Are 16 tiny cameras better than one?

Photo: Light

Startup Light has created a hybrid of camera and smartphone called the L16. The device is actually 16 individual cameras crammed into a flat rectangular shell. When you take a photo, 10 of the cameras fire simultaneously. The end result is a high resolution 52 mega-pixel image.

The Light camera squeezes in 16 tiny smartphone-type cameras, each with its own small lens at focal lengths between 35 and 150 mm. The camera shoots great images in low light, and lets you select focus and depth of field after you shoot.

After you shoot, the output of those 10 cameras is combined in an imaging algorithm, creating a high resolution image that is more than what any individual small sensor could handle, and offers a wider dynamic range than your typical smartphone sensor could produce. Since the image also contains multiple focus points, you can select what you want in and out of focus, and choose a depth of field after you shoot.

Photo: Light

Behind each of its plastic lenses is a 13-megapixel camera module. The L16 uses five 35mm, five 70mm, and six 150mm cameras. Some capture the same area, others quadrants of the scene. Photographers can adjust the depth of field after, similar to the last big startup that tried to disrupt photography Lytro.

The final camera will run a version of Android and have WiFi so users can upload photos directly or tether to a smartphone. As soon as it connects to a WiFi, the L16 will automatically start uploading photos to a cloud account.

Users can also edit there images on a built in 5-inch touch screen Photo: Light

Output is JPG, TIFF or RAW DNG, and while there’s no space yet for a hot-shoe or remote flash, you do get a dual-tone LED flash on the back. The camera also shoots 4k video, but in doing so you chop the image down to a single lens.

Light sees its camera as a DSLR replacement, something that you can throw in your bag to save yourself from lugging around extra lenses and equipment.

Two L16 sample images. On the left is an example from one of the 35mm modules. On the right is an example from one of the the 150mm modules.

LIGHT WANTS THE L16 TO REPLACE YOUR DSLR, BUT THE CONVENIENCE WON’T COME CHEAP

Lights main selling point is that their camera is as pocket-portable as a smartphone and can deliver pro-level camera quality. But in no way is the camera cheaper than a DSLR. Light has opened preorders at $1299, and after November 6th the price tag will jump to $1699.

Light, has been developing the camera for two years. This is not another Kickstarter gadget, Light has already raised $35 million in two rounds of funding and it is working with major manufacturing partners, including Sunny Optical and Foxconn.

A sample photo taken with Light's new L16 camera. The new device uses 16 small cameras to create high-resolution images similar to what a DSLR can capture. Photo: Light
A sample photo taken with the L16 camera. Photo: Light

Sources: CNN, Forbes, Light, The Gaurdian