Tech review: Weckler on the latest gadgets
Our Technology Editor reviews the Leica Q and the Dyson V8 Absolute.
Best fixed-lens digital camera ever made
Price: €4,190 from Conns Cameras
Rating: 5 Stars
Leica's Q is probably the best fixed-lens digital camera ever made. I don't say that lightly: Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Fuji and Nikon all make excellent machines. But I can honestly say that I have never used a single compact(ish) camera that gives you so much quality from casual snaps.
Yes, it costs an absolute fortune. Yes, it only has one focal length. But once you see the quality of the photos from this thing, you can see why people start to dream about owning one at some stage. (I'll post an extended review online in the coming weeks with sample shots from the camera.)
The Leica Q is a 24-megapixel camera with a stabilised Summilux f1.7 lens. It's significantly bigger than most compact cameras, mainly due to the longer fixed 28mm lens. But my God, is that lens worth the trade-off in size. I was still able to take the Q around with me more easily than a full-size DSLR and got photos that no other premium compact camera - not even Sony's magnificent 35mm RX1r2 - could match.
It's more than just accuracy or resolution. There was a warmth and an atmosphere to the photos that you normally only see with much bigger lenses attached to much bigger cameras.
As the Sunday Independent's photo editor, Dave Conaghy, recently described it to me in conversation: "You just want to hug the photo." (Conaghy was talking about beautifully rendered photos, not Leica camera shots in particular.)
I found I wanted to hug the Leica Q's photos. Even bad shots I took had a beautiful tone, a story they seemed to want to tell.
And while some of that quality is down to the camera's large ("full frame") sensor, most of it is due to Leica's utterly superior glass lens built in. A lens is always the most important part of a shot's quality, but this one is surely a benchmark reference for a camera you can slot into a bag.
The jaw-dropping quality was enough to make me completely forget any notional compromise I was making by going out with just one fixed, non-zoom lens.
And I also completely forgot any worries I had about 28mm being 'too wide'. This is because of the lack of any noticeable distortion off the centre of photos. Normally at any focal length below 35mm, you'll see a little warping or bending because the lens is trying to get as much in to the shot as it can. But I took portraits of people who were sitting almost at the edge of the frame and there was practically no distortion.
I pretty much fell in love with this device. And it's not because of any trendy Leica brand. It's simply because it's a superlative camera that takes beautiful photos, even by non-experts.
Dyson revs up the power, but at a price
Dyson V8 Absolute
Price: €620 from dyson.ie
Rating: 4 Stars
When I first started using cordless vacuum cleaners, you typically got around 10 minutes from a single charge. Things have changed. Dyson's new V8 Absolute lasts almost 40 minutes per charge. That's enough to do the basics around the house a couple of times over. It's also twice as long as some of the other cordless vacuums in Dyson's range, such as the V6 Fluffy (which costs €420).
As you'd imagine, the main benefit to a rechargeable cordless cleaner like the V8 is the lack of a heavy cylinder to lug about. There's no plugging or unplugging from room to room and you don't have to have a civil engineering degree to negotiate stairs.
Dyson throws a few extra bits in. For example, its cyclone filters purportedly take a lot of allergens and micro-particles out of the air as you're vacuuming. This can be an issue for people who find that they start sneezing a few minutes into the vacuuming.
These filters are also damn handy in households like mine, where a vacuum is constantly at hand to clean up the endless hair-shedding of two dogs and a cat.
You get five different heads in the box with the actual V8 vacuum itself: a 'soft roller' for hard floors, a 'direct drive' cleaner head for carpets, a 'mini motorised' tool for grittier tasks and combination and rigid crevice tools for counters and corners.
You can also connect it to a nice docking station that's mountable on a wall in a utility room, cupboard or kitchen corner.
Dyson says that the V8 has more than twice as much suction power on carpets than its previous V6 model. But if that still isn't enough, it also has a 'max mode', giving it a suction boost. The trade-off here is that it uses around five times as much power, meaning you'll only get about seven minutes out of a full charge in this mode.
One nice ergonomic feature that Dyson cordless cleaners have is the way in which they turn into Dustbuster-type handheld devices when you need them to.
If you live in an apartment or a small house without much heavy duty soilage or spillages occurring, this is the kind of vacuum cleaner you need.
For more conventional householders, this might be a handy aide (albeit a pricey one).