A First Look at the L16 Camera—From the People Who Built It

It has been 47 days since we started shipping the L16 to pre-order customers. A lot has happened in that time. We received tons of valuable feedback. And we learned things. We also broke things. We fixed them. We sent dozens of over-the-air updates. We introduced new features. We continued to ramp up production in China (though it took a lot longer than we anticipated). And we’ve started steadily fulfilling orders on a daily basis. We’ve been busy bringing this brand-new technology to market.

Here’s where we stand: It has taken years to build this groundbreaking camera, and we finally have the first-generation product—the 1.0—to show the world. But we are not finished.

There are lots of things we love about it, and there are many things we already know we will need to improve. Some of those fixes we’ve already begun to make; others are in the pipeline. We want to be honest with you about what we think of the product we’ve built, so we took it upon ourselves—and our resident photographers—to write a candid review of the L16 today.

As more and more cameras get to our pre-order customers, we invite them to help us expand on this review and show us how we can make the L16 even better.


Things We Love

Photo credit: Joe Lubushkin

The size.

The L16 is a full-frame camera you can actually wear—and we don’t mean on your back. Just slightly bigger than a smartphone, it slides right into our pockets, making it easy to take with us wherever we go. Did we mention it’s also incredibly light? Weighing only 15 ounces, the L16 has made us do things we never thought we’d do before—like kiss our achy shoulders goodbye. It’s the first everyday carry camera we’ve ever had, and we’re never looking back.


The interface—it’s smart.

Finally, a camera that’s built for the 21st century. The L16 translates complex DSLR technology into a simple, Android platform that’s so easy to navigate, one of our team member’s five-year-old kid can use it. We love how familiar the L16 feels, too—from the touchscreen interface to its Wi-Fi connection. But the best part? With frequent over-the-air updates, this camera keeps getting better over time.


Photo credit: Brian Fulda

The quality.

The L16’s 52+ megapixel resolution blows us away every time we inspect a photo—every vivid detail of the scene stays intact, even the smallest objects. Such high-quality gives us the creative freedom to zoom and crop the way we want. We also love that not every photo has to be big enough to print on a billboard—we have the option to generate smaller JPGs when we’re just sharing online.


The performance.

The L16 has incredible dynamic range that gives photos—especially landscapes—an extra realistic look. Not only are the colors phenomenally accurate, but we can also see much more detail in the brights and shadows. And the best part: we haven’t even implemented our full HDR capabilities yet!


The zoom.

The L16 camera boasts a powerful 28 to 150mm optical zoom—which is pretty impressive for such a compact device. To put that in perspective, a DSLR lens with the same range is double the weight of the L16. And while we’re comparing lenses, we should mention that shooting at any one of the L16’s prime values—35mm, 75mm—is equivalent to shooting with a prime lens on a DSLR, but at a fraction of the weight and the price.


Bonus points: For the look on people’s faces when they see this next-generation device.

We can’t help it that the L16’s sleek, out-of-this-world design takes people by surprise. Most call it exactly what it looks like: the camera of the future.


Things We Know Need Some Love

Lumen.

Right now, our desktop software doesn’t have the seamless experience we want. Lumen is still a little slow and cumbersome, and though it is possible to adjust depth, you can’t alter the focal plane yet. The good news is: a major rework of Lumen is already underway and will be released soon.

File Size.

There are advantages to having a camera that produces such large, high-quality photos and there are also some disadvantages—the chief one being space. We’ve found that L16 files are so big, they take up a significant amount of storage on your computer. An external hard drive solves this pretty easily, but we’re also working on ways to decrease the size of our files without losing perceptible quality.

Motion.

The L16 does not capture moving things perfectly well yet. Shooting a hummingbird or a race car is no simple feat with any single-lens camera, and when you have 16 lenses, focusing quickly becomes even more difficult. We recognize this is a constraint of the L16 right now, but it will not be in the near future. We’re already improving the L16’s autofocus capabilities, and we're planning to introduce a burst mode in the next few weeks.

Low Light.

The L16 can take decently good photos of dimly lit scenes at the moment. In fact, we’re probably on par with the low-light performance of a regular DSLR camera. But we know this feature can get much better—especially in challenging conditions. And we’re going to keep improving low-light performance until it’s excellent.

Sharing.

Technically, you can share images from the L16 straight to social media right now. But we warn you: It’s pretty clunky. We know that we can create a better experience with third parties, and we’re already working on releasing that soon. A sharing feature for iOS is also in the works!

Photo credit: Kris Cheng

The Bottom Line

We are just getting started. Today, the Light L16 is a 1.0 product. It’s first-generation technology, the only multi-aperture, computational camera of its kind. And though the L16 is in its infancy, it is still a huge revolutionary step for the camera.

We chose to ship the L16 as soon as our core technology worked, rather than waiting for it to be perfect—because we know how desperate people are for a powerful, compact camera. There are bugs to fix and features to add, but these shortcomings can be solved with software upates. Many tough problems have already been addressed.

While our hardware is final, we still consider the software—both Lumen and on the L16—to be in beta. We’re making significant software improvements each week, and we’re counting on our pre-order customers to help us advance the camera further. If you’d rather wait for more polished software, pre-order customers always have the option to “pause” or “unpause” an order once they receive their order-completion email.

As always, we remain incredibly grateful for your continued patience and support of this revolutionary technology.

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