When one of the rarest photo lenses in the world goes up for auction next weekend in Vienna, Austria, it’s expected to fetch between €100,000 and €120,000.
The lens, a Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7, was designed by the German lens-maker in 1966 for NASA. The agency needed a lens capable of capturing light in the darkest circumstances, perfect for pictures of the moon during its Apollo Missions. Only 10 of the lenses were manufactured. NASA bought six of them.
“This is one of these ten lenses that Zeiss made at that time,” said Andreas Schweiger, of Leitz Photographica Auction, which is running the auction. “Most probably, this is one of the lenses delivered to NASA.”
Schweiger spoke to Insider last week via Zoom from his office in Vienna, where his team’s readying for a live auction at the city’s Hotel Bristol, scheduled for June 12.
For the last few weeks, boxes containing historic and rare camera equipment have been arriving at the auction company’s doorstep. Most came from private collectors.
“They get their camera as a gift from their grandparents, for example, or they find maybe a camera in the attic,” Schweiger said. “When they don’t know what to do, they look up on the internet and hopefully they find us.”
Among the rarities that will go on the auction block are a “Luxus” model gold-plated Leica that’s wrapped in lizard skin (starting bid €100,000), a Leica MP2 with Electric Motor (starting bid €150,000), and a 1924 Leica owned by Ernst Leitz II, who manufactured the first Leica cameras (starting bid €40,000).
There will be a trio of Rolleiflex cameras owned by American photographer Walker Evans (starting bid €20,000), and a pair of Leicas (starting bid €6,000) owned by Felice Quinto, an early Italian paporazzo.
A Jony Ive Leica Prototype
There will, however, be one missing item.
A prototype of a Leica camera designed by Apple’s Jony Ive and British designer Marc Newson was expected to be among the most-watched items on sale. The camera was on the auction catalog’s cover. It was one of a kind.
Schweiger said the seller decided at the last minute to pull the camera. It would have had a starting bid of €150,000, with a final sale expected from €200,000 to €250,000.
It was a test model for the only completed Leica camera by the designers, which went up for sale in a 2013 charity auction. It sold for $1.8 million.
Schweiger wouldn’t say more about the prototype’s owner, or why the item had been pulled from the sale. Michal Kosakowski, Leitz Photographica Auction’s product specialist, who was also on the Zoom call, said that the owner was in the US.
Ahead of the auction
Most of the difficult work of putting together the catalog and auction was done by the time Schweiger and Kosakowski spoke with Insider.
They’d unpacked all the boxes. Kosakowski’s team had checked that the cameras and lenses were mostly in working order. Sometimes they’d run a roll of film through the camera, but most of their work was done using machines. Then they’d photographed each item for their website.
The rare Zeiss lens was designed by a team led by Dr. Erhard Glatzel, who would later be given the Apollo Achievement Award, said Silke Schmid, head of the Zeiss Museum of Optics in Germany.
“In the 1960s, he was one of the leading scientists and managers in the lens design department at Zeiss in Oberkochen, Germany,” Schmid told Insider last week. “His creations were world-renowned, including the Zeiss Hologon and the Zeiss Planar 0.7/50.”
The lenses were so effective at gathering light that NASA had planned to use them to photograph the far side of the moon. (Insider reached out to NASA for confirmation.) Of the 10 produced, three went to director Stanley Kubrick, who needed them to shoot candlelit scenes for “Barry Lyndon,” Schmid said.
“Kubrick located three 50mm f/0.7 Ziess still-camera lenses, which were left over from a batch made for NASA,” said cinematographer John Alcott, who worked with Kubrick, according to “The Stanley Kubrick Archives.”
That marked “the first time in film history that it was possible to shoot without using artificial light,” Schmid said.
Schweiger said he was eager to watch the bidding begin. As the auctioneers spoke to Insider, some of the early online bidding ahead of the live auction had already begun. The Zeiss Planar had two bids, raising the price to €55,000, but that was still only half its expected selling price.
“So we see bids coming in and so on, and we get a little bit of the feeling how the lots are treated, how interesting are the lots for our customers,” Schweiger said. “So, it’s both stressful and exciting.”
Outdoor security cameras can help you to safeguard your property.
The most important features to look for are high-quality video and reliable connectivity.
After extensive testing, we recommend the Arlo Pro 4 as the best outdoor security camera.
A good outdoor security camera system helps you to keep tabs on your property from anywhere and can act as a deterrent to unwelcome visitors. Motion detection will trigger the camera to start recording and send a notification to your smartphone so that you can review any activity around your home.
When choosing a camera, it’s important to consider video quality, audio quality, and connectivity. Your budget will also factor in, and some security cameras require subscriptions if you want access to additional features.
After testing several devices and researching expert reviews, we’ve selected the best outdoor security cameras you can buy in 2021. Our picks fall into a few different categories so that you can find something with the features you need at a price that works for you.
Here are the best outdoor security cameras of 2021
The Arlo Pro 4 captures high-quality video and audio, performs reliably, and has the best notification system.
Pros: Excellent video quality, smart motion detection, great alert system, easy to install, reliable performance
Cons: Requires subscription for cloud storage and smart features
The Arlo Pro 4 is an elegant wireless security camera that’s easy to set up and install. There’s a choice of magnetic or screw-in mounts and a charging cable in the box. It connects directly to your Wi-Fi router, but that’s the only thing that sets it apart from the excellent Arlo Pro 3, which connects to a SmartHub.
Video footage is sharp and clear, with HDR ensuring that bright areas don’t get blown out and darker areas retain detail. Color night vision and a spotlight ensure you don’t miss anything at night. The two-way audio allows for easy conversation and there’s a siren should you want to scare off any unwelcome visitors. The Arlo Pro 4 does the basics very well, and the app is easy to use. It connects swiftly and reliably and quickly recovers its connection after power or Wi-Fi outages.
False positives can be a big issue for security cameras, so Arlo’s array of fine-tuning options is a big bonus. You can limit the area to record for privacy and draw multiple activity zones to dictate precisely where motion should trigger a recording. Videos are accurately categorized as people, animals, vehicles, packages, and other motion. What I like best about Arlo cameras is the rich notification system. It shows a screenshot thumbnail with the subject highlighted, so you can see at a glance if you need to load the app to investigate further.
Expect to get between three and six months of battery life from a fully charged camera, with plenty of warning when it’s running low. There’s comprehensive smart-home integration, and it’s relatively quick to bring up a live feed on a smart display. The big drawback with the Arlo Pro 4 is the need for an Arlo Smart subscription to get 30 days of cloud video history and all the smart features that make this the best outdoor security camera for most people.
The best budget outdoor security camera
The Wyze Cam Outdoor is a bargain, with a competitive set of features, local video storage, and free cloud storage.
Pros: Very affordable, good video quality, local storage, free cloud storage, easy to install
Cons: Requires a subscription for smart detection and unlimited recording, requires a hub, app can be slow
Bargain hunters will love the Wyze Cam Outdoor. Quick and easy to set up, this boxy camera connects to a small hub that plugs into your router. There’s a base with a foldout frame and screws for mounting. The camera attaches magnetically and has a MicroSD card slot for local storage, as does the hub, though you’ll have to buy cards separately.
The picture quality is generally good and provides enough clarity to recognize subjects quickly, but it can’t match more expensive cameras. The resolution is fine, but the frame rate is lower than the other cameras on our list, which can make videos appear a little jerky. The infrared night vision works well, but videos are much noisier. The audio quality is passable, though it occasionally sounds distorted. You can have a two-way conversation provided that you are patient about the slight lag.
While the connection is reliable and recovers gracefully from outages, it takes a little longer to connect to the app than cameras like the Arlo Pro 4. The app is easy to use and offers a customizable detection zone with a grid system and a sensitivity slider. You can review recorded videos saved on a MicroSD card or via the free cloud storage. If you stick with the basic free plan, videos are limited to 12 seconds, with a five-minute cooldown before it starts recording again.
Battery life is a standard three to six months. There’s a good range of smart-home integration, but loading live feeds on smart displays is relatively slow. If you want motion detection to recognize people, packages, and vehicles, with the promise of pet detection and face recognition to come, then you have to sign up for the Wyze’s subscription, which also removes the limit on video length and the cooldown period. At this price, the Wyze Cam Outdoor is unmatched, and paired with a MicroSD card it’s your best budget option.
The best wired outdoor security camera
Elegant design and reliable performance make the Nest Cam Outdoor a tempting option if you want to plug in.
Pros: Very good video quality, smart motion detection, well-designed app, reliable performance, no charging required
Cons: Requires expensive subscription for cloud storage and smart features, installation can be tricky
If you’d prefer not to have to worry about charging batteries, the Nest Cam Outdoor is a solid pick. Installation may be trickier if you don’t have an outdoor outlet, because you have to run a power cable into your home. With no battery inside, this is the smallest camera on the list.
Even with a lower resolution than some other cameras, the Nest Cam Outdoor produces impressively high-quality video. Night vision is equally good thanks to multiple infrared sensors, and there’s an 8x digital zoom to help you track and identify subjects. The audio is clear enough to carry on a conversation, but it works like a walkie-talkie so when you press to talk there’s no incoming sound.
Reliability is good and connections are established swiftly with the straightforward app. You can customize activity zones, set up smart alerts, and there’s even face recognition. There’s also support for 24/7 recording for those that need it. The more expensive Nest Cam IQ Outdoor offers higher image quality and lots of small improvements, including proper two-way audio, but it’s currently unavailable and a refresh of the line-up is imminent.
With strong reviews from TechRadar, CNET, and a recommendation from Wirecutter, this aging camera is still among the best. If Google is your preferred ecosystem, it will merge seamlessly with your smart home setup. The main downside is the pricey Nest Aware subscription, which is a necessity with this camera.
The best local-storage outdoor security camera
With no subscription necessary, the Reolink Argus 3 Pro boasts an impressively long feature list for the price.
Pros: Affordable, great video quality, local storage, free cloud storage, solar panel power option (sold separately)
Cons: App can be confusing, limited battery life, no 2FA
The Reolink Argus 3 Pro has a familiar design and comes with a choice of ball socket screw-in mounts that make it easy to adjust the view. Set up is straightforward, and it connects directly to your Wi-Fi router wirelessly. Reolink offers free cloud storage, but there’s also a MicroSD card slot on the camera that supports large-capacity cards.
With a high resolution and reasonably good contrast, the Argus Pro 3 makes it easy to review the action in any video. There’s no HDR, so bright sunlight can blow areas out. The frame rate is limited to 15 frames-per-second which means action looks a little jerky at times, but there’s lots of good detail. A spotlight and night vision offer reasonably clear video at night. The two-way audio works well enough to have a conversation, but there is distortion on recordings sometimes. There’s also a siren.
Connectivity has been stellar for me. The Reolink Argus 3 Pro offers dual-band Wi-Fi, which is still quite rare in security cameras. It reconnects quickly after Wi-Fi or power outages. You can tweak the sensitivity, but it lacks customizable activity zones, and it sometimes misidentifies motion, like a swaying branch or cat, as a person. Notifications work well, and the live feed loads impressively swiftly as a default view.
Battery life runs down quite quickly. With the spotlight and frequent alerts, my review unit was on course to last six weeks at the most, but you can buy a solar panel accessory for $25 and never have to worry about it. Even installed in partial shade, it keeps the camera powered up.
One worry is that a thief could take this camera with the MicroSD card inside, though Reolink does offer free cloud storage as well. The lack of 2FA is also a security concern, so you’ll want to guard your login details and avoid using this camera indoors. On the other hand, some people will appreciate the ability to only use local storage without the need to upload anything to the cloud or even create a Reolink account.
Ultimately, the swifter performance and affordable price are why the Reolink makes the list over the Eufy Cam 2C, which you’ll find in what else we considered. But if security is a bigger concern for you, the Eufy will suit you better.
Pros: High-quality video, expansive field-of-view, no hub required, wired or rechargeable battery, clear two-way audio
Cons: Requires subscription for cloud storage and smart features, bulky body
The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is easy to install and offers a truly expansive view of your front porch that shows visitors from head to toe. If you’re willing to wire in a smart doorbell and you have a compatible setup, then save some cash and opt for the wired version. The wireless model has a battery inside that makes it a bit chunkier.
Video quality is top-notch, leaving you in no doubt about who is at the door. The HDR support is vital if your door gets a lot of sun or has a shaded porch, as it maintains the detail you need in mixed lighting. There’s an infrared mode for when it’s dark, though you can stick with color footage if there’s enough light on your porch. The audio quality is better than other video doorbells I’ve tested. When people ring the bell, the footage comes through to your phone swiftly and reliably as a video call.
If the internet or power goes out, the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell reconnects quickly without issues. It’s fast to connect to the live feed through the app. There are lots of useful features, including multiple activity zones, smart alerts, subject recognition, and a loud siren. As with the Arlo Pro 4, the rich notifications on your phone or smartwatch are excellent and clear enough to save you from having to open the app much of the time. This is the fastest doorbell I’ve tested at bringing up a live feed on a smart display, and both my Amazon Echo and Nest Mini speakers announce when someone is at the door.
Stated battery life is up to six months, but that’s optimistic. (Mine is at 48 percent after six weeks.) It’s quite easy to pop off the bracket to recharge, and it warns you when the power is getting low. The need for a subscription to enable cloud recordings and smart features is the main drawback.
Every outdoor security camera we test goes through a series of checks for at least a week but usually much longer. We assess how easy it is to set up and install the camera, how well it performs in different scenarios, how good the motion detection and notification system are, how easy the app is to use, and how useful any additional features are.
We install cameras and live with them to compare how they perform. This involves asking several questions:
Video quality: How clear is the video that the camera records? How does it perform at different resolutions? Does it support HDR or other features to enhance clarity? Does it have night vision or a spotlight for the dark, and how does the resulting footage look?
Audio quality: How clear is the sound that the camera records? Can you have a two-way conversation through the camera in real time? Are there additional features, like a siren?
Connectivity: Does the camera connect directly to a Wi-Fi router or does it have a hub? How reliable is the connection? How quickly can I connect to a live feed and is there any lag? How quickly can I play back recorded videos from the cloud or local storage? Does the camera reconnect swiftly if the Wi-Fi router or hub is turned off and on again?
Battery life: How long does it last between charges? How do you charge it? Can you use replacement batteries? Can you connect a power source or solar panel? Does it warn you when power is low?
App: How quickly does the app load on average? Can you set activity zones? How easy is it to find the settings you want? Can you configure the motion-detection settings?
Notifications: How quickly do notifications come through when you’re at home or away? How clear are the notifications? How long does it take to tap through to the live feed or recorded video when a notification comes in? Are there any false positives? Does it ever fail to notify you about a motion event? Does it categorize events correctly?
Smart home: Can you connect to smart home systems and voice assistants? Do voice commands work correctly? Can you trigger cameras with other devices and vice versa? How long does it take to load video feeds on devices like smart displays?
What else we considered
Eufy Cam 2C: This camera wrestled with the Reolink in the best local storage category. It has to connect to a hub, where video is stored. This is both good and bad, as it makes it tougher for thieves to steal the footage but requires an outlet and a port on your router. It does have detection zones and a wider field of view and matches the two-way audio and spotlight, but the picture quality isn’t quite as good and the Reolink was faster to connect during testing.
Ring Stick Up Cam Battery: A solid option for the price, this camera delivers good quality 1080p footage at 15 frames-per-second and connects directly to your Wi-Fi router. You can set multiple motion zones, and notifications work well. There’s two-way audio, a siren, and reasonably good night vision. The app is feature-packed, and it works well with Alexa. On the downside, you need a subscription, and this is one of the slowest cameras to load the live feed. It’s also big and bulky.
Wyze Cam V3: Incredibly cheap but surprisingly good, the Wyze Cam V3 is IP65 rated, so it can serve as an outdoor camera. The big catch is that you have to plug it in, and you’ll end up spending more on a long cable than you did on the camera. It offers decent quality video, night vision, two-way audio, and detection zones. Read our full Wyze Cam V3 review to learn more.
Eufy 2K Video Doorbell: If you don’t want to sign up for a subscription, this is a great alternative smart doorbell. It connects to a hub, which doubles as a chime. The video quality is excellent, and there’s two-way audio, human detection, and customizable zones. It’s not as responsive as the Arlo and the app can be slow sometimes, but it’s an alternative worth considering. Read our Eufy 2K Video Doorbell review for more.
What we look forward to testing
Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: The smarter version of Google’s security camera has proper two-way audio and a higher quality image sensor, but it’s sold out ahead of a new launch that will presumably replace it. Whatever camera that turns out to be, we’ll get it in for testing to find out what improvements Google has in store.
Blink Outdoor: We were quite impressed by the camera quality for the low price in our Blink Mini review, but the subscription cost made it much less of a bargain. The Blink Outdoor looks interesting, offering decent-quality video in a compact, weather-proof form, with the alluring promise of two-year battery life. We plan to put it through its paces soon.
Ezviz C3X: We have not tested anything from this manufacturer yet, but the Ezviz C3X has an impressive spec sheet and an interesting design. It’s a dual-lens camera with antennas for better connectivity and boasts color night vision, a spotlight and siren, two-way audio, and configurable motion detection.
How to choose an outdoor security camera
How many cameras do I need, and what’s the optimal placement?
The number of cameras you need depends on what you want to monitor. An Arlo representative told us that the top five most common locations for outdoor security cameras are as follows:
1). Front Door: The front door is the main point of entry to a home. Placing a camera near the front door is great for monitoring package deliveries, visitors, and guests. Unfortunately, crimes like package theft frequently occur. By placing a camera in this area, homeowners have full visibility into who visits their home, night or day. Having a security device visible may deter would-be package thieves.
2). Near the driveway: Some people like to monitor this area of their property. To ensure more details are seen and able to be captured at night, homeowners can consider selecting a camera with an integrated spotlight.
3). In the backyard: Placing a camera in the backyard will give homeowners the ability to monitor the perimeter of their home. A backyard camera will help alert users if someone is trespassing onto your property, trying to jump the fence, or looking for another way to break and enter.
4). Side yard or near an outdoor fuse box: Angling a camera to capture the side yard or the area near an outdoor power fuse box can help alert homeowners if someone attempts to cut their power.
5). Aimed at the home – Aiming a camera at the home can provide a critical vantage point. Leveraging a tree or fence location to place a camera and point towards the home increases a homeowner’s chances of capturing a clear image of trespassers.
In terms of optimal camera placement, it’s important for homeowners to make sure their camera is within the range of their Wi-Fi router and spaced out from additional monitoring devices. Homeowners will also want to make sure their home security camera:
Isn’t looking through glass or other transparent objects.
Is positioned so the space they wish to monitor is within the camera’s field of view.
Is mounted approximately seven feet above the ground and angled slightly downward.
Is mounted so the motion-detection area is approximately five to 20 feet from the camera’s position.
What can I do about the risk of camera theft?
If you’re concerned about camera theft or vandalism, then you should also consider placing the camera out of reach of an intruder or buying a security camera cage to make it harder to access. Magnetic mounts may be convenient, but threaded mounts make it harder to remove security cameras.
Security camera manufacturers have various policies on camera theft and replacements, so look into them before you buy. Some subscription services include extra protections, but make sure you read the conditions. You will likely have to file a police report before you can claim on a camera theft.
One last thing to consider if you’re concerned about camera theft is to make sure you don’t pick a camera that records on the device itself. If videos are recorded on a hub in the home or in the cloud, you will at least have some footage of the thief.
Should I choose wired or wireless cameras?
Wireless solutions are ideal for simple installation. They provide added flexibility, allowing a camera to be placed anywhere around the property where the homeowner needs protection, and with no need to worry about a power source. Wired solutions are great for continuous power and may be ideal for locations that may be hard to reach when it comes time to replace/recharge the battery.
What kind of internet connection do I need?
For most security cameras, an internet connection on the 2.4Ghz frequency is a necessity for direct-to-Wi-Fi home router connectivity. Some systems come with their own hubs that typically plug into the back of your router with an ethernet cable. We are starting to see a few manufacturers add Wi-Fi connectivity on the 5Ghz frequency. While 5Ghz Wi-Fi is generally faster than 2.4Ghz, it’s not always ideal for security cameras because it has a shorter range.
Do I need a subscription?
While many outdoor security cameras offer local storage, either via a MicroSD card in the camera itself or in a hub in your home, some require a monthly subscription for cloud storage and smart features. Always check what you get without a subscription before you buy and factor in the ongoing cost if you decide it’s worth springing for.
What detection and notification features do I need?
Most camera systems offer some form of recognition, so they can tell the difference between a cat or a person, for example. This is vital if you don’t want to waste time reviewing videos of passing animals. Make sure that notifications can be configured, so you can dictate when alerts should come through to your phone. Notification systems that include a screenshot of the video are very useful in helping you decide quickly whether you need to open the app and check the live feed or review the video.
What about the risk of someone accessing my camera?
To reduce the risk of anyone hacking into your camera, look for two-factor authentication (2FA). Without 2FA, anyone with your username and password can log into your camera. It’s worth noting that you have to activate 2FA in your account with some camera systems.
What about privacy?
Tesla announced in a blog post on Tuesday that it was scrapping radar for its driver-assist features, including Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, and would use cameras instead.
Model 3 and Model Y vehicles made in North America from this month would come with cameras to make Autopilot work. These cameras would help Autopilot keep the vehicle in lane and maintain space to other nearby cars, Tesla said.
During the transition, customers may find some Tesla features “temporarily limited or inactive,” it said. Autosteer – the automatic steering that keeps Teslas in their lane – will only work up to 75 mph, it said.
The company also said Smart Summon and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance “may be disabled at delivery.” These features will be restored shortly via over-the-air software updates, according to Tesla.
Tesla is using Model 3 and Model Y vehicles for the transition to cameras because they’re the company’s most popular models.
“Transitioning them to Tesla Vision first allows us to analyze a large volume of real-world data in a short amount of time, which ultimately speeds up the roll-out of features based on Tesla Vision,” the electric vehicle maker said.
Model S, Model X, and all vehicles built for markets outside of North America will still be equipped with radar, Tesla said.
CEO Elon Musk tweeted on March 12 that the company was planning to adopt “pure vision – not even using radar.” In April, the company wrote in its quarterly update that “a vision-only system is ultimately all that is needed for full autonomy.”
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DJI’s $999 Air 2S is its first consumer drone to use a 1-inch sensor.
The sensor allows the camera to capture videos and photos with enhanced image quality.
The Air 2S is easy to fly and includes improved safety features such as obstacle avoidance.
Table of Contents: Masthead StickyAir 2S (small)Fly More Combo with Remote Controller (small)
DJI’s consumer drones (the Mavic series) are some of the easiest to fly, even if you are a first-time pilot. They incorporate operation that’s simple to understand, but users can take off the training wheels when they advance. They also utilize technology that promote safe flying, such as obstacle avoidance and aircraft detection. Having established itself as the premier drone maker, DJI has since focused on improving the camera image quality.
The new $999 DJI Air 2S ($1,299 for a complete bundle) is the first consumer-grade drone from DJI to use a camera with a 1-inch sensor, which delivers enhanced video (up to 5.4K resolution), improved low-light performance, and sharp, high-resolution photos – making it an affordable option for budget filmmakers and video enthusiasts. (The DJI Mavic 2 also uses a 1-inch sensor, but that is geared toward more pro and advanced users).
Design and setup
Like the other DJI consumer drones we’ve tested, including the Mini 2 and Air 2 that are in the current lineup, the Air 2S is easy to set up and fly. If you own a DJI drone or you’ve used one extensively, the Air 2S will feel familiar. Newbies should practice, and DJI offers training tutorials.
The Air 2S is slightly larger and heavier than the Air 2, but I find both to be similar in operation. DJI’s drones tend to have solid build quality, and while I didn’t have any mishap with the Air 2S, previous drones I’ve tested all escaped accidents without injury. (If you are accident-prone, consider DJI’s Care Refresh program where, for a fee, you are covered for any accidents and even loss.)
For a drone, the Air 2S is compact and lightweight. I don’t have issues carrying it around and it never weighs me down, even with extra batteries in the carrying case. I also find it easy to set up for flight and pack away.
New 1-inch sensor
The Air 2S is the first DJI consumer drone to use a 1-inch sensor, which captures still images at 20 megapixels and high-resolution video up to 5.4K. And with a pixel size that is four times larger than the sensor in the Air 2, the Air 2S captures improved image and video quality, particularly in low-light situations.
Because the sensor can capture more information, you can zoom closer to a subject or object without physically moving the drone while preserving image detail – up to eight times, depending on the video resolution. These enhancements will appeal to filmmakers, digital content creators, and anyone who needs high-quality video from a compact drone.
While camera drones are primarily used to shoot videos, DJI’s newest Mavic models also excel at photos. The Air 2S introduces the SmartPhoto mode, which uses computational photography to capture 20-megapixel stills. In layman’s terms, SmartPhoto is an advanced auto mode that analyzes the scene for the best shot.
The user lets the camera decide if an image should have more vivid colors (HDR), compensate for lighting (low-light scenes), or adjust for the optimal settings for what’s in the frame (scene recognition). SmartPhoto is geared toward casual users who don’t want to fuss with settings, but advanced users will likely skip this function.
Your personal cameraman
Unless you’re a filmmaker who wants to control the shots, the less advanced user can activate one of the automatic video modes. New to the Air 2S is MasterShots in which the drone picks a flight path and shooting mode after analyzing the scene, and then a quick 2-minute video with effects is compiled from the footage via DJI’s Fly app (iOS and Android).
The Air 2S also features three other auto functions found in other DJI drones: FocusTrack, which shoots videos around a subject or object, QuickShots for fun effects, and Hyperlapse, a time-lapse-like video.
Safety, safety, safety
The more advanced DJI drones include safety features to help you fly with more confidence. This means avoiding obstacles and flying in permitted airspace. The Air 2S uses DJI’s Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 4.0, which the company touts as its most advanced autopilot system in any of its drones.
Compared to previous versions of APAS, the Air 2S has a wider view of obstacles and can automatically move the drone around, over, or under an object, or simply brake before a potential collision, thanks to the improved sensors located around the drone and the camera itself.
DJI says the Air 2S is more stable. Using the third version of its OcuSync technology and four antennas, the Air 2S maintains a connection with the pilot’s remote at up to 12 kilometers or approximately 7.5 miles. Like Air 2, the Air 2S also uses DJI’s AirSense to warn of nearby aircraft and geofencing technology when in potentially dangerous or restricted flight zones.
And, with global positioning, The Return-to-Home (RTH) function automatically brings the drone back to where it lifted off when the battery is low (flight time is estimated at 31 minutes) or it’s out of range. The Air 2S will also warn you if the camera gimbal needs calibration or if you installed the propellers incorrectly.
Our first take on performance
During my first round of testing, the Air 2S flew smoothly and I was always in control. It doesn’t have the quick braking like DJI’s new FPV drone, however the APAS 4.0 worked effectively in preventing a crash with a lamp post.
Because I was flying near an airport, the DJI App, which is used in conjunction with the remote control, warned me constantly that I was flying near a restricted zone and of planes taking off, even though I was flying in a designated safe zone. You can bypass these warnings, and while they can be annoying, I do appreciate having them for peace of mind.
While I didn’t encounter any issues during this testing, one annoyance had to do with the visibility of my phone’s screen. Because the remote controller requires my phone for the live view and connectivity, it’s difficult to see under bright sunlight. While this isn’t a fault of the Air 2S itself, it is something to keep in mind.
Due to the restrictions of where I was flying, I wasn’t able to use the automated functions – I will have more to say on this in a future update. However, in my previous testing of the auto modes in the Air 2 and Mini 2, I can confidently say they work well.
One function that I was not able to test – but have tested with the DJI FPV – is an upcoming ability to use DJI’s new goggles and motion controller. The goggles are similar to a VR headset, which delivers an incredibly high-resolution video feed from the drone’s camera.
The motion controller is a simplified remote that allows for one-handed operation. I find these two accessories – optional with the Air 2 – to work well and offer a new type of immersive flying experience. While they are essential to the FPV, which is designed for drone racing, they aren’t as critical for the Air 2S.
What are your alternatives?
For most casual users, I think the DJI Mini 2 is the ideal drone. While it doesn’t offer many of the safety features or higher resolutions of the Air 2S or Air 2, it is cheaper and even easier to fly.
The Air 2S definitely brings some welcomed enhancements to the DJI lineup. However, if you don’t need the improved video quality, I find the Air 2 to be fine for many enthusiasts; the video quality from the Air 2’s camera is not too shabby. In fact, flying the Air 2S feels like flying the Air 2.
Picking the Air 2S or Air 2 will depend on your needs and budget, but both models are recommended (I will have details on additional flying experience and image quality in a long-term update).
As mentioned, DJI also makes the Mavic 2, which also uses a 1-inch sensor camera developed in cooperation with Hasselblad. For consumers and proper comparison, the Air 2S is more aligned with the Air 2 and Mini 2. However, you could argue that the DJI trickled down some of the Mavic 2’s pro features to the Air 2S.
The bottom line
For content creators or if this is your first drone and you want the best quality video out of the gate, the Air 2S is a drone worth checking out.
Again, the DJI Air 2S will sell for $999, which includes the remote controller and basic accessories. The Fly More Combo, which will sell for $1,299 and what I’m testing, includes three batteries, lens filters, a charging station, and a bag.
We will update our review shortly with longer-term testing to give a proper full assessment, but we like what we are seeing so far.
The hype surrounding the new OnePlus 9 lineup has been focused on the company’s partnership with famed camera manufacturer Hasselblad. Using Hasselblad’s expertise, the phones’ new camera systems are meant to improve upon previous OnePlus models.
Specifically for the OnePlus 9, Hasselblad’s involvement centers around “natural color calibration.” Otherwise, everything else, including hardware and software, is either OnePlus or from a third-party, like Sony for the camera sensors.
Since there was so much hype surrounding this partnership and the revamped cameras, we’ll be focusing on showing you how photos from the OnePlus 9 Pro look. As a reference tool, we’ve opted to compare it with the iPhone 12 Pro Max – a phone that takes reliably good and “safe” photos that don’t reach into extremes for color, contrast, HDR, and exposure, and that many feel confident with for capturing memories and sharing with friends, family, and social media.
When analyzing the photos taken by the OnePlus 9 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, we’re putting ourselves in the shoes of the most average type of camera user – someone who wants to point, shoot, and share without much editing, if at all.
How do the OnePlus 9 Pro’s photos look?
We found the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s photos to appear pale in color with a heavy lean towards a cooler white balance, at least compared to the iPhone’s photos. One might argue that the paler colors are less processed and more natural, and that the iPhone’s photos have saturated and unnatural colors. While that may be true, we’d argue that the OnePlus 9 Pro’s camera doesn’t produce colors that are as pleasing for the point-and-shoot crowd.
We aren’t saying that the OnePlus 9 Pro, or any phones, should take photos that look exactly like the iPhone’s. But the iPhone’s camera is usually a good point of reference, as it takes photos that are reliably well processed for point-and-shoot users.
It’s also worth mentioning that most people don’t have several high-end phones available for direct side-by-side comparisons. With that in mind, the photos taken by the OnePlus 9 Pro would likely look totally fine on their own. However, the OnePlus 9 Pro underwhelms when its photos are compared to the iPhone’s.
At the end of the day, what really matters is whether you like the photos that the phone’s camera produces – whether you’re happy with the way your memories are captured, and whether you’d feel confident with sharing those photos.
With that in mind, have a look at some of the photos we took with the OnePlus 9 Pro compared with the iPhone 12 Pro Max:
OnePlus 9 Pro
Here’s an example that exemplifies the paler look on photos taken with the OnePlus 9 Pro compared to our reference phone, the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The paleness is especially noticeable on the sunlit barn and grass. The photo also has a cooler tone.
iPhone 12 Pro Max
The photo from the iPhone 12 Pro Max features colors that are more saturated, which many will find is a more pleasing look for basic point-and-shoot photo taking, and to keep and share without editing.
OnePlus 9 Pro ultrawide
The OnePlus 9 Pro‘s ultrawide lens takes photos with a warmer tone than the regular lens, which results in beautifully natural colors, presumably as OnePlus intended with Hasselblad’s natural color calibration. It would be great if OnePlus could apply the ultrawide lens’ calibration to the regular lens.
Additionally, the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s photo is clearer than the iPhone’s. However, that’s only noticeable if you zoom into the photo, or view it in “full size.”
With that said, the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s HDR struggled with revealing the dark side of the barn while keeping the brightness (exposure) down on the sunlit side. The result is overexposure on the sunlit side of the barn, which leads to parts that appear white and void of detail compared to the iPhone’s photo.
iPhone 12 Pro Max ultrawide
The iPhone‘s photo is very similar to the OnePlus 9’s overall, except colors are slightly more saturated. The iPhone also handled exposure better than the OnePlus 9 Pro by keeping the dark side of the barn dark, and maintaining brightness and detail on the sunlit side. As a result, the iPhone’s photo can be more desirable, but it’s a nitpick.
OnePlus 9 Pro zoom
The OnePlus 9 Pro‘s zoom lens carries over the pale colors and blue overtones form the regular lens. The dark side of the barn, especially, is positively blue due to poor white balance compared to the warm wooden black color on the comparative iPhone photo. The sunlit side of the barn and the stone foundation are also robbed of color and are overexposed.
iPhone 12 Pro Max
The iPhone‘s zoom lens took a photo with more saturated color and a more appropriate, warmer white balance.
OnePlus 9 Pro
Even if you’re not comparing phone cameras, the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s photo of these fruits would appear somewhat pale. The fruits don’t look particularly appetizing here, which wasn’t a thought I had when I was looking at them at the time of taking the photo.
iPhone 12 Pro Max
The iPhone makes these fruits look a lot healthier and appealing, even if the colors are somewhat oversaturated.
OnePlus 9 Pro detail
The OnePlus 9 Pro gives you the option to take 48-megapixel photos, which doesn’t make much of a difference when viewing a photo normally. However, it’s a huge advantage if you ever want to zoom into a photo and maintain clarity and detail.
The photo here is significantly zoomed in from the original and it’s much sharper than the iPhone’s photo below.
iPhone 12 Pro Max detail
There’s no competition here. The iPhone 12 Pro Max‘s 12-megapixel camera simply can’t capture as much detail as the OnePlus 9 Pro’s 48-megapixel camera.
OnePlus 9 Pro skin tone, shade
Here’s where the OnePlus 9 Pro also excels. I asked a professional photographer who shoots fashion models for a living what he thought of these photos, and he immediately pointed to the OnePlus 9 Pro. It’s important to note that this is the point of view of a professional who often edits his photos. However, I’d still agree with him, as the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s photo is the one I’d pick to keep and share.
With that said, the t-shirt has some odd artifacts that don’t look natural and result in a grainy look. Notice that details on my head are also very sharp, which is a subjective thing. Personally, I’d rather it didn’t reveal absolutely everything on my face.
iPhone 12 Pro Max skin tone, shade
The iPhone’s photo gave me a sunburned look. While I have been soaking in the early spring sun, I wouldn’t say I spent that long outside. The iPhone’s photo is also less sharp overall, and it smooths out some of the finer details on my face, which I prefer. My t-shirt also looks more natural than it does in the OnePlus 9 Pro’s photo.
OnePlus 9 Pro skin tone, full sun
My photographer friend said he would also pick this photo over the iPhone’s for its less processed look. With that said, there’s some inconsistent detail between parts of my nose and my cheek. While the color is more natural, I’d still rather share the iPhone’s photo, if I had to. Plus, the OnePlus 9 Pro made my t-shirt look weird.
iPhone 12 Pro Max skin tone, full sun
While my skin tone might be overly processed by the iPhone here, I’d still prefer this one to keep or share, as I look healthier and less pale from the winter’s hibernation. Plus, my t-shirt looks far more natural.
OnePlus 9 Pro low light
The OnePlus 9 Pro took a nice photo of this coastal scenery, and it’s pretty similar to the iPhone’s shot below. Still, there are some odd, very slight artifacts around the plane vapor trails towards the top center right of the photo that aren’t present on the iPhone’s photo. It’s a nitpick, but it does raise some eyebrows regarding the OnePlus 9 Pro‘s camera quality.
iPhone 12 Pro Max low light
The sky’s color is a little richer on the iPhone’s photo, and you don’t get the strange artifacting on those plane vapor trails towards the top right. Still, the iPhone caught a bit of lens glare, which is a subjective preference.
The bottom line
Based on this direct comparison between the OnePlus 9 Pro and our reference phone, we don’t recommend the OnePlus 9 Pro for simple point-and-shoot photos. If you just want to take photos without worrying about editing them afterwards, there are other phones that take more appealing pictures.
We’re not saying you should get the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro, either. Rather, we’re simply saying that the OnePlus 9 Pro doesn’t offer pleasing photos compared to the competition. We’ve taken several comparative photos with Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra and Pixel 5, and our findings are the same — the OnePlus 9 Pro’s photos simply don’t look as good.
We haven’t fully tested the OnePlus 9 yet, so we’re refraining from making any judgement on that model here. However, we would expect similar issues, like excessively pale colors and cooler white balance.
NASA’s Perseverance rover left its footprints on Mars on Thursday after going for its first drive. The jaunt proved the vehicle can make its way around the red planet.
Since Perseverance landed in Mars’ Jezero Crater on February 18, it has been calibrating its instruments and upgrading software. In this initial drive, Perseverance moved about 13 feet (4 meters) from its landing spot, made a 150-degree turn to the left, and backed up about 8 feet (2.5 meters) – a routine that it “executed perfectly,” according to NASA engineer Anais Zarifian.
As it drove, the rover’s navigation cameras snapped photos of its tracks in the dirt behind it.
“Our first drive went incredibly well,” Zarifian, who works on the rover’s mobility team, said in a press briefing on Friday. “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see wheel tracks, and I’ve seen a lot of them.”
The team has another, longer drive planned for the rover late on Friday, and is hoping for yet another on Saturday.
“So many people I can’t even count have worked towards this very moment for years,” Zarifian said. “It’s just amazing to see. I don’t think the team could’ve been happier.”
Life in the fast lane
Perseverance spent seven months flying through space to reach Mars. Since its landing, it has been adjusting to Mars life, getting its space legs, and preparing for its mission: to spend at least two years scouring an ancient Martian lake bed for signs of fossilized alien microbes. Perseverance is equipped to trek across Martian cliffs and dunes, and to collect up to 43 samples of Martian rock and dirt for a future mission to bring back to Earth.
The rover is better prepared for the rugged Martian terrain than any vehicle before it. Because of the Jezero Crater’s watery past, the area is rich with scientific potential, but NASA didn’t have the technology to explore it until now. Perseverance will have to navigate boulder fields, sand dunes, and cliffs hundreds of feet tall. It may even climb the crater rim in a few years.
It can do this thanks to its six titanium wheels, which each have their own motor. The wheels are narrower and their metal is thicker than on previous rovers, and each is lined with 48 cleats. That makes the wheels more resistant to the sharp rocks that tore holes in the wheels of Perseverance’s predecessor, Curiosity.
The rover can’t rotate those wheels while it’s driving, though – it has to stop whenever it needs to change direction. At its fastest, the rover moves at 0.1 miles per hour.
Still, in terms of miles it can cover per day, Perseverance drives about five times faster than Curiosity. That’s because the rover’s computers can process images and navigate while it drives. So it doesn’t have to pause for calculations every time it sees a new obstacle.
“‘Perseverance can walk and chew gum at the same time,’ is the phrase we like to use,” Zarifian said. “Which means more time to do science.”
Perseverance is at a crossroads
NASA’s Perseverance engineers and scientists are already planning routes for the rover to travel in order to reach the the river delta that once fed Lake Jezero.
They’ve picked two potential paths. The counterclockwise route, going north, has easier terrain, but the southern route would take Perseverance past some mineral deposits left over from the river delta.
“We’re working with engineers now to determine which path is most efficient and safest and most scientifically interesting for the rover to explore,” Katie Stack Morgan, the mission’s deputy project scientist, said in the briefing.
Both paths would end below the delta’s 200-foot-tall cliffs. From there, the team aims to climb the rover up to the ancient river’s mouth.
But before Perseverance starts on either path, it has a major task to complete. In the spring, the rover is scheduled to drop the first-ever interplanetary helicopter out of its belly – a four-pound drone called Ingenuity. The small rotocraft will then attempt up to five test flights while Perseverance’s cameras look on.
Then the rover will turn its lenses toward the cliffs, put those wheels to work, and begin its hunt for signs of alien life.
NASA’s Perseverance rover hasn’t started roaming the red planet just yet, but its cameras have been busy at work.
A suite of ruggedized, off-the-shelf sports cameras captured unprecedented footage of the rover descending to Mars and landing in Jezero Crater on Thursday. Then the rover’s science and navigation cameras began snapping away as soon as it was on the ground. The results are breathtaking.
So far, NASA has published more than 4,700 images from the rover, with many more to come.
“It’s been a firehose of data,” Justin Maki, a Perseverance imaging scientist and the chief of the instrument-operations team, said in a press conference on Monday.
The new photos reveal the sand dunes, rocks, and distant 200-foot-tall cliffs of the ancient lake bed where Perseverance now sits. It’s the most hazardous terrain any Mars landing has ever targeted, but it’s already paying off in unprecedented portraits of the red planet.
“I review images for Mars, like, every day. That’s what I do. And when I saw these images come down, I have to say, I was truly amazed,” Maki said. “I know it’s been a tough year for everybody, and we’re hoping that maybe these images will help brighten people’s day.”
After landing on Thursday, NASA’s Perseverance rover immediately started beaming back thousands of photos of the red planet.
These include the first-ever images of a rover landing on Mars. Five cameras captured more than 23,000 images during Perseverance’s descent.
All these images had to be color corrected. Here’s what they looked like before that.
During the landing, the capsule dropped the rover, and then a jetpack attached to Perseverance’s back fired its engines and flew to the landing site. There, it lowered the rover on 25-foot nylon cables.
As it approached, the jetpack’s engines kicked up swirling clouds of dust on the Martian surface.
Then the jetpack released the rover and flew away to crash-land at a safe distance.
Before the dust settled, the rover was already beaming back its first photos from the Martian surface.
The first images revealed some very holey rocks that got NASA scientists excited. The rocks could be volcanic, or water could have tunneled through them.
Over the weekend, NASA engineers instructed Perseverance to deploy its mast. That gave a much better view of both the landscape and the rover.
The rover’s Mastcam-Z camera, named for its powerful zoom lens, used a color wheel built into the rover to calibrate itself.
“We’re going to get incredibly high-resolution photos from this imaging system,” Maki said.
High on its mast, Perseverance’s Navcam camera can see everything. It will help the rover drive.
To the west of the rover, the Navcam can see the cliffs of the river delta on the horizon. That’s where the rover is headed.
The Perseverance team on Earth stitched six of those images together to create a 360-degree panorama.
NASA turned that panorama into a video that you can drag left and right to see the view from Perseverance’s perspective.
We recommend the Logitech C270 HD because of its reliability, affordability, and user-friendliness.
The webcam is among many products that qualify for free shipping with Walmart+, with no delivery minimum required.
C270 HD Webcam (small, Preferred: Walmart)
One of the many benefits of Walmart’s membership program, Walmart+, is the free next-day and free two-day shipping on a wide range of products. This bypasses the usual $35 delivery minimum, allowing members more flexibility in purchasing the things they need without unnecessary add-ons for the sake of meeting a shipping requirement.
Such is the case with the Logitech C270 HD, one of our top picks for the best webcam. Best for those who plan to use a webcam for the occasional meeting, it is an affordable camera that’s straightforward to use – and the camera quality remains better than that of most laptops.
The Logitech C270HD is already cheaper than most webcams at its typical $39.99 price, and it’s currently on sale at Walmart for $27.47. All Walmart shoppers can save more than 30% on the webcam, and with Walmart+, members can ship the camera for free at its sale price.
More information on free shipping with Walmart+ can be found here, and we’ve also broken down everything you need to know about Walmart’s subscription service here.
With CES 2021‘s all-digital event having now come and gone, it’s time at last for our favorite part of the show: awards. We’ve seen dozens of products over the past four days from in front of our screens, and now we’ve collected what we think are the best of the show across 15 different product categories.
From the best smartphone of the show to the best health-focused device, this is the cream of the crop when it comes to CES announcements and reveals. We’ve seen a tech-filled face mask that solves a lot of the problems of normal masks, as well as rollable smartphone displays.
We also spotted major advancements in the smart home from a voice-activated fridge to a home-cleaning robot that’s less like a Roomba and more like a Rosie of “The Jetsons” fame. It’s innovations like these that are not only available today, but will be the foundation of huge advancements in daily convenience and general coolness.
Some of these products are available for either preorder or direct purchase, while others will be launching over the coming months. But, more importantly, they’ve all earned our seal of approval as products to keep an eye on this year as potential buys.
Best laptop: HP Elite Dragonfly Max
Many companies are tailoring their products for a work-from-home life at CES 2021, and that’s especially true with HP’s Elite Dragonfly Max.
The business-focused laptop has features that are optimized for our new remote work routines, like four wide-range microphones that use artificial intelligence to optimize audio and a 5-megapixel camera. Considering most laptop webcams aren’t very good, and it’s unusual for a laptop to come with that many microphones, the HP Elite Dragonfly Max seems well-positioned to boost the quality of your daily Zoom video meetings.
In yet another sign that the Max is built with remote work in mind, it also has EyeSafe technology to reduce eye strain after prolonged use — another common theme among this year’s laptops at CES.
Otherwise, the HP Elite Dragonfly Max, which launches in January for an unannounced price, runs on 11th-generation Intel processors, features a 13.3-inch screen and comes with the option for 5G connectivity. — Lisa Eadicicco, Senior Tech Correspondent
Best phone: LG and TCL’s rollable smartphones
Smartphone makers are still figuring out the next big thing for smartphone design, and CES 2021 shows that LG and TCL are advancing on rollable smartphone displays instead of foldable ones.
The concept is the same as foldable displays — to make a smartphone screen bigger than normal when you want the extra screen real estate. The way in which these rollable smartphones deliver on that concept is completely different to foldable phones, and fairly simple to grasp. Inside the phones is a rolled up OLED screen that unfurls, allowing the phones to keep a similar size and shape of a traditional smartphone. The mechanisms to expand the phones as the screen unfurls from their enclosure, however, will undoubtedly be incredibly complex, and there will be many questions to answer regarding their reliability.
Little is known so far about LG and TCL’s smartphones with rollable screens, but rumors suggest that LG plans to launch its own model sometime this year. Regardless, these are certainly the most impressive and exciting phones of CES 2021. — Antonio Villas-Boas, Senior Tech Reporter
Best high-end TV: Samsung Micro LED 4K TV
Samsung has been showing off Micro LEDs at CES for the last few years, and the advanced display technology never fails to impress. That said, the company has yet to actually release a consumer Micro LED 4K TV. For 2021, that’s finally going to change.
Micro LED 4K TVs in 88-, 99-, and 110-inch screen sizes are set to hit the market by the end of the year. Yes, this first wave will likely be prohibitively expensive for anyone but those with the deepest of pockets — my best guess is at least $30,000 for the smallest size — but the fact that the tech is starting to scale down to the consumer level is very exciting. Why? Because Micro LED TVs have the potential to combine everything we love about the pixel-level contrast of OLED TVs with the high brightness of QLED TVs.
OLED is our favorite display technology for picture quality because OLED panels offer the best contrast and viewing angles on the market right now. That said, they have one drawback compared to competing QLED TVs: they can’t get as bright.
This makes OLEDs less suited for rooms that let in a lot of light, and it can make certain high dynamic range (HDR) videos look dimmer than they would on a QLED. This year, however, Sony and LG have made key improvements to their flagship OLEDs in order to deliver higher brightness than previous models.
We don’t know exactly how much brighter they’ll be just yet, but the upgrade could help cement the upcoming Sony A90J and LG G1 as top 4K TV contenders. In addition to OLED picture performance, the LG G1 also features an incredibly thin “Gallery” design that enables it to be mounted flush to a wall. Meanwhile, the Sony A90J uses the company’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ tech to create sound from the screen itself. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but new TV models usually start hitting stores in the spring. — Steven Cohen, Tech Editor
Best gaming device: LG 42-inch OLED displays
While monitor and TV manufacturers are still working to produce models that make the most of the newly released PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, LG’s OLED TVs have become an increasingly popular choice for PC and console gamers who want the latest features, like adaptive refresh rate, high dynamic range, and low input latency.
LG Display’s newly announced 42-inch OLED TV panel is the company’s smallest OLED yet, and it will undoubtedly compete with premium gaming monitors when it’s released. LG’s CX OLED is already our top rated OLED TV with sizes starting at 48 inches, and a 42-inch display will be an ideal fit for a monitor replacement or bedroom gaming setup. The 42-inch panels are expected to go into production this year, but it’s not yet clear when a consumer model will be available to buy. —Kevin Webb, Tech Reporter
Best soundbar: TCL Alto R1 Wireless Soundbar
Soundbars are generally designed to offer a more convenient audio solution than separate speakers or surround sound setups. Though there are some impressive high-end models with advanced audio features like Dolby Atmos, many buyers turn to soundbars primarily for their simplicity. TCL’s new Alto R1 aims to make setup easier than ever before.
The soundbar is the first to use Roku’s new Wi-Fi audio system, enabling the device to wirelessly connect to a Roku TV. You just need to plug the power cable in and then turn the bar and TV on. From there, the soundbar is designed to seamlessly pair and communicate with a Roku TV without any additional wires. This also makes it easy to use one remote and on-screen interface for the display and soundbar. Roku says the tech should prevent any audio syncing issues as well.
Though we’ll need to get hands-on with the Alto R1 to see how well the wireless tech really works, the feature looks very promising. The soundbar is set to launch later this year, but there’s no word yet on an exact release date or price. — Steven Cohen, Tech Editor
Best robot: Samsung Bot Handy
Robots are a common sight at CES events, and companies simply won’t stop showing off their robo-tech. This year at CES 2021, the best robot we came across is Samsung’s Bot Handy, It’s an upright robot with a rolling base, and it has a long mechanical arm equipped with a clamp to pick things up.
The Bot Handy is designed to help with house chores, like cleaning up messy rooms, picking up and throwing away trash, and putting dirty laundry into washing machines. It’s even delicate enough to put dirty dishes into the dishwasher. But, why stop there? The Bot Handy will truly prove its worth when it pours you a glass of wine. Good robot.
To perform these complex tasks, the Bot Handy relies on AI and delicate mechanics to apply an appropriate amount of force with its clamp.
The Bot Handy is still in development with no definitive price or sales date at the moment. However, Samsung will have its smart robo-vacuum, called the JetBot 90 AI+, available this year. It’s essentially a smarter and better vacuuming robot that doubles as a travelling security camera. Unfortunately, we don’t know how much the JetBot will cost yet, or exactly when it’ll be released. — Antonio Villas-Boas, Senior Tech Reporter
Best smartwatch: Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR
Skagen already makes one of our favorite minimalist smartwatches, and now at CES 2021 the Fossil-owned brand is launching a new wearable that should blend in even more seamlessly as a timepiece. The $195 Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR, as its name suggests, is a hybrid smartwatch that combines the look of a classic watch with the connectivity and health-tracking features of a smartwatch.
The Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR’s signature feature is its always-on e-ink display, which should offer two-week-long battery life if it lives up to its claims. It also includes health features like a heart rate monitor and activity and sleep tracking, and can deliver notifications from your phone to your wrist. The only major feature it appears to be missing that’s usually standard on smartwatches is built-in GPS. Instead, the Skagen Jorn HR will connect to your phone’s GPS when needed.
All told, the Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR looks like a promising new watch for those with a preference for sleek, minimalist looks and long battery life in a smartwatch. — Lisa Eadicicco, Senior Tech Correspondent
Best health device: Razer Project Hazel
CES is always chock full of wearable technology and wellness gadgets, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put health in focus more than ever in 2021. One of the most promising devices at this year’s CES is Razer’s Project Hazel, which aims to fix many of the shortcomings and inconveniences that come with wearing masks today.
Project Hazel is an N95 respirator prototype that comes with a special UV light charging case for disinfection, a built-in microphone and amplifier to make it easier to speak loudly while wearing the mask, and clear design so that others can actually see your mouth when worn. And of course, in typical Razer style, the mask also lights up automatically in the dark. — Lisa Eadicicco, Senior Tech Correspondent
Best smart home device: LG InstaView ThinQ Refrigerator with Voice Recognition
Voice recognition is now available on refrigerators, obviously, and as it should be. The LG InstaView ThinQ Refrigerator with Voice Recognition, which we’ll call “InstaView” from now on, can open its doors with a simple voice command — something no other refrigerator can do.
This kind of device is exactly what CES is best at showing. The InstaView sounds excessive and superfluous, because it is. But, so does all the futuristic stuff you’ve seen on modern TV shows and movies. And, if you’ve ever wanted to live in that kind of futuristic setting, you can’t ignore things like the InstaView. Indeed, the InstaView is another notch in our progress towards a cool future where our fixtures and appliances listen to our voice commands rather than using our hands like cavepeople.
LG has a more practical implication for the InstaView. The company says the voice-activated refrigerator that can open its doors on your voice command will help with the “struggle to open the refrigerator door when their hands are full of groceries.” Scoff all you like, but it’s a legitimate “thing” to improve — placing a large object that needs two hands into your refrigerator is a task that needs planning. You need to open the refrigerator door first and hope it stays open while you fetch the large food item. People in the future don’t have that problem because they have the InstaView.
And, of course, you can ask InstaView about what’s coming up in your calendar and check the status of the ice and water dispensers. Although, it’s unclear if InstaView will talk back or display the information on a screen.
But, let’s face it: It’s all about the futuristic feels, really.
So far, InstaView doesn’t use a popular smart assistant like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant. Instead, it uses LG’s own ThinQ AI, which should be perfectly capable of understanding when you want it to open its doors. — Antonio Villas-Boas, Senior Tech Reporter
Best home appliance: Kohler Stillness Bath
Baths are kind of gross, but Kohler’s Stillness tub is more about recreating an at-home spa experience than de-griming you. It starts at $6,000 and comes to $16,000 with all the trimmings, so it’s ridiculous and over the top. It takes inspiration from Japanese soaking baths, with a special hinoki wood moat that catches water as it gently spills over its sides. Soft LED lighting illuminates it from below, and the experience tower releases a fine fog and aromas from essential oils. The bath is also voice-activated, so you can ask it to fill to your desired depth and temperature.
Put it all together, and it’s almost enough to make you forget that you just sunk $16k into a bathtub, almost. — Jenny McGrath, Buying Guides Editor
Best small home appliance: Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Sur Mesure Powered by Perso
Last year, L’Oreal introduced its personal beauty device, the Perso. It was still unclear when it would come to market and how much it would cost. Now we know. You can preorder the Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Sur Mesure for $299.99 right now.
The device is focused on creating unique lipstick shades. It draws the liquid from three tubes of YSL Velvet Cream Matte Finish. The result will depend on the amount it’s pulled from each. The app can help you try to recreate a color you see on Instagram, too. If it’s too red or orange, you can try again without wasting a ton of product. L’Oreal also hopes it will cut down on packing, since you can get so many colors from just a few cartridges.
It’s a pricey gadget, but I’m looking forward to what it means for the other version of the Perso I saw at CES last year. The skincare model mixes lotions and serums for you, factoring in things like the weather — maybe you need more sunscreen on a sunny day — and your preferences. Its design helps keep delicate ingredients out of contact with air. Of course, it does mean you’ll have to stick to products from the L’Oreal family of brands, which might be a deal-breaker for a lot of people who like to buy from an array of companies.
L’Oreal said the skincare Perso should hit the market later this year, though pricing is still unavailable. — Jenny McGrath, Buying Guides Editor
Best fitness tech: Ultrahuman
Digital fitness is in the midst of a major moment, as at-home workouts are now the norm instead of some time-constrained exception. Because of this, fitness classes are everywhere; they’re live-streamed on Instagram, produced as a series for YouTube, and downloadable on your smartphone. It should come as no surprise then that CES 2021 (a show that also embraced a fully digital presentation) was chock-full of this new wave of keeping fit.
At the forefront of the fitness innovation displayed at the show was Ultrahuman, a self-described “masterclass-like” workout app that aims to connect users with world-class athletes, neuroscientists, psychologists, and artists all in the name of improving one’s heath, wellness, and fitness.
Though the analogy to Masterclass seems gimmicky, Ultrahuman does at least have the credentials to back it up. Included in its roster of experts are Crossfit champion Kara Saunders, bodybuilder and athlete Kris Gethin, and fitness influencers, Amanda Cerny and Johannes Bartl. And that just skims the surface of what the brand has planned — its site says it intends to have “100+ of the world’s best athletes.”
But what also makes Ultrahuman intriguing is its concept. The brand aims to teach subscribers everything from mindfulness and meditation to the impact of sleep and the science of working out. There’s even content around how to boost productivity and how to improve focus. The classes are intensive, not unlike what Masterclass offers, and come loaded with expert- and doctor-approved lessons (most of which are developed by the expert or doctor actually leading the class). These include 14-week marathon training classes, a group of sessions on developing a balanced mind, and strength training basics, among many others. The range of classes offered seem fit for people of literally any fitness level or skill, too.
The platform was designed specifically for the Apple Watch and any iOS-compatible device, but also works on Android devices via an Android smartphone or through a Google Chromecast. Ultrahuman also offers a tiered subscription plan, so users can choose to pay either $14 per month, $41 every six months, or $75 a year for full access to the platform.
The app is available now on both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. — Rick Stella, Health & Fitness Editor
Best auto tech: Mercedes-Benz MBUX Hyperscreen
There were plenty of futuristic car tech unveiled, but most were more fantasy than reality. One that is actually coming is Mercedes-Benz’s next-gen vehicle infotainment system, the MBUX Hyperscreen.
The highlight is a high-resolution 56-inch OLED display that spans across the entire dashboard. Technically divided into three components — digital gauge for the driver, a central 17.7-inch touchscreen, and a screen for the front passenger — the Hyperscreen incorporates artificial intelligence to help the driver adjust controls without taking hands off the wheel or eyes off the road. While such telematics aren’t entirely revolutionary, the Hyperscreen digitizes nearly every control — something we will start to see more and more in new cars.
The MBUX Hyperscreen will debut in the all-electric Mercedes EQS this spring. — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor
Best photography device: Sony FE 35mm F1.4 G Master Lens
Finding a new camera at CES to write about is as elusive as spotting a rare bird, as few companies use the tech conference to launch new products — compared to 15 years ago when every camera maker would unveil multiple models. But, that doesn’t mean CES is entirely void of camera and photo-related products.
While not an official CES release, Sony this week announced the FE 35mm F1.4 G Master lens for its highly lauded full-frame mirrorless cameras. A compact lens designed for shooting photos and videos, it weighs 18.5 ounces yet has the complex optical construction and fast f/1.4 aperture to capture high-quality images with sharpness and beautiful bokeh. Although we haven’t used this particular lens, we have used other fast G Master lenses. Some of the best images we’ve ever taken were with a G Master lens.
The lens goes on sale in February for $1,400. — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor