Digital Cameras

16 cameras in one: Light promises smartphone size and DSLR image quality

16 cameras in one: Light promi...
Light L16: multiple images from different lenses combine to give wider dynamic and focal range than a single camera can capture
Light L16: multiple images from different lenses combine to give wider dynamic and focal range than a single camera can capture
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Image captured by Light L16
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Image captured by Light L16
Image captured by Light L16
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Image captured by Light L16
Image captured by Light L16
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Image captured by Light L16
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Image captured by Light L16
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Image captured by Light L16
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Image captured by Light L16
Image captured by Light L16 - wide depth of field
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Image captured by Light L16 - wide depth of field
Image captured by Light L16 - low light
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Image captured by Light L16 - low light
Image captured by Light L16 - 150mm
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Image captured by Light L16 - 150mm
Image captured by Light L16 - 70mm
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Image captured by Light L16 - 70mm
Image captured by Light L16 - 35mm
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Image captured by Light L16 - 35mm
Image captured by Light L16 - shallow depth of field
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Image captured by Light L16 - shallow depth of field
Image captured by Light L16 - low-light
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Image captured by Light L16 - low-light
Light L16 - very minimalistic control scheme
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Light L16 - very minimalistic control scheme
Light L16: 16 cameras in one
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Light L16: 16 cameras in one
Light L16: pocket size, promises DSLR quality
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Light L16: pocket size, promises DSLR quality
Light L16: an odd-looking jigger for sure
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Light L16: an odd-looking jigger for sure
Light L16: multiple lenses at different focal lengths and focus points
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Light L16: multiple lenses at different focal lengths and focus points
Light L16: multiple images from different lenses combine to give wider dynamic and focal range than a single camera can capture
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Light L16: multiple images from different lenses combine to give wider dynamic and focal range than a single camera can capture
Light L16: portable and high quality is the goal here
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Light L16: portable and high quality is the goal here
Light L16: compose and shoot, worry about creative options later
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Light L16: compose and shoot, worry about creative options later
Light L16: pocket size
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Light L16: pocket size

Light is a new silicon valley startup that’s focused on the holy grail of photography. A camera the size of a smartphone, that takes photos the quality of a 52-megapixel DSLR, zooms optically between 35 and 150mm, shoots great images in low light, and lets you select focus and depth of field after you shoot.

30-sec TECH: Light L16 - 16 cameras in one

It sounds like more than one camera can handle – and that’s because it’s actually 16 cameras in one. The Light camera squeezes in 16 tiny smartphone-type cameras, each with its own inexpensive small lens at focal lengths between 35 and 150 mm. When you take a shot, up to 10 of these cameras fire at once, focusing on different points and taking different exposure levels.

Light L16: multiple lenses at different focal lengths and focus points
Light L16: multiple lenses at different focal lengths and focus points

After you shoot, the output of those 10 cameras is combined in an imaging algorithm, creating a much larger photo than an individual small sensor could handle, and a wider dynamic range than your typical smartphone sensor could produce by itself. Since the image also contains multiple focusing points, you can select what you want in and out of focus, and choose a depth of field up to an f/1.2 equivalent after you shoot.

Light L16: compose and shoot, worry about creative options later
Light L16: compose and shoot, worry about creative options later

Output is JPG, TIFF or RAW DNG, and while there’s no facility yet for a hot-shoe or remote flash, you do get a dual-tone LED flash on the back. You can shoot video, but in doing so you chop the image down to a single lens, and lose the composite quality. Pricing is set at US$1,699 – or $1,299 if you pre-order now with a $199 deposit – and delivery is promised for late US summer 2016.

The thinking is to produce something as pocket-portable as a smartphone that can deliver pro-level camera quality – and it's a compelling argument. But one of the reasons a good smartphone camera is so handy is that you don't even have to think to bring it along with you. It's there. The L16 might be pocket-sized, but as a single-function device you're still going to have to remember to bring your camera along with you.

It’ll take some hands-on experience for us to wrap our heads around this one –smartphone cameras are getting better every day, but to claim you can combine 10 of them and get an image to rival a decent DSLR with quality glass … that’s a big call.

Image captured by Light L16 - low-light
Image captured by Light L16 - low-light

The image processing involved in combining shots from different focal length lenses boggles the mind. How do you correct for the distance compression between a zoom lens and a wide so the images even line up? Presumably there's some very clever people working on this jigger, so we're keen to see how they've solved these problems – particularly while making it a seamless and simple process for the shooter.

Still, it's a fascinating idea and we look forward to testing one! Take a look in the photo gallery for sample images.

Source: Light

7 comments
DemonDuck
An appealing concept. But how can anyone believe everything that is printed on the internet? The claims are going to be difficult to validate.
Steve Jones
The different perspective of the parallel lenses might not be a problem for long-distance shots, but how would close-up / macro work function? On the other hand, given the parallax, could this camera take 3D images? Also, could you alternatively stagger the releases of the various shutters, to give you a burst effect?
olavn
At least stereoscopic shooting is an effect that can easily be chosen afterwards. But the second picture in the gallery has a decent depth of field. Did it use only one camera? Or displace image parts from different cameras differently according to distance? If a small depth of field is wanted, this system would be great - but give a silly multi-point bokeh pattern.
EddieG
This is better than a real camera?
erb2000
How hard would it be to put a phone in it? Easy.
Oun Kwon
Can someone compare this with a recently introduced Lytro Light Field camera, a new technical breakthrough in camera history after digital camera? ( www.lytro.com/)
Vincent Najger
No thanks. This is just another product that is helping modern 'artists' erode standards....photos don't look 'real' anymore (just like Hollywood directors are going stupid with CGI/blue screen, making everything look cartoonish). Just another 'better mousetrap'.