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Canon EOS M mirrorless camera

Canon's EOS M is finally upon us. $800 will get you the company's first mirrorless, interchangeable-lens camera, with a 22mm prime and a sales pitch centered firmly around its video capabilities.

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Sony's RX100 gets glowing write-up

Sony's RX100 is no larger than Canon's popular S100, but has a far larger image sensor. What this means is simple: better photos with greater depth of field and superior low-light performance. David Pogue is among the first to review it , and finds himself impressed by a point-and-shoot camera that approaches DSLR image quality: "If you care at all about your photography, you’ll thank Sony for giving the camera industry a good hard shove into the future."

The caveat, of course, is that you will pay $650 for it. Apart from the minimalist looks and 1" Exmor CMOS sensor, that gets you 20.2 megapixels, an F1.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens, 3.6x zoom, RAW image capture, and full HD 1080 video at 60p video with manual control (alas, no 24p).

Sony DSC-RX100 [Amazon referrer link]

Sony RX100: small camera, big sensor

With the minimally-designed Cyber-shot RX100, Sony puts a large sensor in a pocket camera—and with it, the promise of much higher-quality photographs. It comes with a 28-100mm-equivalent F1.8-4.9 image-stabilized 3x-zoom lens, and that 20MP Exmor CMOS sensor—about a third the size of APS-C—captures raw. On the back, a 3" LCD display and pop-up flash. The catch: it's $650. Imaging Resource has an exhaustive review.

Why your camera's GPS won't work in China (maybe)

If you've got a major-brand camera with a built-in GPS, don't plan on taking any geotagged photos in China. Chinese law prohibits mapmaking without a license, and most of the large camera manufacturers have complied with this regulation by quietly slipping a censorship function into the GPS -- when you take a picture, the camera checks to see if it's presently in China, and if it is, it throws away its GPS data, rather than embedding it in the photo's metadata. On Ogle Earth, Stefan Geens looks at how several different manufacturers handle this weirdness -- how they phrase it in their manuals, and what their cameras do when they run up against this limitation. It's a fascinating look at the interface between consumer electronics, user interface, and the edicts of totalitarian regimes. In some Nikon cameras, for example, the GPS does work, but all its measurements are shifted about 500m to the west (!).

Why does all this matter? Wherever local laws prohibit the sale or use of a personal electronics device able to perform a certain function, manufacturers have traditionally chosen not to sell the offending device in that particular jurisdiction, or — if the market is tempting enough — to sell a crippled model made especially for that jurisdiction.

For example, Nokia chose not to sell the N95 phone in Egypt when the sale of GPS-enabled devices there was illegal before 2009, whereas Apple opted to make and sell a special GPS-less iPhone 3G for that market. Early models of the Chinese iPhone 3GS lacked wifi, while the Chinese iPhone 4/4S has firmware restrictions on its Google Maps app.

The risk to consumers in freer countries is that personal electronics brands might be tempted to simplify their manufacturing processes by building just one device for the global market, catering to the lowest common denominator of freedom — especially if the more restrictive legal jurisdictions contain some of the most attractive markets, such as mainland China.

Still, in the absence of more information from Panasonic, Leica, FujiFilm, Nikon and Samsung, I can’t decisively say whether this is the business logic behind their decision to cripple the GPS in their cameras. And yet uncrippled GPS cameras from Sony and others are freely available for sale in China, for example on Taobao, China’s eBay...

Why do Panasonic, Leica, FujiFilm, Samsung and Nikon censor their GPS cameras? (Thanks, Jeffrey!)

Descriptive Camera prints out descriptions of pictures, not pictures themselves

Matt Richardson's "Descriptive Camera" sends your pictures to Amazon's Mechanical Turk and jobs out the task of writing a brief description of each image, then outputs the text on a thermal printer. It's a camera that captures descriptions, not pictures.

The technology at the core of the Descriptive Camera is Amazon's Mechanical Turk API. It allows a developer to submit Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) for workers on the internet to complete. The developer sets the guidelines for each task and designs the interface for the worker to submit their results. The developer also sets the price they're willing to pay for the successful completion of each task. An approval and reputation system ensures that workers are incented to deliver acceptable results. For faster and cheaper results, the camera can also be put into "accomplice mode," where it will send an instant message to any other person. That IM will contain a link to the picture and a form where they can input the description of the image.

The camera itself is powered by the BeagleBone, an embedded Linux platform from Texas Instruments. Attached to the BeagleBone is a USB webcam, a thermal printer from Adafruit, a trio of status LEDs and a shutter button. A series of Python scripts define the interface and bring together all the different parts from capture, processing, error handling, and the printed output. My mrBBIO module is used for GPIO control (the LEDs and the shutter button), and I used open-source command line utilities to communicate with Mechanical Turk. The device connects to the internet via ethernet and gets power from an external 5 volt source, but I would love to make a another version that's battery operated and uses wireless data. Ideally, The Descriptive Camera would look and feel like a typical digital camera.

Descriptive Camera, 2012 (via Kottke)

Fooling facial recognition surveillance cameras with cunning and crocheting

[Video Link]

Canadian yarn-lover and privacy-lover Howie Woo has developed an ingenious system for thwarting surveillance cameras that use face recognition technology. His solution involves crochet and LOLs. Here are more photos (via the Boing Boing Flickr Pool). More about Howie's playful creations here.

Canon's EOS 5D Mark III

After all the fuss about Lytro's 'focus in post' camera—and the bathos of its low-quality results—Canon's EOS 5D Mark III is something of an antidote. It has a 22.3 megapixel full-frame sensor, 61-point autofocus (like the 1D), 6fps burst shooting and an ISO range of 100 to 25,600. Dual memory card slots (Compact Flash and SD) and a 3.2" 1-megapixel LCD screen are standard-issue; in-camera HDR, a faster CPU and 100 percent viewfinder coverage are new.

1080p video at 24, 25 and 30 fps is also to be expected, but DSLR filmmakers should like the headphone jack, audio monitoring and the image processor's anti-moire and anti-artifact capabilities. The Mark III lacks the 60D's flip-up LCD display, however, a feature some forum posters hoped for. Several new accessories were announced alongside the Mark III, including two new flash units, a battery grip, a wireless file transfer unit and a GPS receiver.

As antidotes go, this one will not be covered by your insurance: it's $3,499 for the body alone, significantly pricier than the Mark II. The price tag hits four grand when bundled with a 24-105mm kit lens.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III [Amazon]

Lytro light-field camera reviewed

At The Verge, David Piece reviews Lytro, the camera that allows photos to be refocused after taking a shot. Explained in-depth at The Economist by Glenn Fleishman, it gathers data for all focal lengths with each snapshot. But as Pierce learned, there are compromises in store.

Rangefinder iPhone case

Photojojo's iPhone Rangefinder case clips onto your iPhone, making it look like an iPhone inside a case that looks like a bit like a rangefinder. It's compatible with Photojojo's magnetic fisheye, wide-angle/macro and tele lenses: you can get it with a full set for $99. [via This Isn't Happiness]

Kodak bankrupt

The company that invented the hand-held camera filed for bankruptcy protection. [Reuters]

Unexpected camera art featured in Year of the Glitch

Phillip Stearns created Year of the Glitch, a gallery of electronic artwork resulting from the shortcomings of digital cameras. There'll be a new image added each day until 2013, at which point the world collapses to a single glowing, phosphorescent point inside the great cathode ray tube of reality. Pictured above is something weird that came out of an Olympus C-840L. [Via Photojojo]

Did digital photography kill Kodak?

Eastman Kodak, once one of America's most illustrious companies, is nearly out for the count. Trading for a dollar a share, its fortunes now rest on patent lawsuits. Here's Sinead Carew, for Reuters:

Eastman Kodak Co shares lost more than half their value on Friday as the company hired a law firm well-known for bankruptcy cases, triggering speculation that the photography pioneer could file for bankruptcy.

Kodak, which delivered the first consumer camera in 1888, denied it had a bankruptcy plan, saying it was committed to meeting its obligations and is still looking for ways to "monetize" its patent portfolio.

People often suggest that there's an irony in Kodak having invented digital photography. But its real problem was a sales model based on selling cheap cameras and expensive media. So it wasn't killed by the digital camera, really. It was killed by the cheap flash memory that came with it.

Kodak denies bankruptcy plan but shares plummet [Reuters]

Revolver takes a picture every time you pull the trigger

From the Netherlands' National Archive, a 1938 photo taken in New York City of a Colt revolver that has been modified to shoot a picture with every trigger pull. Presumably most of those photos are of people looking horrified and about to say something like, "Oh Christ, you turned your gun into a camera? No, don't point it at me! Ahh!"

(via Super Punch)

808 Car Keys Micro video camera

Forget the GoPro and its expensive ilk: the real fun is clearly to be had with cheap, nasty, hackable spycams such as the 808 Car Keys Micro. Made to resemble a remote entry fob, the gadget records audio, shoots serviceable (YouTube) video, and costs about as much as a pizza. Aficionados pay close attention to serial numbers and other indicators of origin, as they offer clues as to the hackability and durability of otherwise indistinguishable tat. Chuck Lohr broke one apart for science, and offers hints on how to get the best ones. From way back in 2003, Dan Rutter explains the appeal of the no-nonsense bottom end: "It's cheap, it's cute, it's a camera."

Take your chances at ebay or pay a few bob more at Amazon, where one reviewer assures us that it's "an absolute piece of crap". Sold.

Phantom cam shoots 1 million frames per second

Vision Research's Phantom v1610 shoots 1m fps, albeit at the rather low resolution of 128x16. At a more modern 1280x800, however, it still packs in 16,000 shots every second. A 10Gb ethernet link and other high-end connections will keep the data flowing; how many seconds of footage its 96GB of internal storage can hold is left as an exercise for the reader.

Phantom v1610 [Vision Research]

DSLR controller app for Android

DSLR controller is an Android app that allow you to remotely control the functions of your fancy Canon shooter. Wired's Charlie Sorrel writes: "To control a camera with an iPhone, you need to first tether the camera to a computer or use some funky, limited BlueTooth triggering. With Android, you just plug in a USB cable." But is it any good?

Leica gets a splash of color

If you've ever wanted to pay $750 for a stylish Leica version of a $450 Lumix camera, only to pay another $400 to make it resemble a dollar store water pistol, now's your chance! [Colorware via Gadget Lab and Uncrate]