Spotlight, where we tell stories about Light

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.

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

The L16: Under-the-hood

by Rajiv Laroia, Light co-founder and CTO

Since launching the L16, we have received many questions about how Light’s computational imaging technology works. While the final product specifications won’t be announced until spring 2016, we are glad to share a bit more information about our systems design approach to photography.

Below is a video of a talk I gave at Stanford University two weeks ago, which provides more details about Light’s technology. We're including some time markers to make navigating a bit easier. While this talk is still fairly broad, I hope it’ll answer a few more of your technical questions. You can also check out this great article by Tim Moynihan at WIRED to learn more about how the L16 will work.

Our team will be releasing more information and more images on our website and blog in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

In a nutshell, what is the Light camera, and what problem are you solving? (1:50)

What are the innovations that make the L16 possible? (4:02)

Tell me more about molded plastic lenses… (4:52)

But how can plastic lenses possibly be as good as glass lenses? (5:15)

How are plastic lenses better? (6:45)

Tell me more about diffraction… (8:45)

Why are smartphone cameras not good enough? (10:20)

How does the L16 solve common smartphone camera issues? (14:52)

How does the L16 take a picture? (17:00)

What does the inside of the L16 camera look like? (21:20)

How does the L16 combine images? (22:25)

How does the L16 capture 10x the amount of light as a cell phone camera? (26:18)

How does the L16 give you continuous optical zoom from 35mm-150mm? (28:02)

How do we control depth-of-field, bokeh and perspective using computational imaging? (31:55)

What about High Dynamic Range (HDR)? (34:20)

What about low-light performance? (35:50)

What about aperture and shutter control? (37:00)

Can I see some pictures taken with the camera? (40:55)

If an object is close to the camera and it gets out of parallax, what do you do? (44:10)

How do you handle calibration on the cameras? (45:05)

Is there an optimal number of sensors and lenses? Why did you choose 16? (47:38)

Where does the processing happen? (48:27)

Is there a difference in color between each module? (49:40)

Is there a plan for image stabilization? (50:10)

How does the user interact with the camera? (52:06)

Does the camera capture video and do you plan to bring the technology to smartphones? (53:40)

How good is your battery life? (54:28)

How did you decide on the particular arrangement of the camera modules? (55:03)

What was your biggest surprise on this journey? (56:04)

Does the camera have a problem with distortion? (56:57)

Can you give some more detail about calibration? (58:00)

Will the L16 have enough computational capabilities? (58:39)