Spotlight, where we tell stories about Light

L16 Update (February 2017)

We’re going to keep this update short and sweet ;)

The L16 is out in the wild. Cameras from our EVT1 builds have been circling the globe for the past two months, taking incredible photos along the way. You’ll see some of the photography we’re most proud of on our social media accounts in the coming weeks. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to catch the latest.

Paris, captured by Bradley Lautenbach Paris, captured by Bradley Lautenbach
Yosemite, captured by Kelly Van Arsdale Yosemite, captured by Kelly Van Arsdale

Our internal beta testing has already led to several major improvements in device performance and image quality. External beta testing is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks. If you applied to participate in our beta testing program, keep an eye on your email inbox.

In mid-March we’ll begin the DVT1 build of L16s. Devices from this batch of cameras will be submitted for certification by the various standards bodies and government agencies (FCC, etc). Once those certifications are granted, we will move quickly into the PVT1 build which will immediately transition into mass production.

Once the DVT1 build is underway and yielding positive results, we will be able to share a more detailed schedule for mass production. Our hope is to start sharing more granular shipping estimates around that time as well.

In the meantime, check out our CEO, Dave, talking to Quartz about the imminent revolution in computational photography.

  1. EVT/DVT/PVT defined in this blog post

The Path to Mass Production

It’s been a busy start to 2017 at Light. As we move towards mass production, much of our focus has turned to our strong partnerships with suppliers and manufacturers in Asia. A significant portion of our team is in China right now, where we have just wrapped up the fourth EVT build of the L16. For those familiar with hardware development, the significance of this will be clear. For those less familiar with hardware jargon, we’ve defined a few terms below that should give some meaning to our progress and current phase.

EVT: Engineering Validation Test - the phase of testing used to ensure all parts of the product are functioning as expected, that they can be properly assembled and that the assembled device functions as expected. Multiple EVT tests are run and modifications are made each time to improve test results.

DVT: Design Validation Test - the phase of testing that follows successful EVT and confirms the device’s cosmetic appearance is as expected. This stage is also the phase where certifications are kicked off with regulators.

PVT: Product Validation Test - the phase of testing that follows DVT. This phase assures that we can build devices at high volume and achieve the functional and cosmetic requirements defined during the previous builds. Adjustments at this phase are made to improve efficiency and yield rates. Devices built during this phase are “customer ready.”

MP: Mass Production - The knowledge amassed during the previous builds is combined and “customer ready” products are produced from an optimized manufacturing line.

Completing our fourth EVT build is truly an exciting moment.

EVT4 is the first build we’ve completed with our production ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit). The ASIC is the “brain” of the camera and is what we use to control all of the L16’s camera modules. Consider that your traditional (non-computational) camera only has to control a single lens and a single sensor as you compose, focus, adjust and capture. The L16 requires simultaneous control of at least 10 discrete cameras (lens barrels, sensors, mirrors, etc.). Needless to say this requires an extremely advanced “brain,” which is why we designed a highly advanced ASIC specifically for this purpose.

There are 3 ASIC’s in each L16 Camera, each made using industry leading semiconductor processes. Each ASIC is comprised of a 533 MHz processor with multiple levels of internal caches and has up to 4GB of DDR memory support. Light has devised a proprietary MIPI data handling mechanism to be very power efficient. In fact, Light’s ASIC has more MIPI camera interfaces than any leading media or application processor in the semiconductor industry. In addition, each ASIC is loaded with Light’s exclusive lens, mirror, and sensor controls that enable the L16 to work its magic. The development of this chip marks major breakthrough and required an enormous amount of effort from the Light team.

Light's ASIC Light's ASIC

Having the production ASIC in the latest L16 Cameras means that we can scale up our beta testing program. After we put out the call for beta testers in December, thousands of people submitted applications. We were thrilled (and overwhelmed) by the response! As these new cameras begin arriving in our California offices, qualified beta testers will be contacted about participating in various tests of the L16.

Lastly, the EVT4 build represents a major milestone on the journey to mass production (MP) because it was the first build to occur on the MP line in China. Setting up the MP space in China required construction of a custom “clean room.” This is a sterile environment for final assembly and ensures that no particulates enter the camera to contaminate the electronics or the optical paths. Having transitioned to the MP line means we are well on our way to finalizing our production tools, machines and processes.

We remain grateful for your ongoing support. We also want to acknowledge our many colleagues who gave up their Christmas and New Years holidays with their families to be in China preparing for and starting this EVT4 build. We’re doing everything in our power to get L16’s to our pre-order customers as soon as possible. Thank you for joining us on this journey!

L16 Update (December 2016)

Excitement is building here at Light as we enter the homestretch of our journey with mass production in sight. We have a number of exciting updates to share today.

PhotoPlus event

In October, we hosted a meet-up for photo enthusiasts attending the PhotoPlus Expo in NYC. Attendees and media had the opportunity to see the first public demonstrations of L16 prototypes and the Light software suite. Our co-founders were on hand to answer questions and the entire team had a great time meeting with everyone, especially the handful of pre-order customers who attended. You can read more about the event here.

New video

We’ve received a lot of questions from photographers wanting to understand exactly how the L16 works. It’s a complicated piece of technology, so we created a video that demonstrates Light’s technology and the ways the L16 delivers its new imaging power. You can watch it here.


Aperture upgrade

When we launched the L16 for pre-order, the plan called for all 16 camera modules to have fixed f/2.4 apertures. We’re pleased to share that we’ve been able to improve this spec as we’ve developed the L16 prototypes. The L16 that we ship will include 5x28mm modules at f/2.0, 5x70mm modules at f/2.0 and 6x150mm modules at f/2.4. These improvements dramatically increase the L16’s light-gathering ability, making for even better images at magic hour and in cozy social scenes.

Beta testing

We’ve started in-field beta tests with prototypes of the L16 Camera. If you would like to be considered for participation in a beta test to help shape the future of photography, please complete the brief questionnaire here.

Production update

We are on track to begin mass production of the L16 early in the second quarter of 2017. L16 cameras will ship to pre-order customers as soon as possible after mass production begins. For some insight into what’s happening behind the scenes, our next major hardware milestone occurs later this month and will inform a more detailed production schedule, which we’ll share in January.

New images

Our marketing team finally wrested control of the latest L16 prototypes from our engineering team and is out shooting images with the camera as we speak. We’ve already posted some new images to our gallery page and will continue to post more there and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as they come in.

We’ve also made our first set of higher-resolution images available for download. These images are meant to provide a peek under the hood at Light’s image processing engine, which is currently being alpha tested. You can read more about the processing engine here and download the images here. We’ll be posting more higher-resolution images as we continue to fine tune the L16 prototypes and the image processing engine.

beach

Everybody at Light is heads down working to get the L16 into your hands as soon as possible. We remain incredibly humbled by all of the enthusiasm shown for our mission and grateful for the patience of our pre-order customers. You can reach us any time at [email protected] and track our progress right here on the blog.

PhotoPlus 2016

Last week, Light traveled to New York City for the annual PhotoPlus Expo. In addition to hosting many of our key partners, we also brought together media (NY Times, DP Review, etc.) and pre-order customers to get an up close look at the L16 and Light's technology.

We had a blast sharing the latest Light developments, demonstrating the L16 and Light software, and hearing the enthusiasm for the L16 shared by so many.

Below are some highlights from the evening shared by guests on Twitter and some photos captured by the team (not using L16).

img The Light team in New York City

img 8'x8' print of photo captured by L16 prototype

img L16 prototype demonstration

Calibrating the L16

As we gear up for mass production of the L16, one thing remains uniquely important to our camera’s technology: calibration.

A camera that has one optical path worries less about what is “true” or “real” because there is only one truth, one reality. This reality can be objectively tested and optimized, but it requires adjusting only one path.

A multi-aperture camera with sixteen optical paths (apertures + mirrors + sensors) contends with sixteen realities. In order to merge those realities to create one truth (final image), the camera needs to know precisely where each optical path is relative to the others.

In Light’s Palo Alto office, we’ve been using a specially-designed calibration box to “teach” each L16 prototype where all of its optical paths are relative to the others and relative to the world it will capture. This allows the sixteen paths to behave as one - maintaining the same consistency as a camera with only one optical path.

We’ve also been using this box to ensure the various realities captured by the optical paths of our prototypes intersect in the right places (colors match, focal distances are equivalent, mirrors are positioned properly, etc.) so that the final image best reflects the photographer’s reality. All of this calibration has resulted in prototype image quality that achieves the high standards we’ve set: going well beyond traditional mobile photography and into the realm of DSLRs.

At this point, we could delve into the nuances of calibration science or traverse an entire field of philosophical thought about what is real and what is true, but instead we’ll leave it at this:

We’re thrilled with the results we’ve been able to achieve using our calibration equipment in the prototype phase and have now moved our calibration process and box from our Palo Alto office to our Taiwan facilities in preparation for mass production of the L16. Below you can see photos of this exciting move.

The L16 Calibration Box
The L16 Calibration Box

Inside the L16 Calibration Box
Inside the L16 Calibration Box

L16 Calibration Box Wiring in Process
L16 Calibration Box Wiring in Process

L16 Calibration Box Packaged for Shipping
L16 Calibration Box Packaged for Shipping

L16 Calibration Box Departing California
L16 Calibration Box Departing California

L16 Calibration Box Arriving in Taiwan
L16 Calibration Box Arriving in Taiwan