Sony’s full-frame, mirrorless cameras are among the best you can buy, whether you’re a pro or a curious enthusiast looking to upgrade your photo gear. Sony’s high-end Alpha A7III even scored top marks from WIRED reviewers, standing toe-to-toe with offerings from Canon and Nikon. That venerable camera’s predecessor, the Alpha A7II, is no slouch either, and it’s discounted right now.
The Alpha A7II has been my companion for years as a jobbing photographer. It’s small enough to carry in a messenger bag and robust enough to serve as a primary camera in just about any lighting environment—including street shoots during a Portland-signature downpour (with a weather-sealed lens, of course), or ground-level coverage of contentious political protests. It is a solid workhorse of a camera that I wholeheartedly recommend any chance I get. That’s why it’s so exciting to see the plucky A7II this cheap.
For $998, the A7II is a steal. I should note that it may not be on sale so much as its discounted. The price has bobbed up and down this spring as various retailers start making room for the A7III and other products, which is why it’s a great time to buy. The A7II is still a killer camera; it’s just four and a half years old. With many of the same flagship features that made the A7III such a hit—in-camera image stabilization, eye autofocus, incredible low-light sensitivity—the A7II still holds its own against its newer, more expensive sibling, even as it starts to show its age. Also know that this bundle comes with both the camera body and a versatile starter lens you can mount to it.
(Note: When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Much like subscribing to WIRED, these contributions help fund the journalism we put out every day. Read more about how this works.)
Pros and Cons of the Sony Alpha A7II
I love this little guy, but let’s take a step back so you can see the full picture.
WIRED: With a 24.3-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, shutter speeds topping out at 1/8000 of a second, and ISO that dips down to 100 for the brightest day, or all the way up to 25,600 for the darkest night, the Alpha A7II is still a very capable camera body. It produces crisp, luscious images even in very low light. The autofocus is snappy and quick, with 142 phase- and contrast-detection points to pick out edges and ensure your subject is in focus, along with support for a portrait-shooter’s best friend: eye autofocus. With the press of a button, the A7II can find an eyeball and focus right on it, creating sharp and lively portraits. It’s essential for capturing candid moments during a photo
This past September, Jenny Simpson headed out in the rain to the start of the 5th Avenue Mile road race with two pairs of running shoes in her bag. One was trusted and familiar: a pair of New Balance Hanzo S‘s that she’d worn while winning on this course before. They fit her; they worked. The race is one of the most prestigious in the country, and she’d triumphed in it an astonishing five times in a row. In elite racing—as in much else in life—the gear on your feet always matters less than the buzzards in your mind. Why wear something new that might create stress?
Her sponsors at New Balance, though, were rooting for a different choice. They wanted her to go with Rick and abandon Victor Laszlo. Because the second pair in her bag was a strange test shoe. It weighed just five ounces, which is 20 percent lighter than the Hanzo S, and included a new special kind of responsive foam stretching from heel to forefoot. It also had a small carbon-fiber plate running from the front of the heel to the big toe. When Simpson had first put them on, she’d felt wobbly and bizarre, like the middle of her heels weren’t touching the ground. She remembers thinking, when she tried it, that she’d end up fighting the designers. “They are going to engineer this to the moon, and it’s going to not be something I’m comfortable with.”
Jenny Simpson (bib 337) wears the new 5280 shoes as she competes in the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford University in May 2019.
Kirby Lee/USA Today/Reuters
But the new shoe had some advantages. New Balance had strapped oxygen masks to Simpson’s face while she ran on the treadmill, measured her blood lactate level, attached motion-capture sensors to her body, photographed the angle with which her feet landed, and assured her the new shoe would make her faster. Simpson is perhaps the best female American miler ever, with an Olympic gold medal and all sorts of records to her name. But the engineers swore the shoe would give her a little extra acceleration at the very end.
The race begins at East 80th Street and heads south, ending at East 60th Street. The winner is almost always decided around two blocks before the finish, at East 62nd Street. That’s where Simpson would inevitably be matching strides across the avenue with several other scorchingly fast women. The shoe, according to the designers at least, was created to help the most there. It also had a special outsole with a bit of grip that would help Simpson tackle the potholes and the puddles. Running on slippery roads isn’t always smooth.
Simpson had every reason to be conservative about which shoes to use. In the finals of the 1,500-meter race at the 2015 World Championships, she’d lost a shoe while in second place and then struggled across the line barefoot, fishing 11th.
For the past month, my preschooler has been into beads. Because they don’t have to live with her, my friends and family think it’s adorable. They send her printed ceramic ones, pink sparkly ones. She makes dozens of necklaces and bracelets and stores the beads in jars, which she leaves under the kitchen table for me to accidentally knock over and scatter across the floor.
Lately, I’ve been vacuuming the beads up! The Dyson V11 makes this possible. It can suck up beads that are bigger than a half-inch across. As long as you can stand the sound of beads rattling frantically in the vacuum’s bin, you’re golden.
Dyson’s cordless hybrid vacs are an exemplar of the form. For the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of testing a V11 Torque Drive, one of two V11 models. The V11 Animal is the other. The latest in Dyson’s series, it’s incredibly powerful, smart, convenient, and light enough for me to lift with one hand as I stand on a step stool and vacuum spiderwebs from my bedroom ceiling corners (using the crevice attachment).
I’ve owned a Dyson V7 for years, and my one complaint was that it wasn’t powerful enough to get a deep clean on my rugs. But the V11 can lift the rugs off my floor. Dog hair doesn’t stand a chance. Using it makes me feel like a mom in a commercial who derives a disturbing amount of pleasure from using the correct dishwasher soap. I’ve never had such a fun time vacuuming in my life.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been using the V11 on a variety of surfaces in my home—low-pile rugs matted with dog hair, the plastic and fabric surfaces of my car and couch, linoleum in the kitchen, and the cement in the garage. So far, it’s the best stick vac that I’ve ever used. But I have to admit that the improvements from last year’s V10 are incremental.
This year, Dyson’s engineers tweaked the motor’s design. The motor still runs at a mind-blowing 125,000 rpm, but they’ve introduced a triple diffuser and made the rotating blades longer, thinner, and with a slightly different S-shape. These changes are meant to improve airflow efficiency, increase suction, and reduce the noise. Dyson claims they give it 20 percent more suction power than the V10.
I measured it at 80 decibels (dB) on Boost mode on carpet, which is loud, but not unusually so (most alarm clocks ring in at around 80 dB). It went down to 70 dB on Eco mode on carpet.
The V11 also has an LCD screen. It sits at the top of the vacuum and lets you toggle between Eco, Auto, and Boost mode. In Eco mode, you can get up to an hour of run time; in Boost, I’ve found that a full battery normally gives me 10 to 12 minutes of run time, or enough time to clean a room or a couple rugs.
First-party controllers occupy a place of privilege in the pantheon of gaming peripherals. They’re the gold standard, the official controllers, the good ones. They stand head and shoulder-buttons above the competition, sneering imperiously down at the hordes of lesser gamepads. Like mighty Thanos bearing all six infinity stones, Microsoft- and Sony-branded controllers swat aside third-party competitors with ease, turning them to dust with a snap of their fingers.
There’s still hope for third-party controllers, but they get a bad rap, thanks in no small part to the glut of cheapo gamepads that feel like knockoffs of the real thing. (I’m looking at you mid-’90s MadCatz.) In recent years, companies like Razer and Scuf have worked tirelessly to rehabilitate the reputation of third-party controllers by spending serious time and money engineering them as precisely as a high-end mouse or keyboard, devices that don’t just emulate, but innovate. Astro made a name for itself by producing quality gaming headsets. With the C40 TR gamepad, it plans to supplement its sound with improved control.
Before you ever lay hands on it, the C40 TR sets itself apart from the usual crop of third-party gamepads. At $200, it has no choice. Unboxing it is like opening up a new smartphone or pair of high-end headphones. There’s no blister packaging or flimsy card stock here. The packaging is heavy, thick, matte-and-glossy, classy, and understated.
Lift up the matte-finished box and you’ll find the controller lying in its padded clamshell carrying case, black with details picked out in red and gray. The PlayStation logo on the power button serves as a reminder of this PC/PS4 gamepad’s dual purpose and pedigree.
The Astro C40 TR borrows some of the best design elements from official console controllers for Xbox One and PS4. The black and red design makes the C40 TR feel like a Dark Mode version of the standard Xbox One gamepad, with almost the same exact profile and shape. The joystick layout, where both sticks are on the bottom, mimics the DualShock 4.
Similar to the Xbox One Elite controller, the C40 TR is compatible with two sets of swappable joysticks—short and tall. The tall joysticks were awkward at first. They made movement and aiming feel too fast or too slow in some games. However, after a few hours I got used to them, and aiming with a tall stick felt very natural. The extra height offers more precise control than you normally get with a gamepad. Using the included screwdriver, you can even swap the locations of the joysticks or position your D-pad higher and left joystick lower—less like an Xbox One pad and more like a PlayStation controller.
The Astro C40 TR offer practical customization options, and it packs a couple extras that give it a leg up. On the back side of the gamepad you’ll find two additional buttons you can set (map) functions to with the included software—helpful for battle royale games like Apex
With cities growing ever denser, both scooters and bikes (and other forms of electrictransportation) are competing more intensely to take over the streets. Some may consider it a little, um, old-fashioned to be against any vehicle that replaces a car commuter. But I have a confession to make: I’ve always hated scooter shares.
E-scooters are dangerous if the rider lacks experience, which many of them do. They’re also prone to theft and vandalism, which makes them incredibly wasteful. Scooter share companies Bird and Lime have both reported that their scooters see just one to two months of use before they need to be replaced. I have leftovers in my fridge that are older than that. Scooter shares are also mostly unregulated, so cities where they operate sometimes have little control over how the vehicles are distributed or used. Oh, and women don’t ride them, probably for all the reasons listed above.
The problem may be the sharing, not the scooters. According to Boosted, the company that makes those popular orange-wheeled electric skateboards, you can fix everything people hate about electric scooters by switching from a share model to an ownership model. “The vast, vast majority of vehicles are owned, not shared. That’s always been the case, and likely always will be,” says Boosted CEO Jeff Russakow.
The math is simple, he says. Most people need a sturdy, reliable vehicle that can travel the same three miles to the train station every day and back, for years. If you’re a commuter, you’re far more likely to own a vehicle for daily travel and pay pennies per mile, rather than pay a few bucks for each ride on a rented scooter.
The benefits go beyond dollars and cents. If you’re riding your own scooter, you’ll gain experience and confidence more quickly, and you’re more likely to own and wear a helmet. You’re also far more likely to store that scooter in your home or workplace, rather than on the sidewalk (or in the river). If it’s a gorgeous scooter, you’ll take care of it, and the vehicle’s lifespan will stretch into the years, not just weeks.
Many other scooter companies assemble their vehicles by ordering different components from different manufacturers. Boosted’s team—which includes engineers from Tesla, Apple, and GoPro—designed the Rev from the ground up. Russakow says that decision was necessary to make a safer and more reliable “vehicle-grade vehicle.”
The team focused on the battery and the brakes in particular. The Rev’s battery draws inspiration from vehicle-grade electric batteries, like Tesla’s, rather than the kind commonly used in household products or toys that are notorious for catching on fire. The Rev’s powerful battery is composed of individual cells. If
A few interesting announcements took place in week 38 and three of those came courtesy of Samsung – the first mid-ranger with a triple camera Galaxy A7 (2018) and a couple of entry-level devices in Galaxy J4+ and Galaxy J6+.
Meanwhile Xiaomi gave us two more members of the Mi 8 family – the Mi 8 Lite and Mi 8 Pro, while Meizu gave us four new handsets – the 16X, the X8 and the V8 duo.
Meanwhile OnePlus was a prominent feature in our rumor mill with its 6T flagship, along with Xiaomi and its upcoimng Redmi Note 6 Pro mid-ranger. .
We are also still feeling the aftermath of the iPhone XS and XS Max launch – the duo went on sale and we got to learn more about their hardware through reviews and teardowns.
Check out the full list of popular stories to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
The sale begins tomorrow at 12 noon in India at Amazon and Xiaomi’s stores.
It’s the company’s first triple camera smartphone.
Is artificial intelligence the key to communicating with aliens?
Researchers used machine learning to discover 72 new fast radio bursts from a mysterious source 3 billion light years from Earth.
In radio astronomy, fast radio bursts are high-energy astrophysical phenomenon of unknown origin; the bright pulses of radio emission last mere milliseconds and are thought to originate from distant galaxies.
“This work is exciting not just because it helps us understand the dynamic behavior of fast radio bursts in more detail, but also because of the promise it shows for using machine learning to detect signals missed by classical algorithms,” according to Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and principal investigator of Breakthrough Listen.
In the 12 years since Duncan Lorimer discovered the first fast radio burst in 2006, many more have been found, including the repeating FRB 121102—the focus of this investigation.
The team focused on radio signals from 400 terabytes of data, recorded by West Virginia’s Green Bank Telescope over a five-hour period in August 2017.
Yasss! My favorite planet-cum-dwarf planet got the thumbs up from the University of Central Florida to be reinstated as a full-fledged member of our Solar System.
New research from UCF suggests Pluto’s declassification as a planet was not valid. (Damn straight!)
The International Astronomical Union in 2006 formally defined a planet as having “cleared the neighborhood” around its orbit (i.e. be the largest gravitational force in its path).
Because Neptune’s gravity influences its smaller neighbor, which shares its space with objects in the Kuiper belt, Pluto sadly lost its title as the ninth planet from the Sun.
Enter Philip Metzger—UCF planetary scientist with the Florida Space Institute, and my new hero.
In a study published online in the journal Icarus, Metzger reported that this standard for classifying planets is not supported by 200 years scientific literature.
Only one publication from 1802 used the clearing-orbit requirement, based on reasoning which has since been disproven.
“The IAU definition would say that the fundamental object of planetary science, the planet, is supposed to be defined on the basis of a concept that nobody uses in their research,” lead author Metzger said in a statement. “And it would leave out the second-most complex, interesting
This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full Vitamix vs. Blendtec guide here.
Vitamix and Blendtec are the two biggest names in high-powered home blenders. In our testing, we’ve always preferred Vitamix. We still get asked about Blendtec, though, maybe thanks to its popular “Will It Blend?” campaign, which features a Blendtec pulverizing iPhones and other objects that would taste bad in smoothies. The image of a phone turned to dust is a compelling demonstration of raw power, but pulverizing a phone and making a good smoothie are two very different tasks.
To prove it, we pitted the Blendtec Designer 675 against the Vitamix 5200 (our top-pick blender) in a series of tests, and the Vitamix won every time. The Vitamix was much better at smoothies, soups, nut butters—the things you’d need a kitchen blender for, in other words.
We chose to compare those two models because they offered roughly similar features and control schemes. The 5200 is Vitamix’s original variable-speed model, and it offers the power and performance Vitamix blenders are known
For those digging the convertible notebook concept, solid choices abound. HP’s Spectre x360 has been at the top of the heap for a while, neck and neck with the Microsoft Surface Book. As it goes with these things, HP has updated the x360 to keep with the times and the competition. While it hasn’t reinvented the converti-wheel with this 2018 release, it has re-solidified its position at the top of the pack.
If you’re familiar with recent vintages of the x360, this version will look awfully familiar. It carries the same 360-degree convertible hinge to allow for use as a laptop, a slate tablet, and everything in between, plus a similar, all-business color scheme of slate gray and coppery metallics. (That’s “dark ash silver” for those in the know; two other colors are also available.) While the design has been lightly tweaked here and there, it’s a very close sibling to the 2017 model.
While specs have been updated for 2018 components, my review unit was on the lower end of HP’s configuration spectrum. That means a relatively slow 1.6GHz Core i5 processor. Also onboard were 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and screen with the resolution capped at
But that’s not enough for NASEM, the collective scientific national academy of the United States.
“Our current knowledge of the range of characteristics of planets outside the Solar System is substantially incomplete,” the committee said in a news release outlining two “overarching” goals:
To understand the formation and evolution of planetary systems as products of star formation and characterize the diversity of their architectures, composition, and environments To learn enough about exoplanets to identify potentially habitable environments and search for scientific evidence of life on worlds orbiting other stars
We’ve seen it happen a thousand times: Android device makers hire stars to promote their latest devices, and those influencers tweet their endorsements from the device they actually use, which is Apple’s iPhone. But when it happens to Google’s latest Pixel, and when it involves photography, which is one of the best things about the Pixel, it’s the ultimate humiliation for Android as a whole.
In a matter of weeks, Google will unveil the Pixel 3 series and the phones’ photography skills will be put on display. Both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will feature dual-lens selfie cams, and single-lens main cameras, which already has us puzzled. Google will surely explain its camera decisions, and will probably tell us how the new Pixels will deliver a camera experience that’s unparalleled.
In the meantime, Google is still promoting the Pixel 2 XL around the world, with Bollywood star Anushka Sharma having inked a Pixel advertising contract for India. She posted the following images on Twitter making sure the message that those pictures were taken with the Pixel is clear. Just check out all the Google and Pixel hashtags. Little did she know that well-known tech reviewer Marquess Brownlee will