale this September.

The camera’s image resolution is a “world first” for a 35mm-equivalent full-frame digital sensor, Sony notes, and that’s not where the improvements on this successor to the wildly popular A7R III end: The A7R IV also has 10fps rapid shooting with continuous autofocus and autoexposure tracking capabilities; 567 phase-detect autofocus points that cover 74% of the frame; real-time eye autofocus tracking for stills and movies, which can handle both human and animal subjects; 4K HDR movie recording without any pixel binning and with S-Log 2/3 support for editing (although without a 60p mode, as it caps out at 30p); ISO range of 100-32000 (and 50-102400 expandable); battery life of around 539 shots with the EVF, or 670 shots without; and much more.

This Sony camera is clearly a shot across the bow at recent entrants into the full-frame mirrorless camera market, including Nikon and Canon, and it looks like Sony will be upping one of its biggest advantages by offering even better subject-tracking autofocus, which is a category where it already has a strong lead. The high-resolution sensor is another area where the competition will be left behind, since the Nikon Z7 captures at 45.7 MP and the Canon R maxes out at 30.3 MP.

Real-time eye autofocus in movie recording will also help a lot for video shooters, after Sony introduced it to still shooting for the A7 and A7R III via a firmware update in April. Touch tracking allows shooters to just tap the thing they want to maintain autofocus on using the back display LCD while shooting, and a new digital audio interface added to the camera’s hot shoe connector means recording with a shotgun mic that supports the feature, without any additional cable clutter.

The A7R IV also offers five-axis in-body image stabilization, a 5.76 million-to UXGA OLED EVF, boosted weather and dust resistance, wireless tethered shooting capabilities and dual UHS-II SD card slots for storage.

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Headphones without headphones—we test Lucyd Lyte Bluetooth sunglasses

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Lucyd Lyte is a pair of $150 sunglasses which includes speakers and mic suitable for use in making phone calls or listening to podcasts. This isn’t a category of device I was aware of at all before a PR rep reached out to offer a review unit—but once I knew it was a thing, I very much wanted to test it.

The Wayfarer style that I tested is a neutral, unremarkable style unlikely to get much attention whether negative or positive. They look nicer than gas station sunglasses but without any particular style cue to lead a viewer into thinking they’re an expensive designer brand. There’s no visual cue to the onboard audio, either—the frames are a touch on the thick side, but unlike Bose Frames there’s no telltale shape to give the extra functionality away.

Lucyd Lyte paired with my Pixel 2XL phone quickly and easily. The instructions recommend a two-hour initial charging period; when factory-new and after the initial charging period, the phones are both on and in pairing mode—all you need to do is open the pairing menu in your phone and select “Lucyd Lyte.”

There is no specific trigger to “pairing mode” on the Lucyd Lytes—if they’re not in range of the device they were last paired to, they go into pairing mode and can be selected from any new device in range.

Testing

As sunglasses, Lucyd Lytes are quite good. I found them comfortable enough to “disappear” on my head in six-plus hours of continuous wear, beginning with a 45-minute drive and continuing through conversations with my parents, playing catch with my kids, and otherwise goofing off outdoors on a bright sunny Saturday.

As Bluetooth headphones, they’re unfortunately not as stellar. The audio quality is decent, but the maximum volume level is low—and anyone nearby can hear what you’re listening to nearly as well as you can. I listened to podcasts on the 45-minute drive out to my parents’ house, and my daughter reported she could hear the podcasts easily (including making out most or all of the words) from the passenger’s seat.

The low max volume isn’t a problem when listening to music or to well-normalized podcasts, but it’s likely to be an issue on phone calls or podcasts with a very quiet source. At maximum volume, Joe Ressington’s Late Night Linux wasn’t quite as loud as I wanted it to be, but I could understand everyone speaking over the interstate road noise. Jamie Loftus’ Lolita Podcast was another story entirely—engineered with far quieter source levels, I needed to cup one ear (drastically increasing perceived volume from the phones) almost continuously.

Maintaining the Bluetooth connection was also a bit of a crapshoot. With the Pixel 2XL sitting in a cupholder, the connection was fine. Putting the Pixel in the pocket of my jeans would almost immediately kill the connection, after which the Pixel would connect to my car instead until manually redirected to the (unpocketed) phone. I had much better luck with the phone pocketed while walking around than I had in my car—but it was never rock solid.

Aside from the volume issues, the audio quality is decent—better than you might expect from practically microscopic speakers embedded in a sunglasses stem, but not up to snuff when compared to typical earbuds or headphones. For voice calls or podcasts—again, assuming the level is high enough—you’re unlikely to have any complaints. The Lytes unlikely to be anyone’s favorite music listening device, however, with nearly-nonexistent bass and little if any sense of stereo positioning.

We tested Lucyd Lyte’s mic using a voice recorder app rather than a call, to eliminate any potential telephony issues. The experience is better than putting the Pixel 2XL in speakerphone mode, but it’s not as good as either the phone’s native mic in normal mode or the mic in most standard headsets. The audio level and clarity are quite good, but there’s little or no differentiation between the speaker’s voice and ambient noise—in my test recording, my kids’ voices and the episode of Spongebob Squarepants on the television were just as much in the foreground as my own voice was.

Battery life seemed easily up to the manufacturer’s claim of eight hours—we didn’t attempt to run them dry, but after about 90 minutes of driving and nonstop listening to podcasts, the Bluetooth connection dialog on the Pixel 2XL reported the Lytes’ batteries at 85 percent.

Controls

The Lucyd Lyte phones are easy to manage—the included charge cable has magnetically coupled two-pin connectors which snap directly onto contacts on each stem of the sunglasses. The charging cable is a Y-splitter type and needs to be connected to both stems—they have independent batteries which must also be charged independently.

The individual stems are also powered on independently. Long-pressing one control button results in that stem’s voice eventually declaring “powered on,” after which you can long-press the button on the other until it, too, powers up. With only one stem powered on, the onboard voice will declare “connected”—once the second stem also powers on and connects, you get a Windows-style “bing-bong” sound effect that lets you know everything is fully connected.

Once powered on, what the controls do depends in part on whether you’re taking a call or listening to music—a single tap on either button will answer an incoming call, or a two-second long press will decline it. While connected (to either calls or music), a single press of the left button increases volume, and a single press of the right button decreases it. Double-pressing either button pauses music (or podcast) playback, and triple-pressing either button skips tracks forward or backward depending on button.

Powering the headphones off is done with an eight-second-long press on either button. Unlike the power-on procedure, powering either stem off turns the other one off along with it.

Conclusions

My wife and I were both pretty excited about this device—even though the audio quality isn’t up to par with good traditional headphones, the light weight and lack of aural intrusion appealed to us both. If these were cheap devices, I’d be on board with them for certain use cases despite their Bluetooth connection flaws and relatively low volume.

The ambient broadcast factor of the Lucyd Lytes is also unappealing. Half the point of using headphones is sparing those around you from hearing your music or podcasts—which the Lucyd Lytes absolutely do not do. In a car full of road noise, it’s much less obnoxious than blaring a podcast out over the car stereo—but if there’s something in your podcast or music you’d prefer your kids / coworkers / whoever not to overhear, these aren’t a good choice.

Unfortunately, at $150, these are not cheap devices. At that price, we expect a solid, reliable Bluetooth connection at the very least—and we didn’t get it. For us, that’s the deal breaking flaw in Lucyd Lyte.

The Good

  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Unobtrusive styling
  • Neither in nor on your ears
  • Reasonably clear audio
  • You can still hear what’s going on around you
  • Simple, tactile controls
  • Magnetically coupled charging
  • Can be ordered with standard, prescription, bifocal, or reader lenses

The Bad

  • Flaky Bluetooth connection
  • Inadequate maximum volume
  • Completely audible to anyone nearby

The Ugly

  • We didn’t know we wanted Bluetooth sunglasses until testing these
  • Now we know—and these are tantalizingly close, but still not quite there

Listing image by Jim Salter

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Google TV takes a baby step toward multi-user support with “kids profiles”

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It sure sounds like Google is re-committing to the TV space with Google TV—a renamed, revamped version of Android TV. In addition to the new content-centric (instead of app-centric) home screen, watch list, and an upcoming “dumb TV” mode, Google is now revamping parental control support.

The new “kids profiles” will turn on a fun, kid-friendly UI with themes like “dinosaurs,” “space,” and “under the sea.” The big, new feature of Google TV—content-centric recommendations—will kick over into a kids-friendly mode, too, pushing educational content to the home screen.

Parental control functionality looks pretty much the same as in Android TV, with parents able to set limitations on total screen time, bedtime, and individual apps. The big difference is the interface, which has a friendlier UI that doesn’t look like a system administrator panel anymore. The controls are also compatible with Google’s Family Link app, which allows for remote administration and tracking.

Kids mode looks like a baby step toward solving Google TV’s biggest problem right now: the lack of support for multiple profiles. The flagship feature of Google TV is the home screen content recommendation engine, but there’s no differentiation between users, so it’s going to mash up the entire household’s viewing habits. Google lightly copped to this deficiency in the blog post, saying, “I personally want to be able to find my shows and movies, without being overwhelmed by my kids’ content.”

Kids mode will let you quarantine Sesame Street from your recommendations, but there’s still no way to separate the viewing habits between adults. Hopefully, kids mode is the beginning of full-blown profile support with personalized recommendations and watchlists, but Google hasn’t come out and said that.

Google TV is currently very rare, available mainly (only?) on the new “Google Chromecast with Google TV” that launched in September. It’s also headed to Sony’s entire Bravia XR 2021 lineup and select TCL TVs coming out later this year. Google’s decision to change the name of its TV product from Android TV to Google TV makes everything unnecessarily confusing, but it’s all the same code base. Google’s TV OSes based on Android 9 and lower are called “Android TV,” and the new versions, based on Android 10 and up, are “Google TV.” In theory, some Android TV set-top boxes and smart TVs can be upgraded to Google TV, since it’s just the next version. Your device manufacturer would need to actually ship an update, though, and a lot of smart TV manufacturers don’t.

Google says that support for kids profiles on Google TV will roll out “in the US starting this month and globally over the next few months.”

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The iMac Pro has been discontinued

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Apple will no longer sell the iMac Pro after current supplies run out, the company has confirmed.

In the past few days, online Apple Store customers noticed that the iMac Pro’s usual plethora of configuration options had been significantly stripped down. The online store also stated that the iMac Pro as offered would be available “while supplies last.” This led to suspicions that the product was not long for this world.

Shortly afterward, various outlets including TechCrunch received confirmation from Apple that these changes do indeed indicate that the product has been discontinued.

The 27-inch iMac Pro had not been updated in a significant way since it was first introduced back in 2017. And since then, the priciest configurations of the normal 27-inch iMac have given the iMac Pro a run for its money in terms of performance and features.

To that point, Apple says that the non-Pro 27-inch iMac is the most popular iMac, and the expensive but powerful Mac Pro is available for those who need more powerful hardware for certain use cases.

Apple updated the 27-inch iMac last summer, shortly after announcing that the entire Mac product line would transition from Intel CPUs to Apple’s own custom-designed silicon.

Bloomberg and others have cited people familiar with Apple’s plans to report that the company expects to update the iMac with a new design and Apple Silicon processors later this year, along with similar updates to the MacBook Pro and a newly redesigned MacBook Air.

The Mac Pro is not expected to get an Apple Silicon version until sometime next year, and some reports have indicated that a smaller Apple Silicon Mac Pro may for at least a while coexist with the larger Intel-based tower PC.

Listing image by Samuel Axon

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