Leica, Xiaomi, and AirPods
Instruction Set, 2023/10/27
Welcome back to Multicore. This is Instruction Set for the week of Friday, October 27th.
Ten months into this publication and I finally managed to get Substack’s temperamental wordmark tool to let me upload a new design. It’s a small change but I feel like it ties the site together.
If you’re reading this through email, here it is:
You have my permission in advance for any ill-advised tattoos.
Xiaomi has announced the 14 and 14 Pro, the first phones to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processors. (Qualcomm had a bunch of other news this week; more on that on Monday.)
Xiaomi usually launches its flagship phones in China in December, tying in to Qualcomm’s annual chip event, before an international launch early the following year. I reviewed the global Xiaomi 13 Pro in February, for example. This year Qualcomm went earlier, so I guess Xiaomi had to follow suit to keep its first-mover status.
Anyway, the phones. Or more pertinently for the scope of this Instruction Set, the cameras.
Surprisingly, Xiaomi is moving away from the 1” sensor that worked so well on the 13 Pro and the incredibly good 13 Ultra, which continues to be my go-to camera in most situations. Both the 14 and 14 Pro use a new 50-megapixel 1/1.3” sensor called “Light Fusion 900”, which I believe is manufactured by OmniVision. The two phones also share the same 50-megapixel telephoto and ultrawide cameras.
The main camera lens on the 14 has an aperture of f/1.6, while the 14 Pro has a truly variable aperture of f/1.42-f/4. That makes it the fastest lens on any phone camera, which should somewhat offset the smaller sensor size in terms of depth of field. I almost never found much use for the f/4 on the 13 Ultra, but that was a binary setting — you couldn’t shoot at f/2.8, for example. This lens should allow for a lot more control; hopefully it’s still sharp when wide open.
I’ll probably have to wait til the global launch but I’m very curious to test these phones, as well as to see what Xiaomi does with the camera on the inevitable 14 Ultra. Sensor size isn’t everything, and the Leica colour science is a huge part of what made Xiaomi’s cameras so good this year, so we’ll see.
Sticking with Leica for a minute, it just announced a new digital rangefinder, the M11-P. As with other “P” models, it’s an upgraded version of the M11 that ditches the iconic (and conspicuous) red dot for a subtler script logo on the top plate. Internal storage has been quadrupled to 256GB, and the screen now has a more scratch-resistant sapphire glass covering.
Obviously I want one but it costs $9,195, so. There is, however, a fascinating twist to this particular model that makes it a little more noteworthy than every other Leica I don’t buy.
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