Photography / News

Behold the Beholder-The Light L16, A Multi-camera Camera

There is no camera available like the Light L16 Camera. And to be clear, the L16 is not yet available, but it can be pre-ordered for expected shipping in September 2016. In the meantime you can pass the time talking about it on various blogs and comment pages, like ours. It is sure to garner a lot of attention.

The L16 Camera is about the size of a large smartphone and with sixteen individual 13MP cameras on its body, ten of which fire simultaneously, it is able to capture high-resolution images up to 52 megapixels. According to the folks at Light, a start-up company, “The Light L16 Camera is the first multi-aperture computational camera. The L16 makes it easy for anyone to take DSLR-quality images, and is small and light enough to fit in your pocket. Light’s technology combines folded optics with sophisticated computational imaging algorithms to deliver the highest quality images from the smallest possible device.”

The company’s co-founder Dr. Rajiv Laroia is more succinct, “We are trying to replace a big lens with multiple small lenses and small sensors.” Needless to say this is a worthy goal and over the course of the next several months, we will be following the development of the Light L16 and will report back with final pricing and availability. This much we know so far-- the camera features sixteen lenses and one IR sensor in a seemingly random array that looks like bubbles floating across its front face. The lenses are grouped into three focal lengths: five 35mm lenses, five 70mm lenses and six 150mm lenses.  This offers an effective optical zoom range of 35-150mm. When shooting at one of the three focal lengths, the camera takes several images and computationally blends them into one high resolution image.

The camera’s computation algorithm also provides effective low-light imaging with minimal noise and, most importantly, enables focus and depth of field to be adjusted after the picture has been taken, somewhat like the Lytro cameras of the past two years.

Physically, the camera has a compact and Spartan design with a healthy hand grip and a 5” touchscreen LCD for composition and playback (no viewfinder) as well as settings navigation. It is water and dust-resistant, has a built-in flash, and a rechargeable battery good for 400 shots. Its top plate offers just the power and shutter buttons. It will use a modified version of the Android operating system and will be able to connect to Wi-Fi networks for image sharing.

Whether or not its “folded optics” technology will live up to the promise of having the image quality of a DSLR with 3 prime lenses remains to be seen, but kudos to Light and other companies that are pushing forward to develop high-resolution imaging tools outside of the standard form factor.

This item is currently not available at B&H. Check Explora for news on availability.

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No independent reviewer has actually used this camera, and I am skeptical that these lenses will ever match the optics of a good SLR or Rangefinder.

Thanks for the comment David.  I imagine you are not the only skeptic out there, but with the recent advances in digital camera technology, I am more than willing to give this and other developing formats their chance. Ya never know...

Where does the lens hood go?

Good one, Trevor!

What about a price estimate... And, what does Digital SLR quality really mean, a Full Frame/APS-C or what?

How large it can print is the best test... 13x17 or 16x20.... Huh?

Geoffrey: I would recommend you check the website for pricing estimates and yes, the phrase "Digital SLR quality" is often thrown around with little substantiation. I think it best to assume it to mean high megapixel resolution, low light capability and depth of field control.  Needless to say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating (not the recipe!). Thanks for reading.

I curious, and dubious.  It's a cool idea, I don't think it can replace what a good solid DSLR can do as a system, but the idea seems interesting and could produce some very interesting results for non-professionall applications.  The problem will be when it will become harder to convince ignorant people that there are advantages to getting a really nice camera or paying for a photographer when "My camera takes just as good pictures."  Still I think this is more appealing to me than the Lytro camera.

Thanks for the input Bradford!