Light L16: Sixteen Cameras in One

It's often hard to imagine that a camera’s design could be really unique these days, as most of them look very similar. Light L16 stands out big time.

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Many companies, big and small, have been trying to redesign the camera for the 21st century. Take the dual-lens Kodak V570 in 2006 or the original Light Field camera from Lytro in 2012 (which returned to a more traditional design this year), or the camera attachments for phones (such as the DxO One). But the most innovative design idea comes from the two-year-old startup Light. The company is headed by a couple of guys who have been known for novel ideas: Dave Grannan, the former CEO of the company that created the speech recognition technology used today in Apple’s Siri, and Rajiv Laroia, the former CTO of the key LTE technologies developer.

The company demonstrated the technology publically earlier this year and is now releasing the product officially in hopes of generating some advance sales. The L16 is advertised by Light as the "first multi-aperture computational camera that packs DSLR quality and capability into a device that fits in your pocket."

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The specs it has are pretty decent for a camera: zoom range of 35 to 150mm (4.3x), 5-inch touchscreen LCD. It comes with built-in Wi-Fi, can do HD video and output raw files in DNG format. The storage is internal only, but of a decent size at 128GB. The non-removable battery can be charged using a Type-C USB connector. It even comes with an LED light that allows for continuous flash. And you get a headphone jack and a microphone too.

Although it is said to fit in your pocket, the pocket has to be of a good size, such as a loose one on a jacket or coat. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as a camera of this size is more comfortable to hold and is more stable. You might be wondering by now how much it might cost? Order in advance and you’ll only pay $1,300. Waiting for the official release will have you paying $1,700.

The technology

What does the phrase "computational camera" mean? It basically describes the way photos are generated. The L16 uses 16 small individual camera modules. Each of those modules contains two main components. The first component is a lens made of molded-plastic elements and using the folded-lens technology that isn’t so new itself. Instead of coming out the front of the camera, like a typical lens, in a straight-through optical path, folded lenses reflect the light at a 90-degree angle using a prism or mirror, sending the light into the optics located inside the camera body.

Pressing L16’s shutter button takes 10 shots simultaneously using camera modules selected via special algorithms. Five of those shots get tiled into one image: 4 quadrants and 1 in the middle overlaying the center. Nothing gets cropped, as each lens snaps a photo of the complete image. If you want to zoom, the tiles from different lenses get combined to create the perfect view angle for the zoom level you selected. This is what’s called computational zoom.

And this is also why the resolution isn’t fixed, but ranges from 13 to 52 megapixels, depending on the focal length you select.

The redundant photos can be used to reduce noise, the same way different exposures get layered in a multi-shot HDR.

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When Should You Expect L16 to Get Released?

We are quite sure the L16 will start shipping at some point. The confidence comes from the good track record the founders have and the fact that they have contracted with Foxconn to manufacture the product. One other thing we are sure of is that when it gets released, L16 will be one of the most amazing and novel cameras to shoot with and test.

P.S. If the camera does not become available in your country right when it gets released, use Parcl to get Light L16 shipped internationally! Oh, and don't forget to share your thoughts on L16 on the official Light reviews page.

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