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!