Introducing Dynamic Autofocus

This January, we focused most of our engineering efforts on improving the experience of autofocus. Not only did we make AF faster and more reactive, we also made this crucial feature more dynamic in nature by introducing face detection and motion sensitivity.

Let’s walk through the L16’s new Dynamic AF (or AF-D) together.

If you’re an L16 photographer, you’ll notice a difference in the way AF looks. We updated the old blue focus circle to a yellow square. This should make it easier to see if your camera is in focus when you’re shooting outside on a clear, blue-sky day.

The basic principles of the L16’s AF remain the same. Once the focus square turns yellow, the camera has achieved focus. If it disappears, you’ll need to refocus.

Here’s the big difference: The L16 can now automatically spot a face in your scene and immediately focus on it. If there are multiple people in your photo, the L16 will focus on the face that’s most prominent (usually the closest to the camera). Now, you can always tap the screen or half-press the shutter button to change your focus point—this just gives you a quick and easy option when you’re shooting people. Right now, face detection (and AF-D) is on by default for auto mode and can be turned on for manual mode.

Focus lock is another feature we added to make your focusing experience easier. Tap and hold your finger on your subject to “lock” the focus. The camera will remain focused on your subject until you tap to focus somewhere else or turn off the camera.

The last new feature in our AF toolkit is motion sensitivity. Any time you move your camera significantly—such as when you’re shifting the angle of your shot from left to right—the L16 will automatically refocus for you.

As for the speed of our enhanced AF, you’ll have to try it to see how much quicker and smoother we made the experience. Our testing shows that the speed has improved by up to 20%. We’ll continue to make AF faster and even more intelligent in the next few months. Continuous AF, object tracking, infinity focus, and focus assistant are all features we plan to add in the future.

Wide Dynamic Range

Our latest software release also brings the camera another step closer to single-shot HDR. In most traditional cameras, a greater dynamic range requires the camera to take multiple shots sequentially, under-exposing one while over-exposing the other. The L16, however, can achieve a similar effect by using different modules to capture different exposures—all at the same time.

That’s exactly what we did to create a wider dynamic range in this software update: We underexposed one of L16’s central camera modules. This slight adjustment helps the L16 retain more accurate highlights, preserving more details in sunny areas of your scene. A wider dynamic range comes in handy when shooting sunny skies, which will now appear a truer blue tone, rather than white.

Left, before WDR; right, after WDR applied. Photo by Sean Custer.

Notice the differences in the horizon and cloud detail in the images above. Our recent update improves highlight retention up to 1.5 stops!

You’ll notice even wider dynamic range when you export your images as DNGs and experience the renewed highlight flexibility. (Note: You’ll need to update Lumen to the latest version to load images with WDR.) Try pulling down the highlights in Lightroom and you’ll see how much data exists.

Left, before WDR; right, after WDR applied. Photo by Sean Custer.

Notice the increase in the tonal range on the images above. Adjusting the exposure in camera helps the L16 render the extremes of its dynamic range. As exemplified above, our ability to retain details at the far ends of the spectrum improved in a big way—and the result is more natural-looking exposures.

You can probably guess what comes next—different exposures for multiple camera modules. In the next few months, we encourage you to pay close attention to how your L16’s dynamic range changes with each new software update. Of course, you’ll probably notice a slew of other refinements to the camera’s sharpness and fusion as well. We plan to focus on a big new feature—or set of features—every month, from low-light performance to iOS transferring and more. Make sure you’re keeping up with our release notes to stay on top of how your camera is changing.

If you’re curious what exactly is on the horizon, check out our roadmap. It doesn’t offer a specific timeline for the many feature requests we’ve received, but it should give you a sense of what we’re prioritizing over here in Palo Alto. We’re always eager to hear about how the Light L16 is working for you, so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any suggestions or ideas. We’re in this together.