We’ve made incremental improvements to the L16’s low light performance over the past six months, but none have shown as great of a difference as this latest software update. According to our engineers, we’ve improved the image quality at least one full stop in most low light scenarios. That marks a huge step forward in our progress—specifically around fine details and noise reduction.
Low light assist for handheld photography
We were able to make such significant improvements to low light performance, in part, due to the addition of a stacked capture feature. Essentially, when the L16 senses a scene with dim lighting, it will capture multiple images consecutively, much like burst mode. The major difference with the L16’s stacked capture is just how many total images it captures. Each L16 photo is already comprised of 10 or more images—which means that a stacked capture photo may contain as many as 40 combined images. The result of capturing so much data is much less noise and much more detail.
We like to think of this new stacked capture feature as a low-light assistant—there to help you take better handheld images in low lighting. Right now, this is only available in auto mode above an ISO of 2000. We’ll continue to improve and expand this feature in the next few months, but, in the meantime, we recommend testing it out on street scenes without a lot of movement. (For scenes with motion, use shutter priority.)
Our goal for low light performance is to ensure that you have the fullest level of detail without the noise that comes at higher ISOs. By using multiple sensors rather than just one, the L16 gathers multiple times the data—and the detail—in a scene. We even have one sensor capturing a different exposure. When it comes time to fuse those multiple captures together, our algorithms can filter out any noise, layering pixels with detail rather than accumulating artifacts.
As you can see in the images above, the L16’s latest software renders dimly lit scenes much sharper, making fine details in shadows and neutral tones much more distinct. Notice the lack of color noise as well.
Capturing the Best Low Light Photos
After a few nights testing the new software on the street of Los Angeles, resident photographer Sean Custer knows exactly how to make the L16’s stacked-capture feature work in his favor. Here are a few of his favorite hacks:
Your tripod isn’t crucial. Just set the L16 to auto mode and make your shutter speed doesn't fall below 1/24th of a second. Stacked capture takes care of the rest.
Expose for the highlights. It may sound counter-intuitive to underexpose in the dark, but this will render the scene more naturally by compensating for the in-camera exposure.
Use the on-screen shutter button. Image stacking creates a longer capture time, so the movement of pressing the physical shutter button may result in a blurry photo.
Hold the camera with both hands. Keep your elbows in, and trigger the shot while exhaling. This will help mitigate camera shake.
Play with white balance. You can completely change the mood of your shot—or the color scheme—by simply shifting the white balance.
Editing Your Low Light Photos
Though the L16 captures a significant amount of detail, photographers often need to leverage certain editing techniques to bring out the best, most realistic results. Resident photographer Brian Fulda walks you through his post-production process in our latest support article. As you can see in the photos above, this simple approach will help you surface the full range of detail captured without sacrificing quality.
A Smarter Camera
The L16 now has a sixth sense. The new tripod assist feature detects when the camera is situated on a still and stable surface—like a tripod—and lengthens the exposure time ever so slightly. The goal is to help you capture more details, less noise, and generally higher quality images in auto-mode.
A Faster Workflow
We introduced the first phase of auto-processing in Lumen, which cuts down that prolonged image loading time you might experience when using depth effect. We also added tools like rotate and crop so that you have even more freedom when it comes to editing your images on camera and in Lumen. We’ll continue to make the post-production experience easier and more intuitive in the next few months. Stay tuned for more updates later this summer.