Gadget Watch: Phones with Leica lenses, and Leicas without LCDs



Gadget Watch: Sept. 20, 2014

The mammoth Photokina photo fair is going on this week, and that means tons of photo goodies. Small, manual cameras with big sensors are the game this year — unless you’ve got $20,000 to burn, in which case Leica’s new novelty camera might be up your street. We round these out with Gadget Watch's usual collection of bags, cases and gadgets.

Panasonic LX-100

The sweet-looking LX-100 is Panasonic’s take on the Fujifilm X100, only it comes with a zoom lens instead of a fixed one, and a plain EVF instead of the X100-series’ amazing hybrid viewfinder. It packs in a big Micro Four Thirds sensor, has manual dials for everything and the 24-75mm equivalent lens runs from ƒ1.7-2.8. $900

Bison Wallet

It looks like a sunglasses case crossed with a taco, but the Bison Wallet is in fact an iPhone case that manages to carry some cards or cash in a minimal, almost unnoticeable pocket formed from an extra flap of leather. It’s a clever take on the wallet case, and one which doesn’t leave you with a wedge of crap on your back jeans pocket. $75

Booq Taipan Shock

The biggest shock about Booq’s Taipan Shock is the price. For $95 you get a great bag with Booq’s great organizational design, which gives you tons of pockets and sleeves for your gear, but somehow doesn’t force you into one way of using it. There’s a section for a MacBook, an outside pocket for an iPad, plus all kinds of spaces inside for bottles, clothes and accessories. $95

Rickshaw reflective tweed bags

Rickshaw makes some of the finest bags known to man, and now it also makes them reflective. See-me-in-the-dark Reflective Performance Tweed is a shiny variant on the regular Performance Tweed, a classy fabric made from recycled water bottles. Backpacks and messenger bags can be had in solid or striped variants, and they’re all as ultra-light and ultra-tough as ever. From $59.

DoDocase Apple Watch charging stand

Who wants to toss their Apple Watch onto their nightstand while they sleep? Not you, and not me. No, we want the DoDocase charging stand, carved from walnut and with a cable router to keep things tidy. I like that you can just hang the watch on here and charge it. You can even have the thing monogrammed, rendering it tacky as hell. $80

Leica M Edition 60

$20,000 will buy you a digital Leica with no LCD, no autofocus, not even automatic exposure. You get a shutter release button, a shutter speed dial, an ISO dial and the aperture and focussing rings around the lens. That is it. It’s a rangefinder camera with all the limitations of film. You can’t even chimp to check you got the exposure right. Loaded hipsters are ecstatic. $20,000


Panasonic CM1 phone camera

Panasonic has put a one-inch sensor and a Leica lens in a phone. To be fair, it’s more of a camera with a phone built into it, but seeing as my iPhone gets used more as a camera than anything else, that’s not a bad choice. That’s the same sized sensor as in the Sony RX100, paired with a 28mm (equivalent) ƒ2.8 lens. There’s even a physical click-wheel around the lens. It’s just a shame it runs Android. €900

Tassel Charging Cable

If you hate on-the-go iPhone-charging hassle, then you need the Photojojo keychain charging Tassle, a Lightning or microUSB cable that dangles from your bag or keys until needed. Outside it’s leather, inside there are your charging plugs, kept safe with a magnetic closure. Comes in pink or brown, for $60

App Watch: Plain old text and widgets (lots of widgets)



App Watch: Sept. 10, 2014

Widget, widgets, widgets. Boy, have we got some widgets for you. And text. Plain text. Plain old text, turned into a calculator. And widgets. Did I mention those? Weather widgets. Battery widgets. And yes, text widgets.

Read all about these new widgets and other new apps in this week's App Watch.


WunderStation from Weather Underground hooks into thousands of privately owned weather stations and presents their data in an iPad app. The smoothly animated graphs are beautiful and can tell you way more than you’d ever want to know about rainfall, barometric pressure and even UV. If you have stations near you, it’s pretty rad. If not, no biggie – the app is $Free


Filthy name, great app. Droool is a “photo gallery for your social networks.” Browse pictures from Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook and more, and index pictures from iCloud and other local folders without moving or copying the files. It’s fast, simple and looks great, and it’s free with in-app purchases. $Free


Terrible name, great app. iBetterCharge monitors your iOS devices’ battery level over your Wi-Fi network, using the same connection that iTunes Wi-Fi sync would use, if you still synced your iPhone with your computer in the space year of 2014. It can pop up warnings when the battery drops to a preset level, and a click on the menu bar shows you the level of all the devices on the network. $Free


This is what the Internet is made for. Photogrammar puts 170,000 Depression-era photos in a searchable, browsable archive. Explore on an interactive map, search or get into the Labs section and browse by metadata sourced from the U.S. Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information archives. Warning: serious time-sink. $Free


PlainTextMenu takes the text on your Mac’s clipboard and transmogrifies it into something useful. It strips out formatting, so you never get big ugly Comic Sans when pasting from a colleague’s Word report, and it can turn the text to uppercase, lowercase or title case along the way. From the school of One Thing Well. $1


Web service re/spin takes Spotify playlists and transforms them into Rdio playlists. If someone’s going to share a playlist, it usually comes from Spotify, and re/spin works with published Spotify playlists. Or you can just paste in a track list copied right from the app. It also works with Remember when PCs couldn’t read Mac floppy disks? It’s like fixing that all over again. $Free



You know all those hard drives grafted onto your Mac? Keep a close eye on them with StorageStatus, an app that turns hard drives into traffic lights in your menu bar and changes their colors when they do something. It knows when they are sleeping, it knows when they’re awake, and it knows when they’ve been good or bad. $3


Not new, but awesome nonetheless. Calca is as close as you’ll get to a plain text calculator. Tap in complex formulas or simple sums and see the results right there in a plain text document. Set variables or just add numbers. And see all your pages synced over iCloud between Mac, iPhone and iPad versions, as well as Windows(!). I love Calca for its balance of simplicity and power. From $3

TVShow Time for iPad

Finally, a version for the iPad. TVShow Time tracks your favorite TV shows and tells you when they’re on. Browse shows and show synopses, and get notifications when something is about to air. See the shows on a calendar, view news about your shows and read about new shows. It’s pretty comprehensive, and looks great on the big iPad screen. $3

App Watch: iOS apps that are minimal, slo-mo, vintage and bespoke



App Watch: Aug. 18, 2014

Movies, writing and photos. If you like any of these things, then you’re going to love this week’s App Watch. We have apps for slo-mo, retro, Drobo and to help you find that lost photo.

Slow Fast Slow

Studio Neat’s Slow Fast Slow is an iPhone video app that lets you shoot and edit short clips, then dicker with their speed. Record at up to 120 frames per second (when using an iPhone 5s) or 60 fps (everything else), then manipulate the playback speed by dragging the timeline (a literal line at the bottom of the screen) up and down, left and right. It also has pitch control (keeps the sound normal even as the picture changes) and can flip video and play it backward. As slick as you’d expect from Studio Neat, and just $2.

Prolost Bespoke Vintage Presets

Prolost will whip you up your own set of vintage, retro-style photo-editing presets for Lightroom. It’s kind of a better version of Prolost’s own Plastic Bullet iOS app, where you can just keep tapping a button and cycle through almost infinite variations of filters. Only instead of infinite options, you set up 300 presets, specially generated for you when you order. I use the Prolost LR presets already, and find them excellent, so these should be worth a try. From $40

Draft Control

Draft Control will track changes for any app you write in. Run it alongside your text editor or word processor of choice and it saves versions and tracks changes. You can compare any two versions with a visual editor, and you can find them in a constantly updated timeline at the side of the main window. It’s free to try, and you can unlock it for just $20.

Lost Photos

MacPhun’s Lost Photos does one thing: It connects to your email and dredges up all the photos that have slipped down the back of the virtual sofa. You probably have zillions of old, forgotten pictures in your Gmail or wherever, and Lost Photos will find them and show them to you, then let you share them straight from the app, via Twitter, Facebook or – in a fit of recursion – email. Free to try, $3 for unlimited photos.


Taxonomy makes moving files easy. The window has source folders on the left, target folders on the right and a giant file preview in the middle. Zip through your files and simply click a target folder to send files there. It’s great for wrangling a whole lot of files, sending them off to different places or doing routine filing operations. Get it on the Mac App Store for just $5.

Drobo Time Machine

Poof! With the wave of its software-update-generating wand, Drobo has added Time Machine support to its redundant multi-disk storage devices. Now you can specify how much of your storage you want to be given over to Time Machine, and your Drobo will make only that much available for your Mac’s incremental backups. Normally, Time Machine would totally take over the disk like a cancer, growing until it was completely full. The update is free.



EditReady claims to be the fastest video transcoder, like, ever. It will crunch your video into a different format in around half the time of rivals, and it does it with an ultrasimple, minimal interface. This interface belies the software's power, though, as you can do anything from editing a clip’s metadata to picking one of many pro-level destination formats, right from EditReady's main window. How much for this fast pro tool? Just $50.


Folia is an impressive collaboration app from the folks behind the iAnnotate PDF app. It comes on iOS, Mac, Windows and Android, and it’s a streamlined word processor that lets you mark up and annotate your documents. Better, these annotations live in the cloud, separate from but married to the document, so they persist even as you update the source files. You can also attach more documents to any section of your master file. To be honest, I can’t quite understand it yet, but it looks rad, and costs nothing.

Overcast weather

Overcast (no, not that Overcast) is a beautiful B&W weather app for the iPhone. If you were to write the weather forecast in your favorite text editor, and then sprinkle it with some high-quality monochrome clip art to represent clouds, rain and sun, then you’d have Overcast. Except that unlike Overcast, your RTFD document wouldn’t offer hyperlocal forecasts from Free.

Gadget Watch: Hip flasks, shaving kits and a Spinning Beach Ball of Death tote


Gadget Watch: July 24, 2014

Party on your bike with an iPhone speaker and a bottle cage for a hip flask, or protect your camera from water and dirt with dust-repellent filters and a great roll-top backpack. Or just forget everything and take your frustrations to the beach, with the SBOD tote bag.

Evo antistatic filters

Like to protect your camera’s lens? Hate dust? Of course you hate dust. So you might like Hoya’s new antistatic UV, polarizer and plain old nothing-but-protection filters, the Evo range. The glass of all these filters has an antistatic, dust-repelling coating that “acts like a force field around the filter,” which sounds pretty neat. They’re also scratch resistant and easy to clean. From $28

Allo bike speaker

Allo allo! This little iPhone case mounts up on your handlebars and adds a convenient speaker to your bike’s “cockpit.” The quick-release case coddles the iPhone 5/s inside and hooks up via a good old-fashioned 3.5mm jack. No pairing or Lightning certification required. Slot in a pair of AA batteries, cue up The Archers and you’re off. $45, for pre-order.

Macro Beachball Totebag

GothScreenShots will sell you this amazing Macro Beachball Totebag, featuring everybody’s favorite Finder frustration, the Spinning Beach Ball of Death. Less common in recent years, the SBBOD likes to spin up whenever your Mac chokes on the task at hand. I still see it regularly when using iTunes, but if you were to say, “That’s your own damn fault for using iTunes,” I would have to agree. $60

Desktop Chair v2

Nope, it's not a chair for sitting on your desk, but yet another desk stand. This one, though, is clever and versatile. Thanks to the shape of the bent plywood stand, with a lip at either end of the curve, it can be set two ways. This means your iPad can be set at a high or a low angle, and if you use the more-stable low angle, the Desktop Chair v2 will also prop up a MacBook Air. It’s also dead-handsome and fairly cheap at $60.

Emergency Go Bag

The Emergency Go Bag contains everything you need to survive not only an apocalypse, but also a far more likely “several days without power or food” scenario, like if your corner bodega shuts down for vacation. And when I say “everything,” I mean everything, from tools to food to medical supplies to a stove to a survival manual, printed on paper. The idea is that you don’t have to worry about getting it all together yourself, which would cost a lot more anyway. The other neat part of this Kickstarter is that you’ll get email reminders whenever anything in the pack is about to expire – food and batteries and that kind of thing. You can even choose to have replacements sent to you automatically. $225

Lathr shaving set

Even the name of Flyn O’Brien’s Lathr shaving set is minimal. The wooden kit comes in two pieces, a brush and a bowl, and the brush fits into a slot in the bowl when you’re not whipping up a soapy lather to slather on your skin. These days I use a variety of electronic and manual devices to maintain my frankly over-elaborate facial hear (think Tom of Finland meets Mad Max and you”ll be in the ballpark), but I long for the skin-scraping days of a safety razor and a bowl of sudsy soap. Not for sale


ApeCase Maxess DSLR Backpack

Every bag should be a roll-top bag. Not only are they waterproof, the roll-top design lets the bag expand, and lets you use it while open without spilling the contents everywhere. ApeCase’s new lineup includes this roll-top backpack with a lower section for camera gear and an upper, expandable, roll-top section for everything else. It even has places to hang a flashlight and a water bottle. $180

Oliver Flask Cage

Back when I liked drinking a little too much, I’d just fill a mini-size SIG water bottle with Vat 69 and toss it in my bag. It would even fit a standard bottle cage pretty well, which was handy for playing bike polo on those cold winter nights. Seeing as the whole point of a booze-filled hip flask is discretion, I don’t really see the point of the Oliver Flask Cage (which holds a Stanley flask), but as now I don’t see the point of drinking, either, maybe I can’t be trusted to judge. $22

Wharfedale DS-1 speakers

I’m sick of small speakers. I realized it when I visited a friend who has a pair of wooden floor-standers hooked up to a proper amp, and even a record player. I have some great AirPlay speakers, but nothing beats the bang of a big bookshelf boom-box. Enter the Wharfedale DS-1, a Bluetooth speaker pair with a built-in 14-watt amp and a nice big wooden cabinet to let the sound rebound around. Just £150.

App Watch: Hot photo apps, cool cricket temps and Pinboard for the Mac


App Watch: July 21, 2014

We've got lots of film-related apps this week, from a slo-mo stabilizer and an on-the-go moviemaking app for the iPhone to a video collaboration editing suite for the Mac. You’ll also get reminded to do errands when you arrive at a certain right place, and you can even tell the temperature. By crickets.


Cinamatic for iOS is like Instagram’s video recorder, only better (and not just for Instagram). It comes from the makers of Hipstamatic, and brings all the filters you’d expect because of that. I’ve been using it a ton over the weekend, and I love how easy and fast it is to make an edited video with sound – you just hold the big button down to record, release to stop, and repeat until you’re done. All video is square, and many effects are free. You can even add music from your iTunes library. Free


PlaceUs, from Google Maps developer Sam Liang, is a kind of tracking app for you and your family or friends. It uses location data to track users, and you can share your location (and even your route) with others. You can also use it to track your own movements, and it can even learn your routines and automate tasks – the example given is that PlaceUs would see you’re going to Starbucks and warn you to buy proper coffee elsewhere. Just kidding – it would automatically message your friends and ask them if they want anything from Starbucks too. Free

Aperture Exporter

Aperture Exporter is a free tool for those fleeing Aperture after Apple shut it down. It’s a beta, but that’s cool because you can still use Aperture for now while you wait for the final version. Aperture Exporter will mirror your collections as folders, save the original files with XMP metadata sidecar files, and even retain your ratings, comments and other metadata. What you won’t get is your image edits, but that’s because Lightroom and Aperture are so different. Free


Ballloon is a Chrome browser extension that should really be an iOS app. It is a quick and easy way to add any pictures or files to your Google Drive or your Dropbox. Hover over an image and a Dropbox and/or G-Drive icon pops up. Click it and your image is saved to a (user-definable) folder. Links can be saved by right-clicking. This would be neat-o in Mobile Safari, but isn’t even in regular desktop Safari yet. Still, it’s free, and very handy indeed. Free

Cricket Temperature

Did you know that you can tell the temperature by crickets? If you own Money Mark’s album Mark’s Keyboard Repair, and have listened to the track Insects Are All Around Us, then you do. Cricket Temperature is an app that uses the iPhone’s mic to listen to crickets and turn the pitch of their chirrups into a temperature reading. You can also do it manually: Count the number of chirrups in 15 seconds and add 40. The result is very close to the temperature on the Fahrenheit thermometer. $1 looks nothing short of amazing. This collaboration tool for video artists lets you upload clips, view them, rearrange them on a grid and share them with others. Your collaborators can comment and sketch on your clips, and you can even check out a clip to work on, adding it back as a new version. Then these versions can be watched side by side. It pretty much replaces all the crap you’d need to do this manually with one integrated app. Coming soon



Spillo is the first OS X Pinboard app that is as clean and simple as the Pinboard bookmarking service itself. You can browse all your saved bookmarks in a three-pane window with entries for private, public, starred and unread, plus another section for community-sourced bookmarks. My favorite part is Collections, which lets you make smart collections based on tag, title, URL and more. You can even save a search of public Pinboard bookmarks, making this a great place to keep up-to-date on, well, anything. Spillo costs $10, with a free trial available.

Steady Camera

Steady Camera is like a Steadicam for your iPhone, in app form. You can shoot stabilized video and slow-mo and preview the results instantly. The app works with any iPhone from the 4s up, and can smooth video shot even while you run along. Options are simple (square or 16:9 format, choose which clips to save to the Camera Roll), and it costs just $2.

Todoist location reminders

To-do app Todoist can now remind you to take certain actions when you get to a specific place. Premium users can set location-based alerts and get reminded when they arrive at or pass by that location. I use Siri for this, as it’s incredibly easy to set a reminder to do something when I get home, but I guess if you’re already a Todoist user this will be a great addition. Todoist costs €21 per year for a premium subscription.