With Leica having just released the beautiful but insanely expensive M10 Monochrom, there’s a good question why other camera manufacturers don’t do the same. Would you buy a Sony a7M III, a Fuji X-M3, or even a Canon EOS Rm?
I’ve been wondering this myself.
A more obvious (affordable) monochrome camera would be something from Fuji, and there have been rumblings about this in the past. With the compact bodies and slightly more hipster leanings, I’d certainly be tempted by an X30m, an X100Fm, or an X-Pro3m.
My thought has long been that an X100M would be a killer camera. Lots of people use the X100 series for street photography, and a monochrome version would be ideal for that.
It would be a very niche product, but I have a feeling that there are enough people who shoot black and white that it could attract photographers who want the constraint and quality of a monochrome camera.
The first update of my recent book about the apps that replaced iTunes is now available.
Are you bewildered with the new Catalina apps that replace iTunes? Befuddled by Apple Music? Do you want to customize the Music app sidebar? Wish you could organize your podcasts? Wondering what the difference is between loves and stars? In this book, Kirk McElhearn (author of three previous Take Control titles on iTunes, going back to 2010) explains not only how Apple’s new media apps work, but how normal people can make the Music, TV, Podcasts, and Books apps do what they want.
Version 1.1 of this book contains changes made mainly to the Music and TV apps shortly after their initial release:
Column Browser: When Apple released the new Music app, it was missing a feature that had been in iTunes from the very first version, which is ideal for navigating large libraries: the column browser. Apple responded to the many users who lamented the loss of this feature, and restored it in December 2019. I discuss the Column Browser in “View Your Music Library.”
Multiple libraries in the Music app: I have added some information about creating and using multiple libraries in the Music app. For a long time, you could create multiple libraries, but all your libraries would still inherit the preferences set in iTunes. Now, in the Music app, each library uses separate preferences, notably that to sync your library to the cloud. See “Create More than One Music Library on Your Mac.”
Navigation from the keyboard: I have added a couple of tips for navigating different views in the Music app. See “View Your Music Library” to find out how to quickly move down a list of artists, composers, songs, or albums.
Using an Audible account in the Books app: I have added information about authorizing an Audible account to listen to audiobooks in the Books app. See “Listen to Audiobooks.”
Update: Sonos seems to have changed their tune from yesterday, when they said that you wouldn’t be able to use “legacy” devices together with new devices. Here’s what they’re currently saying on Twitter:
Back in the day, Sonos was the only solution for playing multi-room audio. The company’s innovative mesh networking system meant that you could launch audio on your system and direct it to any of a number of speakers, all throughout your house.
While the company has not stated what features would need more resources, I suspect that they are going to head toward high-resolution audio, which, as it is in many cases, would actually not offer any real benefits given the hardware used. But this will also prevent older devices from getting updates that may be needed for them to remain compatible with streaming services, if they introduce changes, which is certainly likely over time.
There is a great deal of anger among Sonos users, many of whom have been championing the brand for years, and who have, over time, accreted numerous Sonos devices to provide music in their homes. While Sonos is offering 30% discounts to people so they can upgrade to new hardware, this is seen as an insult by many users who have spent thousands of dollars on their systems with the belief that this was durable equipment. After all, speakers last a long time; but software doesn’t. In addition, the way Sonos proposes to recycle these devices is wasteful. And one person I know pointed out on Twitter that he had hard-wired his family’s home just five years ago, and all of his devices will become obsolete. With a setup like that, it’s not easy to just replace the speakers.
I don’t think it’s impossible for Sonos to offer software fixes so older and newer devices can work together. Older devices would not have access to all the same features, but they should still be able to play music, which really isn’t that complicated. But the company clearly does not want to go that route, which is a shame. This sort of planned obsolescence is not what people expect.
So what’s next for those wanting a multi-room audio system? I have a number of Sonos devices: a Sonos Amp in my office, a pair of Sonos One speakers in my bedroom, and a Sonos Beam soundbar connected to my TV. I don’t use these for multi-room audio – each one is a device for listening in a specific location, and I never play them in sync – but this approach shows the way forward.
When I bought these Sonos devices over the past year or so, I was careful to choose devices that support Apple’s AirPlay 2, which allows you to stream music to one or more devices in sync. AirPlay 2 provides features similar to what Sonos offers, in that you can group devices and have them all play the same music, in sync. While AirPlay is a proprietary protocol developed by Apple, it is available to other companies so they can make compatible speakers and TV sets. (The addition of TVs is recent.) From the Music app on my Mac, or from any app on an iPhone or iPad, I can choose one or more speakers to play my music. You can use AirPlay on a Mac, on Windows (in iTunes), and on iOS or Android devices.
Sonos’ apps allow you to play music from a local library, or from a number of streaming services. With AirPlay, you stream from your device and control music from each service’s app. So rather than centralize all your playback in a single app, you may need to use more than one app. But you can do the same thing as you can with a Sonos system, and you are not limited to speakers from a single manufacturer. And you can stream to an Apple TV, to which you can connect any non-networked speaker or receiver, offering even more flexibility.
(It’s worth noting that there is a hard limit of about 60,000 tracks; beyond that, Sonos cannot handle your music. It loads the music in your selected folder alphabetically, and, on my iMac, it only shows music up to Pink Floyd, but nothing after.)
While this solution doesn’t help people who have invested heavily in a Sonos system, it is a way forward that has less of a platform lock-in. But given the reach of AirPlay 2 currently, it’s hard to imagine that it will be short lived. The main difference here is that there is no mesh networking requiring all the speakers to have the same software. You can currently stream to AirPlay 1 speakers without any problem, though you can’t use them with the same multi-device sync features. But they still work; they don’t become obsolete because they don’t have the latest version of AirPlay.
What Sonos needs to do is to get their developers to update their software so older devices can work, but with limited features. If not, it’s time to look elsewhere, and the wide range of AirPlay 2 compatible speakers and receivers is a good place to start.
In May, Sonos will stop providing software updates for its oldest products, and they’ll no longer receive any new features. The decision impacts “legacy” devices that are currently part of the company’s trade-up program, including all Sonos Zone Players, the Connect and Connect:Amp, the first-generation Play:5, the CR200 controller, and the Bridge.
“Without new software updates, access to services and overall functionality of your sound system will eventually be disrupted, particularly as partners evolve their technology,” Sonos warned in a blog post today. The company says customers can choose to either keep using these products after support ends — they should continue functioning in the near-term — or replace them with a modern Sonos product at a discount.
Platform obsolescence. While individual devices would continue to work even without software updates, the fact that they integrate into a platform makes this impossible.
I think Sonos is offering users a fair deal, with 30% discounts for upgrades. But it still feels wrong. You can use a 50-year old stereo receiver but you can no longer use something that’s just over 10 years old. (To be fair, though, the Play:5, which is the first speaker that is end of life, does have an aux in jack, so you can run audio from some other network bridge into it.)
Update: It’s worth noting that there is a lot of ire among Sonos users. I follow a Facebook group, and there are a lot of people who bought devices just a year ago that are affected. I also heard from someone on Twitter who had hard-wired a bunch of Sonos stuff in a house, juts five years ago, and it will all be affected. In that case, I update what I said just above; this isn’t a fair deal, this is a catalyst for a class-action lawsuit.
I wonder if this decision is simply because Sonos doesn’t want to do the necessary software development to keep older devices working, or if they can’t. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more about this soon. Sonos users tend to be quite vocal in their appreciation for the company, and that appreciation has quickly changed to anger.
Oh, while I’m at it, I have a bunch of Sonos stuff and I use it only with AirPlay, but the company still doesn’t support music libraries over 60,000 tracks (if you point the Sonos app at a folder containing your music files). Yet in practice, this number is much smaller. When I tried – about five years ago – it only managed to see about 40,000 tracks. This is because a lot of my music library is classical, and has a lot of metadata. The library size is limited by the amount of text that can be stored in a database, and with classical music, you can use fewer tracks because the metadata is often larger. Seriously.
“Not much surprises me these days but this news did,” said Ian Rankin of Lee Child’s revelation this weekend that his brother, Andrew Grant, would be continuing the Jack Reacher series. Child said: “For years I thought about different ways of killing Reacher off. First of all, I thought he would go out in a blaze of bullets, something like the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It would take an army to bring him down [but] Reacher had to have an afterlife after I was done.”
I find this really annoying. When I read a series – particularly a crime or mystery series – it’s not just about the character, but also about the author. Continuing a series with a different author is just wrong. When Robert B. Parker died, I was sad, but his characters have been continued by others, and there is even a movie coming out soon with Mark Wahlberg based on his Spenser character.
But there are others. Dick Francis’ son continues his series; there have been Ian Fleming follow-ups; series by Robert Ludlum and Thomas Clancy have been strung along; and the best-selling fantasy series The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan, was continued by Brandon Sanderson.
I’ve actually been binging the Jack Reacher novels since early December. I had read a dozen of them many years ago, then lost interest, but I wanted a series I could read over a few months. I’ve read 19 of them so far, which leaves five more to go. I won’t read any written by anyone else.
Wilbur Smith has also gladly collaborated with co-authors in recent years, saying that “my fans have made it very clear that they would like to read my novels and revisit my family of characters faster than I can write them. For them, I am willing to make a change to my working methods so the stories in my head can reach the page more frequently”.
This is a related issue. Publishers are pushing authors of popular series to write more, and, if they could get two books a year instead of one from best-selling authors, they’d be very happy.
Everyone knows that the global corporate tax system needs to be overhauled, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said on Monday, backing changes to global rules that are currently under consideration.
The growth of internet giants such as Apple has pushed international tax rules to the limit, prompting the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to pursue global reforms over where multinational firms should be taxed.
The reforms being examined center around the booking of profits by multinational firms in low-tax countries such as Ireland where they have bases – and where Cook was speaking on Monday – rather than where most of their customers are.
“I think logically everybody knows it needs to be rehauled, I would certainly be the last person to say that the current system or the past system was the perfect system. I’m hopeful and optimistic that they (the OECD) will find something,” Cook said.
“It’s very complex to know how to tax a multinational… We desperately want it to be fair,” the Apple CEO added after receiving an inaugural award from the Irish state agency responsible for attracting foreign companies recognizing the contribution of multinationals in the country.
I think Tim Cook sees the writing on the wall, and wants to get out in front of it. Apple has long been the poster child for tax avoidance, but Cook knows this has to change.
The company should certainly not be taxed for the full value of what they sell; much of that value is made in their home country. But there should be a reasonable way to calculate the wholesale value of an item, such as an iPhone, and what share of the retail price is profit in the local country.
UK newspaper and magazine publishers lost almost £170m in digital revenue last year as technology designed to stop advertisements from appearing next to hard-hitting content, such as shootings and terrorism, also inadvertently blocked them from appearing in some of the most popular stories of the year.
Publishers found many articles related to some of the most well read and therefore commercially valuable stories of the year – on topics ranging from the Rugby World Cup to Game of Thrones – shorn of advertising.
When advertisers run digital campaigns they use keyword blacklists – stocked with trigger words such as “attack”, “death” and “sex” – that automatically stop ads running in potentially problematic stories that feature them.
While publishers have traditionally encouraged the use of such brand reputation protection measures in the digital age, blacklists are ballooning in some cases to as many as 3,000 or 4,000 words, blocking ads from many different stories.
Oh. What a shame. So I guess ad networks that work based on algorithms don’t work as expected. Gee. What a surprise.
One senior executive at a UK media agency, which handles the advertising for numerous household-name brands, cited a case of being asked by a client to create a blacklist comprised of “any negative words”. Another agency executive knows of multiple advertisers who added the word “is” to their blacklists, wanting to avoid having ads appear around material on the Islamic State (Isis) militant group, virtually guaranteeing zero ads appearing on any news sites. Wildman says that the word Manchester is still on many blacklists three years after the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena.
Leica is a company that plays by different rules to everyone else. By building cameras in low volumes and charging a premium for them, it’s able to pursue different avenues from the mainstream Japanese makers. It’s maintained a healthy market for its M-series rangefinders, despite this type of camera having generally fallen out of favour in the 1960s, and it also makes cameras dedicated to black & white shooting, with its M Monochrom series.
So how, and why, would you do such a thing? The basic principle is simple: conventional cameras sense colour by arranging red, green and blue filters over the light-sensitive photodiodes of their sensors, with the recorded data being converted to a visually-meaningful photograph through a complex process of demosaicing, noise reduction and sharpening. While this works very well, it delivers less detail and introduces artefacts compared to recording full colour data for each pixel. To produce a black & white image, the colour has to be removed again, but you’re still stuck with the after-effects of the processing. In contrast, by doing without a colour filter array (CFA) over the sensor, the Monochrom cameras are capable of recording black & white images directly. This gives visibly superior tonality and detail, along with higher sensitivity and lower noise.
Leica has announced a new version of its Leica M Monochrom camera, one of the only cameras available that only shoots black and white. With a new sensor, going from 24 Mp in the previous model to a whopping 40.9 Mp, this unique camera gives photos that are like shooting black and white film. The detail, and the low noise at high ISOs, are extraordinary. The above explains what is so special about this sensor.
This is one of the best reviews I’ve seen, explaining the specificities of this camera, as well as those of a rangefinder.
I don’t generally have gear lust, but I definitely lust after this camera. I prefer black and white photography, and I like the way this camera strips the process to its essentials, all while providing a quality that is simply unavailable in other cameras when converting from color photos to black and white.
The images below are those supplied by Leica as JPEGs. Both are downsampled; the first was 6467 x 4267, shot at ISO 160. The second is 7692 x 5086, shot at ISO 12,500! (Full resolution of this camera’s files is 7692 x 5086.) I’ve downsampled both for use here, but see the link in the last paragraph of this article to download the full-resolution files.
As you can see, the strength of this camera seems to be a high-contrast, Tri-X Pan-ish look. But that second photo, shot at very high ISO (12,500), also shows that the sensor performs really well in low light. The photo was shot at f/4.8, 1/180 sec.
But it costs £7,250; and that’s without a lens. Yes, you can get “cheap” lenses to use with the camera, but at that price, you really do want a good lens. About a year ago, there were promotions where you could get the previous model Leica M Monochrom and a good Leica lens for less than £7,000, and I was seriously considering getting a 0% interest credit card and paying it off over a year. But it would be overkill; I don’t take enough pictures to justify this, and it would be nothing more than a (late) mid-life crisis camera.
Nevertheless, I would love to own this. I wish other camera manufacturers would make affordable monochrome cameras. The ideal candidate would be Fujifilm, who could make an X100M, perhaps, which would be very popular among street photographers.
You can learn more about the Leica M Monochrom, and especially a great explanation of what is unique in its sensor, in this video.
If you’re into this sort of thing, you can download some sample DNG files here. And there are a bunch of sample JPEGs provide by Leica here. When I had seen sample DNG files from the previous model, they tended to be washed out, because that’s the way the sensor worked. With these, it only takes a few adjustments to make the photos look very filmic. For one of the files, in Apple Photos, I just clicked the Auto adjustment for curves, and for another, I adjusted the curves, then made some tweaks to contrast, shadows, and highlights, to bring out the contrast. It’s very interesting to play around with these files.