Motorola’s Moto G Gets A Google Play Edition, Still $179 And $199 Unlocked

by  (@drizzled)

Google essentially makes the Moto G as it is – they own Motorola’s handset business, and both the Moto X and Moto G were designed and built under Google’s parental supervision. But that hasn’t stopped Google from creating a Play Edition Moto G.

The Play Edition strips out the few non-stock elements of Android that were still present on the Moto G to begin with, but keeps the same $179 price point for an 8GB version and $199 cost for a 16GB model. Like other Play Edition devices, it’s U.S.-only (at least at launch) and will work on both AT&T and T-Mobile networks. Remember that the Moto G is 3G-only, too, if you’re considering picking one up.

The main advantage of a Play Edition Moto G would appear to be its ability to get timely updates. The first Android 4.4 KitKat update rolled out to Moto G devices just last week, which means that it trailed the original 4.4 launch by a couple of months. The Play Edition will likely get updates much faster, so users who want to stay on the cutting edge would do well to opt for this variant. Motorola has introduced some slick software additions to the standard Moto G, however, so it really comes down to preference in this case.

I suspect Google is also motivated by a long-term desire to make Play Editions a consumer option for just about every major Android phone. If consumers start gravitating towards them, they get greater control over the pace and consistency of software updates. If they don’t, at least some developers will be pleased with the option.

full story: http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/14/moto-g-google-play-edition/

Here’s a look at YouTube’s latest experiment: a cleaner interface with more focus on videos

By 

This picture taken on January 27, 2010 i

YouTube is in the process of testing out a new user interface, but while the company has made it available to a select few, there’s no word on when it will be rolled out to the public. As reported by Tech2Notify, the look and feel of YouTube appears to have been simplified and now is more on par with the service’s mobile apps, perhaps in an attempt to mirror the experience across all devices, no matter how videos are viewed.

A  spokesperson confirmed this news and said in a statement: “With more videos coming to YouTube every minute, we’re always experimenting with ways to help people more easily find, watch and share the videos that matter most to them. We’ll consider rolling changes out more broadly based on feedback.”

channelpage tnwlogo 730x410 Here’s a look at YouTube’s latest experiment: a cleaner interface with more focus on videos

Based on screenshots we’ve obtained, this is an aesthetic update to the social network. The focus is now firmly on the videos. In its current form, YouTube had a design with a few distractions — you didn’t know whether to look at the giant banner ad, the recommended channels list, or your subscriptions.

The new interface now hides the main navigation and subscriptions a compartment accessible by the “Guide” button. When you’re looking at a channel or your home screen, this new interface allows you to devote all your attention to the videos uploaded by the content creator.

Currently on YouTube, when you’re sorting through trending, recommended, or subscribed videos, it’s all bundled onto the same page. In the new design, these categories have been separated into two different screens. This makes it easier to flip through to see what’s hot on the video social network and what cool videos channels like The Next Web just posted.

As mentioned earlier, there’s no sign when this will be rolled out to the public — or even if it will see the light of day. Since it’s an experiment, YouTube could ultimately decide this isn’t in the best interest of its users and shutter the whole project.

This is the latest design update the company has made since June 2013 when itrolled out a redesigned “One Channel” layout to all of its users. As part of that effort, the initiative was geared towards helping content creators garner more subscribers, visits, and help with promotion.

YouTube’s move follows suit with what Twitter released earlier this week for its website that featured a refreshed look and feel that would match its iOS and Android apps.

Main photo credit: LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images
Image credits: Jordan Rodkey

full story: http://thenextweb.com/google/2014/01/14/heres-look-youtubes-latest-experiment-cleaner-interface-focus-videos/#!sdRiF

Chrome 32 fights back against tab noise

Which of my two dozen browser tabs is that obnoxious sound coming from? The latest Chrome stable will tell you, while offering a lengthy list of other fixes.

 

 

Tabs in Chrome 32 Beta will notify you via icons when they’re streaming audio.
(Credit: Google)

Think of it as Google’s annoying horsefly detector, where the irritating insect is one of your dozens of tabs streaming audio.

A new feature in Tuesday’s update to Google Chrome brings to the masses a tab indicator to tell you when a site is streaming audio. The feature will add a speaker icon to tabs streaming audio, a red record button when a tab is using your Webcam, and a Google Cast icon when you’re sending a tab to your Chromecast.

Google Chrome 32 brings to the fore other new features worth mentioning. It calls out potentially malicious downloads in a more visible way, so you know when the browser is blocking you from downloading something dangerous. To the Windows 8 Metro mode, it brings the Chrome OS desktop launcher, making it easier to see Chrome Apps. However, there are several known bugs in Windows 8 Metro, including problems with the keyboardprofile switching and support on legacy computers that don’t have hardware acceleration. These problems do not affect the desktop mode.

Chrome 32 also offers an interesting option called Supervised Users, which allows the main Chrome account to offer sub-accounts. A supervised user can have his or her Web access restricted by site, and browsing activity can be monitored through a control panel.

Supervised users brings a helpful feature from Chrome OS to the main Chrome browser.
(Credit: Google)

Chrome 32’s security fixes included one fix that stops an unprompted sync with an attacker’s Google account, and another one that prevents address bar spoofing in Chrome for Android.

Chrome 32 has an unresolved conflict with Symantec’s Norton security software, including its toolbar.

Chrome’s new interface for Windows 8’s “Metro” mode also takes a cue from Chrome OS with its desktop launcher for Chrome Web Apps.
(Credit: Google)

full story: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-57617234-92/chrome-32-fights-back-against-tab-noise/

Facebook Paper expected to soon deliver news on mobile

The social network is reportedly weeks away from releasing a standalone social news reader for members on mobile devices.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to deliver your news. (Credit: James Martin/CNET)

Facebook is getting ready to launch a digital newspaper of sorts, and it’s appropriately named “Paper,” according to Recode. Paper could be delivered before the end of January, the blog reported.

The application is said to be for mobile devices and is similar in nature to the popular social news reader Flipboard, meaning it will aggregate content from a variety of sources including status updates from Facebook and articles from partner media companies.

“We do not comment on rumors and speculation,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNET.

The social network’s ambitions to become a daily destination for your news-reading attention have been made plain to the world for some time. In 2013, the company made a number of changes to stress its connection to what’s happening in the world right now. And, most recently, Facebook made a semi-controversial alteration to the formula behind News Feed to emphasize news articles over memes.

If real, Paper will need to offer the social network’s members something more compelling than Flipboard and other incumbents in the digital news reading space, as well as an experience superior to the Facebook social readers of yore, which were delivered by third-party publishers, such as The Washington Post. Facebook has also proved itself a poor copycat, particularly evidenced by the failure of its Snapchat clone, Poke.

full story: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57617226-93/facebook-paper-expected-to-soon-deliver-news-on-mobile/

NSA review panel casts doubt on bulk data collection claims

Panel members said phone data had limited role preventing terrorism in testimony before Senate judiciary committee

by 

Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein NSA hearing

Senators Patrick Leahy and Dianne Feinstein heard testimony regarding the NSA’s efficacy in counter-terrorism. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

The members of president Barack Obama’s surveillance review panel on Tuesday rejected some of the central contentions offered by the National Security Agency for its bulk collection of phone records, including the program’s potential usefulness in preventing the 9/11 attacks.

Testifying before the Senate judiciary committee, members of the panel said that restricting the NSA is necessary in order to rebalance the competing values of liberty and security.

Richard Clarke, who was the White House’s counter-terrorism czar on 9/11, echoed the 9/11 Commission in saying that the biggest obstacle to preventing the terrorist attack was not the NSA collecting an insufficient amount of data, but a failure to share information already collected.

“If the information that the federal agencies had at the time had been shared among the agencies, then one of them, the FBI, could have gone to the Fisa Court and could have in a very timely manner gotten a warrant to monitor” US-based al-Qaida conspirators, Clarke told the Senate judiciary committee.

Similarly, Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director, told the committee that so-called “metadata” about a phone conversation inherently entailed information about the substance of the communication. “There is quite a bit of content in metadata,” Morrell said. “There’s not a sharp distinction between metadata and content. It’s more of a continuum.”

Morrell added that the bulk collection of domestic phone data “has not played a significant role in preventing any terrorist attacks to this point,” further undercutting a major rationale offered by the NSA since the Guardian first revealed the bulk phone-data collection in June, thanks to leaks by Edward Snowden.

But, Morell added, “that is a different statement than saying the program has not been important.” Morrell said that bulk collection can provide a reassurance that there is no domestic nexus to foreign terrorist plots detected by other NSA efforts.

“It is absolutely true that 215 has not by itself disrupted prevented terrorist attacks in the United States, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important going forward, said Morell, using a shorthand for the bulk phone metadata collection. “Many of us have never suffered a fire in our homes but many of us have homeowners insurance.”

The recommendations that the panel made in December recast the Washington debate over the NSA’s mass surveillance activities and gave reform efforts crucial political momentum. Obama will likely announce some curbs to surveillance, heavily influenced by the panel’s work, in a speech at the Justice Department scheduled for Friday.

CIA director Michael Morell

Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said ‘There’s not a sharp distinction between metadata and content.’ Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

 

“We’re really having a debate about Americans’ fundamental relationship with their government,” said Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate judiciary committee and is the co-author of a bill, the USA Freedom Act, to restrict NSA bulk surveillance.

The panel has also prompted fierce behind-the-scenes jockeying between the NSA and its critics surrounding the scope of its highest-profile recommendation: ending the NSA’s collection of data on every phone call made in the United States.

Several senators at the hearing expressed skepticism at the panel’s recommendations, including intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, who both seemed to confuse the review group by pressing them on the bulk collection of metadata’s relationship to preventing terrorism.

Both sides are awaiting Obama’s thoughts on the subject, particularly concerning the legal standards and procedures by which NSA would be allowed to access records kept by phone companies for discovering terrorism connections, and how long companies or a private entity would be required to retain customer information. Those details will determine whether the mass surveillance actually ends or, as critics have warned, is simply outsourced.

Most members of Congress, whom the White House concedes will take the fore in codifying any new surveillance approach that Obama proposes, have not yet taken firm positions on what the scope of a privately-held phone records database should be. On Tuesday, Representative Adam Schiff, a member of the House intelligence committee, introduced a bill he said would “restructure” the phone data collection, without requiring companies to hold customer data longer than they currently do, and forcing the NSA to obtain a Fisa Court order for searching through the data in all but emergency cases.

Dianne Feinstein and intelligence chiefs

Dianne Feinstein speaks with director of national intelligence James Clapper, NSA director general Keith Alexander. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

“This idea gained new momentum last month, with the president’s NSA review panel’s endorsement that restructuring the program is both technically feasible and more protective of the privacy interests of the American people,” Schiff, a California Democrat, said in a statement.

The members of the surveillance review panel testified on Tuesday that they were not advocating that the government no longer examine the metadata, but only that it should have to obtain court orders based on specific suspicions of wrongdoing before they do so in non-emergency cases.

“There’s no reason why getting a court order to query the metadata is any more impossible than getting a search warrant to search a home,” Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor, told the Senate panel on Tuesday.

Panel members praised what they described as robust safeguards surrounding the bulk metadata program, but added that they were insufficient to maintain public confidence in it after the revelation of its existence.

The NSA argues that it needs “the haystack” of all domestic phone records in order to spot connections to terrorism, as outgoing deputy NSA director John Inglis said Friday. But telecommunication and internet firms are balking at any requirement for holding customer data longer than the current 18 month average maximum, fearing increased legal and financial liability.

“Our members would oppose the imposition of data retention obligations that would require them to maintain customer data for longer than necessary,” a spokesman for CTIA-The Wireless Association, the cellular phone trade group, told the Associated Press Friday.

The phone companies “obviously rather would not hold the data”, Stone conceded.

“The concern of the fourth amendment, the concern of our constitutional history is that government can do far more harm if it abuses information in its hands than private entities can,” Stone told the panel.

But Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the committee, warned that the private sector would have a difficult time securing the data, citing the recent massive breach of customer information from Target.

Clarke later replied that there was a “very significant information compromise at NSA,” and that he was unaware of “people’s phone records going into the public record when they were stolen from phone companies.” But major phone companies overseas, like Deutsche Telekom in Germany and Vodafone in Greece, have experienced major data break-ins.

Brough Turner, the chief technology officer of broadband company NetBlazr, noted that the private sector itself has similar concerns. “As an internet service provider, the best possible thing is to keep the absolute minimum data necessary to track the functioning of your infrastructure and service outages and complaints, because you lay yourself open for excess legal expenses. It’s a liability issue,” he told the Guardian.

Turner was part of a lobbying push that tech firms made on Capitol Hill on Monday and Tuesday in an attempt to convince legislators to back the USA Freedom Act. Participants said they warned senators and members of Congress against handing over a program functionally similar to the NSA’s to the phone companies.

“We delivered a very clear message that [that action] doesn’t solve the problem at all,” said Matthew Simons of software firm ThoughtWorks. “Certainly in the global sphere, to tell our customers in Brazil, ‘Don’t worry, it’s not the government anymore, AT&T has got your back’ … it doesn’t fly, it doesn’t fix the problem.”

Barack Obama speaks at the Oval Office.

Barack Obama is expected to state his stance on surveillance reforms this week. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Simons said the tech coalition, which primarily targeted members of the Senate and House judiciary committees, which are considering the USA Freedom Act, argued that the broad reach of the NSA’s foreign surveillance was hurting US tech competitiveness overseas – a contention he said caused cognitive dissonance on Capitol Hill.

“A lot of the people that have been the biggest champions of business interests are also the same people who see a terrorist behind every bush,” he said. “Those people have a really strong values conflict, because when businesses come to you and say, ‘Stop surveilling entire countries, the entire population of the world, because it’s killing our business,’ I think they just kind of freeze up. People are really wrestling with this.”

Among those wrestling with surveillance reforms is John Bates, a federal judge and former presiding judge of the Fisa Court. In a rare moment of policy advocacy from a sitting federal judge, Bates sent a letter to Feinstein, released Tuesday, in which he rejected several reforms to the secret surveillance court proposed by Obama’s review group, citing the “burden” they would place on the judiciary.

Creating a permanent privacy advocate to argue before the Fisa Court is “unnecessary – and could prove counterproductive – in the vast majority of Fisa matters”, wrote Bates, who did say that the appointment of one in certain cases at the court’s discretion is “likely to be helpful”.

Bates also warned against placing a controversial FBI administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter under the court’s purview, saying it would “fundamentally transform the nature of the [court] to the detriment of its current responsibilities.”

Expanding the declassification of the secret court’s rulings as a transparency measure, Bates wrote, “is likely to promote confusion and misunderstanding”.

Cass Sunstein, a former Obama White House adviser and surveillance advisory panel member, said he disagreed with Bates about judicial discretion for appointing a privacy advocate on a case-by-case basis on the grounds that it afforded judges too much power in cases with significant privacy interests at stake.

“We think that’s not consistent with our traditions,” Sunstein testified.

full story: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/14/nsa-review-panel-senate-phone-data-terrorism

Stylish screensaver recreates the iOS 7 lock screen experience on your Mac

by 

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Want to bring iOS and OS X even closer together than they already are?
Christian Heudens has recreated the iOS 7 lock screen to your Mac as a free downloadable screensaver. The thin fonts look great on a Retina Display. It’s a neat way to give your Mac a bit of individuality and make your experience across your Apple devices even more consistent.

The developer has done a good job of replicating the feel of iOS 7, using the same starry wallpaper by default and font style. The screensaver adds a zoom effect to the background too, which is a sophisticated yet subtle addition.

Set up is easy; just drag the file to your Mac’s screensaver folder and then select it from System Preferences. There are a few customisation options too. You can change the wallpaper from the starscape to a custom image (to match your desktop wallpaper, perhaps) as well as adjust the clock size and toggle the zoom effect if you find it distracting.

The beauty is, because there is no installation per se, if you don’t like it, you can revert back to your previous screensaver just as easily. It’s free so there’s no harm in giving it a try … in fact, it could foreshadow where an iOS 7-influenced OS X is going in the future.

full story: http://9to5mac.com/2014/01/14/stylish-screensaver-recreates-the-ios-7-lock-screen-experience-on-your-mac/

Edward Snowden Joins Freedom Of The Press Foundation

By 

edward snowden press freedom

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – DECEMBER 2013: (EXCLUSIVE ACCESS; PREMIUM RATES (3X) APPLY) Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden poses for a photo during an interview in an undisclosed location in December 2013 in Moscow, Russia. Snowden who exposed extensive details of global electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency has been in Moscow since June 2012 after getting temporary asylum in order to evade prosecution by authorities in the U.S. (Photo by Barton Gellman/Getty Images) | Getty

Edward Snowden is joining the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the press freedom group launched by Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald and others, the group announced Tuesday.

Snowden’s leaks to Greenwald and others in 2013 prompted one of the most intense debates over press freedom in recent memory.

In a press release, Ellsberg—who has said that Snowden’s leaks were the most important in American history—called Snowden “the quintessential American whistleblower, and a personal hero of mine.”

Snowden remains in Moscow, where he has been granted asylum by the Russian government.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation was launched in 2012 with the intention of aiding investigative journalism and combating government secrecy. Besides Ellsberg and Greenwald, other board members include John Cusack, Laura Poitras and Xeni Jardin.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Xeni Jardin’s name.

full story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/14/edward-snowden-press-freedom-daniel-ellsberg_n_4597833.html

Tesla issues recall for Model S power adapters, releases software update to avoid overheatin

By Chris Welch

tesla motors dealership stock 1020

Tesla has announced a voluntary recall affecting more than 29,000 of its home charging adapters over potential fire concerns. The NEMA 14-50 adapter is an optional home installation that allows for 240-volt recharging of the company’s Model S. “Electrical resistance heating in the adapter or at the interface to the wall socket may lead to melting of the adapter, cord or wall receptacle, and possible electrical arcing that could lead to fire,” reads Tesla’s January 12th letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But this isn’t a recall in the traditional sense; Tesla owners don’t need to take their cars or adapters in for service.

(1/2) The term “recall” is outdated. No vehicles are being physically recalled by Tesla.

— Tesla Motors (@TeslaMotors) January 14, 2014

The automaker says the problem has been completely remedied with an over-the-air software update. That update has already made its way to over 99 percent of cars, according to Tesla’s Jerome Guillen. If your Model S happens to be out of network range, the company will install the software at any of its service locations.

There was an over-the-air software update (done last month) and an upgraded US 14-50 adapter will be mailed to customers.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 14, 2014

Prior to the update, Tesla says that approximately 2.7 percent of returned adapters showed signs of internal damage. But a more thorough analysis found that “defective or improperly installed wall receptacles” could result in melted adapters and even fire “in the worst case scenario.” In addition to the software update, Tesla has engineered a revised adapter plug that includes an internal thermal fuse. “The improved design and addition of the fuse will act to provide a higher level of reliability thereby demonstrating Tesla’s commitment to full customer satisfaction.” Tesla says it will begin delivering the updated adapter to customers as stock becomes available. “It is a very safe car,” said Guillen. “To date, there has been no serious injury in the Model S, ever.”

The 100 Apple employees Google just acquired by buying Nest

By Christopher Mims

Here’s every Nest employee who used to work at Apple according to LinkedIn, except for the ones who haven’t uploaded a headshot. Christopher Mims/Quartz

Nest, maker of internet connected gizmos for the smart home, is a good fit for Google in many ways. But that Google just paid $3.2 billion for a company that has only two products—a thermostat and a smoke detector—seems a bit much. Why the super high valuation? It could be that Google perceives Nest as a way to insinuate itself into what could some day be the trillion dollar market for the internet of things, or a way onto the coming “smart grid.

Or it could just be that Google really wants the talent Nest has attracted. Founded by Tony Fadell, the “father of the iPod,” Nest has managed to peel at least 100 people off of Apple, his former employer, according to a search of LinkedIn (of course, given that LinkedIn data is user-driven, there could be more Nest employees who’ve made this switch, or LinkedIn users who haven’t updated their profiles). From executives to product designers, there are surely things these exceptional people could be doing for Google.

full story: http://qz.com/166794/the-100-apple-employees-whom-google-just-acquired-by-buying-nest/

Lomography Konstruktor review: the $35 camera you build yourself

A little money, a little elbow grease, a lot of camera

By Sam Byford

lomography konstruktor hero

As camera-makers trim their point-and-shoot lines in the face of encroaching smartphones, one company is keeping the faith and doing what it’s done for the past three decades. Lomography’s wide range of film cameras dates back to the early ‘90s, when some students in Vienna discovered the potential of the Russian LC-A, but shows no signs of slowing down — after all, if the company managed to survive the explosion of digital photography, phones are unlikely to be of much concern.

Lomography puts out a variety of cameras that work with just about any film format still in production, but its most recent product, the Konstruktor, is at once one of its most conventional and radical: it’s a 35mm SLR, but one that you build yourself for $35. The Konstruktor is Lomography’s first SLR, with a more complex design than most of its other offerings, and yet the company has entrusted its customers with the construction.

It’s one thing to ditch the sterile efficiency of digital photography for 35mm film, but it’s quite another to take on the task of assembling the camera yourself. The Konstruktor is a proposition unlike any other, so let’s see how it — and its photos — turn out.

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I live in Japan, a country with a large audience for both photography and DIY model kits. Besides the usual toy robots, you can find more esoteric options — one popular magazine called Otona no Kagaku (Science for Adults) comes with kits to build everything from electric guitars to analog synthesizers. I once helped my brother build a 1930s-style twin lens reflex camera from one of these kits, so the idea of the Konstruktor wasn’t totally alien to me. “The Konstruktor is a favorite in Japan,” says Lomography’s Nadia Sheng. “We attribute this to the Konstruktor’s tactile design concept and Japanese hobbyists’ long-spanning interest in both plastic model kits and photography.”

ANYONE CAN BUILD THIS CAMERA, LOMOGRAPHY SAYS – BUT IT’S NOT EASY

I say all this because, coupled with my long-standing love for film cameras — including some made by Lomography, like the updated LC-A+ — I should be the perfect customer for the Konstruktor. But Lomography is aiming the kit at a wider audience. “We believe that 12-year-old kids are also able to build the Konstruktor,” Sheng tells me. “Building the Konstruktor is not necessarily connected to expertise — it is also a question of patience and concentration.”

That could be why building the Konstruktor sent me into multiple fits of rage. For the most part, putting the countless pieces together is a simple question of following diagrams and using the provided screws and screwdrivers. But certain steps in the construction nearly drove me over the edge, requiring either impossibly deft manual dexterity or a preternatural ability to decipher opaque instructions.

“Design-wise, it was very hard to find a [construction method] that was not too hard to build but also not too easy, as it would be boring,” the company tells me. To that end, the most complex element of an SLR’s design — the light chamber with the flipping mirror — is more or less pre-assembled, only requiring that you attach various elements of the Konstructor around it. This is definitely a good decision on Lomography’s part. The company says the camera can be built between one and two hours — it took me about an hour, except for one step that ate up 20 minutes by itself and another that stretched over two days.

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The first step is to assemble the lens, which appears simple on the face of it; the optics are all contained in a single part, and you just need to fit that part to the barrel and the mount. But the instructions don’t make it clear in which order these pieces slot together, leaving me with irrevocably blocked bayonet lugs that made it impossible to mount the lens on the camera. Fortunately, a trip to the Tokyo Lomography store the next day resolved my issue. But not everyone lives near a Lomography store, and I can see this causing problems for some — just make sure not to make the same mistake I did.

Another stumbling block involved a tiny spring with looped ends used in the shutter mechanism. Hooking it onto the necessary parts is a task fiddly enough to quicken the pace of a heart surgeon, but from the instructions you’d expect it to be as simple as hanging a coat on a rack. It’s one of the rare times you have to do anything more complex than slotting and screwing plastic parts together, and it’s going to surprise quite a few people that buy this camera.

THERE ARE A COUPLE OF BIG STICKING POINTS, BUT IT’S ALWAYS FUN TO BUILD

But, as Lomography rightly points out, the Konstruktor wouldn’t be much fun if it were too easy to build. Frustrating as many of its stages were, they made things all the more satisfying when I got to apply the finishing touches by picking my own stickers and leathery grip. Sure, I might have preferred for more of the challenge to come from complex design rather than a vague set of instructions, but it felt good to finally have the completed camera in my hand.

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So, how is the Konstruktor to shoot? It’s actually kind of a blast. The secret is the viewfinder, which is a lot of fun to use; while the ghostly image is a little dim on the ground glass, it’s clear enough to enable pinpoint focusing. This has historically not been an option with Lomography cameras, most of which offer basic zone-focusing controls or none at all. I also loved using the manual shutter cocking mechanism, where you flip a lever next to the lens in order to move the mirror into place. It’s a tactile action that gives the camera even more of a hands-on feel.

Despite its precise focusing and use of “full-frame” 35mm film, however, the Konstruktor isn’t a great camera for anyone looking for extreme depth-of-field effects. The lens is a 50mm prime, which is a reasonably versatile focal length, but its fixed f/10 aperture limits the ability to blur backgrounds unless you’re focusing on a close subject with a lot of space behind them. The decision was likely made because of the basic nature of the camera’s shutter, which is also limited to a single, fairly slow speed of 1/80. Even with 100 ISO film, my photos turned out well-exposed on a cloudy day, so a wider aperture may have been impractical. Lomography tells me that the lens’ specifications are matched to the mirrorbox, but the Konstruktor’s mount allows for easy removal and attachment, and the company recently released a $19.90 pair of close-up and macro lenses. Sheng told me earlier that the question of additional lenses for the Konstruktor system was Lomography’s “best-kept secret,” so it’s possible that more will follow.

ARE MORE LENSES COMING? LOMOGRAPHY WON’T SAY

The Konstruktor is surprisingly solid for something that I “built” myself, but it’s not without issues. Although the completed camera feels at least as sturdy as many other Lomography products, a lot of the moving parts are a little too stiff. Turning the focus ring would often twist the entire lens off its mount, and — more problematically — the film-winding knob sometimes fails to move the correct amount, leading to unintentionally overlapping photos. Some Lomography aficionados would argue that such accidents are all part of the fun, but for a camera that at least theoretically allows for greater precision than most of its peers, it’s more of a bug than a feature.

Compounding this is the unreliable shot counter which, no matter how tightly I screwed it on, just would not move reliably with the film spool. If I put down the camera in the middle of shooting a roll, I’d have no idea how many pictures I had left — even if the film had wound on correctly. More oddly, there’s no window on the back of the camera to indicate what type of film is loaded. Those planning to use the Konstruktor intermittently had better hope they remember the ISO they’re shooting at.

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But this is a $35 camera, after all, and knowing what I do about the way it was put together makes its flaws as charming as annoying. I remember the first time I got a roll developed on a Holga camera; the lack of electronics inside made me feel like I’d physically directed the light onto the film myself. The Konstruktor amplifies that feeling to infinity. Each frustrating twist of the film knob is rendered worthwhile when you see the results it brings. Perhaps more than any other camera, the Konstruktor embodies the spirit of Lomography’s devil-may-care ethos.

As such, the excitement and trepidation before getting your photos back is stronger than ever with the Konstruktor. And the results, unsurprisingly, are mixed. I found that quite a few photos turned out blurry due to me accidentally flipping the flimsy bulb mode switch, and despite the smooth focusing mechanism, the plastic lens is rarely very sharp. But that’s almost expected with most Lomography cameras — the unpredictable results are why you shoot this way, not a reason to be disappointed.

I got at least a few keepers on each roll I shot, which is par for the course with toy cameras. The Konstruktor does particularly well with black-and-white film, in my experience, producing soft tones that flatter the slow lens — otherwise, you’ll want to shoot at ISO 100 in good light to get similarly clean pictures.

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Wrap-up

Lomography Konstruktor

GOOD STUFF

  • A ton of fun to use
  • Super cheap
  • The satisfaction of a job well done

BAD STUFF

  • Occasionally unclear instructions
  • Unreliable handling
  • Limited settings
THERE’S NOTHING QUITE LIKE THIS CAMERA

At $35, I have a hard time not recommending the Konstruktor to anyone with an interest in photography. The build process strikes the right balance between frustrating and rewarding, the finished camera is unique and a lot of fun to shoot, and although the images you get back are obviously not of the best technical quality they’re very much in line with what you’d expect or hope for from a Lomography camera. And, as long as you’re willing to go through the arduous process of developing film in 2014, you’ll feel a lot prouder of the idiosyncratic results.

It’s also a pretty good entry point into film photography as a whole. Putting the pieces together for yourself gives solid insight into the mechanics of how cameras work, and the fixed exposure settings mean you don’t have to do much more than point, focus, and shoot. The Konstruktor is a perfect rainy-day project for anyone, but for some it could be the first step toward a new passion.

full story: http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/14/5307088/lomography-konstruktor-review