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Dr. Julius Neubronner's fantastic flying cameras

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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The first aerial photograph was taken in 1858 by Frenchman Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, also known by his alias Nadar, from a tethered gas balloon suspended over Paris. While the images captured on this flight have since been lost to time, there are plenty of surviving examples of aerial photographs shot during the latter half of the 19th century. In addition to balloons, kites and rudimentary rockets were used to send cameras skyward. Even Alfred Nobel was drawn to the practice, with one of his last patent applications being for a method for rocket photography. It’s hard to grasp how challenging this was at the time. We need only load up Google Earth to see our house from space, or buy a hobbyist drone to capture our own aerial panoramas. Long before satellites and quadcopters, though, Dr. Julius Neubronner started strapping cameras to pigeons.

Credit: Library of Congress / Bain News Service photograph collection

Julius Neubronner was an apothecary, which to his time was the equivalent of a pharmacist today. It was a family business, and homing pigeons were counted amongst its employees. Just as his father had done before him, Neubronner used pigeons to send and receive medicines and messages. As the story goes, sometime around 1903 Neubronner sent one of his pigeons out on assignment only for it not to return. The bird wasn’t taken ill and preyed upon, however, eventually turning up a month later in suspiciously good condition.

Neubronner grew curious about the movement and habits of his pigeons when they were away from home, and being an avid photographer, he saw how his hobby might be useful in answering some of his questions. Inspired in part by the Ticka Watch Camera and the quality of test photos he took on a speeding train and a sled ride, he began devising his own miniature camera that could be attached to pigeons via a harness. What he ended up with was a light wooden camera and pneumatic timer that engaged the shutter at set intervals. He filed the first patent for his invention in 1907 with the German patent office and its counterparts in France, Austria and the UK. The German bureau initially refused to grant it, believing what he described to be impossible. A camera was far too heavy for a bird to carry. This changed the following year when Neubronner provided the patent office with photographic proof from his flying friends.

Credit: Rorhof / Stadtarchiv Kronberg Neubronner’s dovecote and darkroom carriage Franz Maria Feldhaus, Ruhmesblätter der Technik

Between 1908 and 1909, Neubronner’s pigeon camera was covered in various newspapers, including the New-York Daily Tribune, The Columbian, the Los

Tech News

Fujifilm's oddball XF10 fixed-lens APS-C camera costs only $500

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Fujifilm XF10

Fujifilm has proven again that it’s not afraid to build unusual cameras by launching the XF10, a premium fixed-lens compact. It’s got a wide-angle 18.5mm f/2.8 fixed lens (equivalent to 27.8mm in full-frame terms) and a 24.2-megapixel APS-C (not X-Trans) sensor. It’s very compact, weighing just 280 grams, or about the same as Sony’s new RX100 VI, which has a smaller 1-inch sensor. However, there’s no EVF on it, so you’ll need to rely on the 3-inch touchscreen to compose and replay your photos and video.

The XF10 is essentially a 1080p 60fps camera, as it does shoot 4K but at a rather useless 15 fps. The ISO ranges from 200 to 12,800, expandable from ISO 100 – 51,200, and it supports Bluetooth 4.1 for smartphone transfers. There’s a digital zoom available (essentially a sensor crop) that lets you shoot at 35mm and 50mm equivalent levels. As you’d expect, Fujifilm offers a number of filters, including monochrome and “rich and fine” for vivid color and a mild vignette effect. It’s also touting the “square mode” that lets you switch to a 1:1, Instax-like format with a press of the touchscreen.

It’s surprising for Fuji to release a second fixed-lens APS-C camera, as it already has the X100F, though that model is over double the price. The XF10 seems to have the same guts as Fujifilm’s entry level X-T100 mirrorless, including the 24.2-megapixel sensor and wonky 15fps 4K shooting speed. It might have been more interesting to bolt a zoom lens on the XF10 to make it more accessible for travel photography and give Canon’s G1 X Mark III a run for its money.

That said, the XF10 is pretty inexpensive for a premium compact, making it ideal for street photography on the cheap. It costs $500 in the US and $650 in Canada, and arrives in North America in black or champagne gold in August 2018.

Tech News

Wirecutter deals: The best Prime Day deals so far

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commissions. that support its work. Read Wirecutter’s continuously updated list of Prime Day deals here.

TCL 32S305 32″ TV

Street price: $150; Deal price: $130

This is just slightly above the lowest price we’ve seen on this TV, though only by a couple of dollars.

The TCL Roku TV (32-inch) is the top pick in our guide to the best 32-Inch TV. Chris Heinonen wrote, “The TCL Roku has a decent picture right out of the box, integrated Roku functions, and one more HDMI port than other small TVs.”

Kindle Paperwhite

Street Price: $100; Deal Price: $80

At $80, this matches the best price we’ve seen on the Paperwhite this year. That deal price was last available in April, with newer sales only dropping to $90.

The Kindle Paperwhite is our pick in our guide to the best ebook reader. Nick Guy wrote, “The 2015 Wi-Fi edition of the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader for most people thanks to stellar hardware, a massive library that frequently offers better prices than others, and a slew of services unavailable on other readers.”

Amazon Echo Dot

Street price: $45; Deal price: $30

Our affordable Echo down down to $30, matching a low we’ve seen a couple times this year, which will likely continue to be the most affordable way to expand your smart home options.

We discussed the Amazon Echo Dot in our blog post, Amazon Echo Dot vs. Google Home Mini: Which Should You Get? Grant Clauser wrote, “The biggest difference between the Echo Dot and the Home Mini are the platforms that enable them to work their magic. The Echo Dot runs on Amazon’s Alexa platform, and the Home Mini runs on Google Assistant.”

Insta360 One

Street price: $300; Deal price: $240

This is the second best price we’ve seen on this recommended 360 cam, our fantastic editing features and software pick.

The Insta360 One is an also great pick in our guide to the best 360-degree camera. Geoffrey Morrison wrote, “the Insta360 One doesn’t quite have the image quality of the Theta V, but it almost makes up for it with a stellar app that lets you edit videos in lots of different ways, most interestingly by creating a square 1080p “regular” video out of your 360 content with smooth pans, subject tracking, and more.”

Sony UBP-X800 Blu-ray Player

Street price: $250; Deal price: $158

This is a deal we typically see only during deal holidays: a great drop on this 4K Blu-ray player, within $10 of deal pricing we saw during holiday season.

The Sony UBP-X800 Blu-ray Player is our pick in our guide to the best 4k Blu-ray player. Chris Heinonen wrote, “this Sony plays 4K UHD discs, offers better image quality with Blu-rays and DVDs,

Tech News

Nikon phases out 1 series mirrorless cameras

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

PA Archive/PA Images

Nikon’s 1 series mirrorless cameras never quite set the world on fire, and now it looks like they’re on the way out. The company’s home division has listed all 1 cameras as discontinued and removed them from its website, while Nikon Rumors has learned that they’re no longer available at major camera retailer B&H. They’re not completely gone (you can still find them on Nikon’s US website or stores like Adorama, for example), but they’re on the way out.

In a statement, Nikon told Engadget that 1 cameras, lenses and add-ons are “no longer in production.” You could still find the 1 J5 and other models in “some regions,” it added.

Provided this represents a full-fledged discontinuation, the timing would be convenient. Nikon is rumored to be announcing two full-frame mirrorless cameras on July 23rd ahead of an August release, hinting that the 1 line is going away to make room for new models. There’s looming competition, too, with Canon Rumors hearing about a possible full-frame Canon mirrorless model launching sometime between September and early 2019.

The death of the 1 has been a long time in coming, and wouldn’t exactly be a surprise. Like Canon, Nikon was slow to recognize the appeal of mirrorless cams and misjudged the market when it jumped in. It positioned the 1 range as a high-quality point-and-shoots (complete with smaller sensors and limited features) rather than the DSLR alternatives many people wanted, effectively handing the market to Sony. Nikon recognized this and has been hinting at a fundamental change in strategy for a while — it knows it needs to cater to pros and enthusiasts who want mirrorless cameras, and it’s just been a matter of when the technology would be ready.

Tech News

GoPro has now sold more than 30 million Hero action cams

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

James Trew/Engadget

GoPro has been dealing with significant business challenges in recent months, but the camera maker has managed to keep its chin above water. The company today revealed it has surpassed 30 million sales of its Hero action video camera since the first HD model came out nine years ago. Its Hero5 Black model — an affordable all-rounder for outdoorsy types — has sold four million units and gains the honor of becoming GoPro’s best- selling camera.

Despite these achievements, it seems GoPro needs to do more than make subtle improvements to its action cam range to become profitable again. In a bid to turn its recent holiday sales slump around, GoPro began licensing its camera lenses and sensor technology to Jabil. Jabil Circuit specializes in electronic manufacturing solutions and counts itself as one of several Apple’s suppliers.

It’s always tough when cheaper competitors enter the scene with waterproof guarantees, 4K resolution and similar battery life. But GoPro’s fighting back in a number of ways — from trade-in incentives for customers who are on the fence about investing in its action cams, appeals to miniature motorheads with a Hot Wheels GoPro toy car, and streamlining its video sharing UI for Instagram Stories.

Tech News

Parrot's Anafi 4K drone is much more than a flying toy

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Drones come in many shapes and sizes. At their most affordable, drones are fun flying toys. And for industrial uses or professional filmmakers, you’ve got specialist machines that can run well into tens of thousands of dollars. Parrot’s new $700 Anafi falls somewhere in between, balancing a decent camera and plenty of features with a price tag that isn’t prohibitively expensive.

Gallery: Parrot Anafi | 18 Photos 18 +14

DJI is the dominant player in drones right now. From the $99 Tello to the $20,000 Inspire 2 Cinema Premium, it’s got work and play covered. Parrot, on the other hand, is supposed to be in something of a transitional period. Last year, it shed some staff and began moving away from consumer drones towards those built for specific business applications. But now we have the Anafi, which arrives just half a year after DJI’s Mavic Air, a similarly portable $799 quadcopter that’s serious about aerial photography.

DJI’s Mavic Air

Given I’ve played around almost exclusively with toy drones in the past, I was keen to try the Anafi — something with a more serious slant I could never justify buying for myself. I pulled it out of its neat little carrying case, delicately unfurled its arms and plugged it in for the initial charge. The Skycontroller 3 that comes with it looks a little bulky and cheap by comparison, but in use it turned out to be a well-balanced, solid and responsive pad, and that’s what you want.

Ahead of my first flight, I was pretty overwhelmed by the myriad settings and features in Parrot’s FreeFlight 6 app. You can tinker with so much, from the control scheme to UI appearance, top speeds on every axis, maximum altitude, and so on. Then there’s all the different piloting modes, pre-programmed shot types and camera settings. If I had a specific video project in mind, I’m sure that, with trial and error, I’d get the footage I was after — and that’s the whole point of this kind of drone. It’s not a toy, it’s not quite a pro filmmakers’ tool, but something for the semi-serious videographer.

Perhaps that’s why I went from gadget-giddy to a tad bored over the course of about 20 minutes, after getting relatively comfortable with the controls and moving from the slower Film preset to the nippier Sport mode. It’s a portable flying 4K camera after all, with several unique features intended to turn your head away from the DJI’s Mavic Air and in the direction of the Parrot Anafi. In other words, it’s not really supposed to exist simply to entertain a drone-starved editor.

One of the Anafi’s special features is the ability to record 4K HDR footage. Regular 4K clips

Tech News

Nikon's P1000 takes the superzoom crown with a beastly 125X lens

July 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Nikon

Nikon already holds the superzoom title with the 2,000mm (83X zoom) equivalent P900, but it hasn’t been sitting on its haunches. It just unveiled the CoolPix P1000 with a 24-3,000mm f/2.8-8 lens (35mm equivalent), offering an astonishing zoom range of 125X. That will let you capture closeups of birds from a long, long distance, or even the moon, for a fairly reasonable price of $1,000.

The P1000 carries the same 16 megapixel, 1/2.3-inch sensor as the P900 with a decent ISO range of 100-6400. Unlike the last model, however, it lets you get the most out of those ultra-closeup images with RAW photo support. It shoots at up to 7 fps, albeit only for seven images, and packs a fully articulating LCD (non-touch) screen, and a 2.36M-dot OLED viewfinder.

It could even work for vloggers as well as birders, because on top of the flippable screen, it packs 4K at up to 30fps, manual exposure control and, surprisingly, an external microphone input. You can control it over WiFi and Bluetooth, via either the smartphone app, the ML-L7 Bluetooth remote or the MC-DC2 wired shutter release.

All of that will, of course, make it easy to share your crazy moonshots or selfies with your friends. If a 3,000mm lens isn’t enough for you, and you’re willing to settle for lower quality, the Dynamic Fine Zoom feature offers a 6,000mm and even a ridiculous 12,000mm equivalent.

If you were hoping for a pocketable camera, forget it. It’s 14 inches long when fully extended, and weighs in at 3.1 pounds, heavier than many mirrorless or DSLR cameras. As mentioned, the CoolPix P1000 will cost in $1,000 and arrives in September.

Tech News

Gigapixel timelapse captures a day in the life of London

July 6, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

There’s a real chance you’ve seen gigapixel city shots before, but they’ve rarely had a dynamic element — you’ve had to be content with that one sliver of time. Now, there’s something a little livelier. Lenstore, Nikon and Canary Wharf have partnered on what they say is the first gigapixel timelapse, 24 Hour London. As the name implies, the project provides 7.3-gigapixel snapshots of the city for every hour of the day — you can see how the roads come to life in the day, or how Tower Bridge illuminates the night. The trick, unsurprisingly, revolves around some robotics.

The camera and lens are off-the-shelf parts: a Nikon D850 (whose 45-megapixel stills no helped with detail) and an AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens. It’s the machinery around the camera that matters the most. The team used robotic motion control of the sort movie studios use for fast panning shots. This let the photographers capture 155-degree panoramas over a 24-hour period while maintaining consistency down to the pixel level. You don’t have to worry that a close-up view will suddenly change just because you wanted to see that nighttime scene at dawn.

Is it a promo piece? You bet. But it also shows how gigapixel photography is evolving along with camera gear. Where it used to be that any gigapixel photo was a novelty, the technology is now powerful enough that multi-shot scenes area realistic option. Just don’t expect gigapixel video any time soon.

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Tech News

Nikon may release two full-frame mirrorless cameras this summer

July 5, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Steve Marcus / Reuters

Sony has been leading the way when it come to mirrorless camera tech, leaving Nikon and Canon scrambling to catch up. Now, Nikon Rumors reports that Nikon has two mirrorless cameras on the way. According to the website, they’ll be announced sometime around July 23rd and ship about a month later.

The assumption is that both models will be full frame, though Nikon Rumors doesn’t have confirmation on that front. One will reportedly be 24–25 MP while the other will be 45-48 MP. The body will be similar to Sony’s a7 camera, but Nikon is focusing on better ergonomics and a better grip for these devices. They will boast 5-axis in-body stabilization, 9 fps and a new 55-mm mirrorless mount, that will allow for f/0.95 lenses.

The cameras will accept both XQD and SF Express memory cards. There will be three lenses right off the line: 24–70mm, 35mm and 50mm. The premium 45 MP model will be around $4,000/€4,000 and will come with the 24–70mm kit lens. The 25 MP camera will be in the $3,000/€3,000 range, and will also come with a lens.

None of this has been confirmed directly by Nikon, and Nikon Rumors makes clear that some of these specs may not be precisely correct. Still, it gives interested buyers who have been waiting for a Nikon mirrorless camera hope that these devices are indeed coming soon.

Tech News

AI-powered instant camera turns photos into crude cartoons

July 4, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Dan Macnish

Most cameras are designed to capture scenes as faithfully as possible, but don’t tell that to Dan Macnish. He recently built an instant camera, Draw This, that uses a neural network to translate photos into the sort of crude cartoons you would put on your school notebooks. Macnish mapped the millions of doodles from Google’s Quick, Draw! game data set to the categories the image processor can recognize. After that, it was largely a matter of assembling a Raspberry Pi-powered camera that used this know-how to produce its ‘hand-drawn’ pictures with a thermal printer.

The best part? You never see what the original photo was supposed to look like. You’re putting all your trust in the neural network, and part of the beauty is watching it get things spectacularly wrong. A plant might become a wine glass, or a friend might be reduced to a completely unrecognizable blob. This is more about using AI technology to produce unpredictable art than it is a stab at accuracy.