Leica Usa
The beautiful, new Leica M8 digital rangefinder camera
By Columnist
updated 1/8/2007 6:04:41 PM ET 2007-01-08T23:04:41

A mere 10 years ago the idea of a digital camera held lots of promise. Today, digital cameras have literally forced the film industry to look for other ways to make a buck.

Every year since then digital cameras have been getting more sophisticated — and just plain better. In addition to the thousands of consumer models you see everywhere there are the semi-pro and professional models from big camera manufacturers like Canon, Nikon and others.

But now, you can also add Leica to the mix. Unlike most of the high-end models the Leica is NOT a single-lens-reflex (SLR) model which shoots images through a series of glass and mirrors. Leica have finally made a digital version of their legendary rangefinder models. 

The M8 is the first digital camera to use Leica’s viewfinder system. The big deal here is that the M8 is capable of using nearly all of Leica’s M system lenses — super-high performance glass which have set the standard for more than 50 years.

The M8 has a 10.3 megapixel CCD sensor and can shoot from an ISO speed of 160 to ISO 2500 with shutter speeds as high as 1/8000th of a second. I can report that it’s an absolutely beautiful piece of technology to hold and to use.

If you have to ask how much it costs, the M8 is probably not for you. It’s made for professional users and is priced that way. The M8 body retails for $4,800, and the lens is extra, and they're very expensive.

Sony Corporation
Sony's TP1 living room computer console.

There are a many companies trying to make personal computers attractive enough for you to put one somewhere other than a computer desk.  I must tell you that from what I’ve seen so far, Sony seems to have come up with one of the most compelling new designs.

Take a look at their TP1. The round computer box looks like it could store a hat. Sony calls it their living room PC. It has an Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB of memory, a 300GB hard drive, expansion slots for an HDTV tuner, HDMI output, a wireless keyboard and mouse, remote control and it runs on the upcoming Windows Vista Home Premium operating system.

Expect the base configuration TP1 to retail for $1,600 when it hits the market in March.

The microphone/earphone/phono cartridge wizards have introduced anew line of sound isolating stereo earphones which sound terrific! 

The new models — which have a slightly different sound signature from their current, great sounding ‘phones’ include the $150 SE210 (with their new high-definition MicroSpeaker), the $250 SE310 (adds a tuned bass port), the SE420 (dedicated tweeter and woofer) and the SE530 (tweeter and 2 woofers in each ear.)

Shure's new high-end SE530 earphones.

I’ve been listening to the new 420’s and can tell you that they sound really, really good. I can only imagine how the 530’s sound. They almost made me forget that I was listening to compressed music files. If you’re still listening to your portable music device with the free earphones that came in the box, you owe it to yourself to listen to any of these new Shure earphones to really begin listening to your favorite music.

I’ll have a lot more to say about the new Shure line in the near future.

And if you spend lots of time gazing into the night skies you should know the name Celestron. For as long as I can remember they have been the Cadillac of telescope designers/manufacturers. They still are.

Today, their NexStar SE line of personal telescopes not only boast superior optics they also include state-of-the-art features including a fully computerized operating system, flash upgradable hand control and a proprietary telescope star alignment software.

Celestron's IS70 spotting scope/digital camera.
But the device they’re touting at the 2007 CES is not a telescope, but the VistaPix IS70 — a refractor imaging spotter. In simple terms, this new device is a handheld spotting scope with a digital camera on the back.

The IS70 is mostly lens — a 70mm beauty which will get you 14 times closer to your subject matter. On the back is a 2-in. LCD so you can see what the lens is seeing. Plus, there’s a 3.1 megapixel digital camera to record that image for posterity.

The camera itself has a 6X digital zoom, a continuous video capability and the ability to watch the output of your IS70 on a TV screen.   All in all, this is one sophisticated device.  The people who run the Consumer Electronics Show seem to agree.  They’ve recognized the IS70 for excellence in design and engineering.

Celetron’s VistaPix IS70 carries a retail price of $479.

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