Most digital cameras are limited by a key aspect of their design: they have one lens and one image sensor. Light hits the lens and is directed at the sensor to produce a picture. A photography startup called Light is not making most digital cameras, though.
Rather than hewing to this one-to-one ratio, Light aims to put a bunch of small lenses, each paired with its own image sensor, into smartphones and other gadgets. They’ll fire simultaneously when you take a photo, and software will automatically combine the images. This way, Light believes, it can fit the quality and zoom of a bulky, expensive DSLR camera into much smaller, cheaper packages—even phones.
That story triggered a wave of follow-up pieces, and we've enjoyed receiving email from so many of you who are so interested in what we're working on. While we don't have much more to say for the time being, we thought we'd pull together some of the other material written in the past few days.
Over at Extreme Tech, David Cardinal wrote:
With Apple’s acquisition of array-camera startup Linx in the news this week, Palo Alto startup Light has quietly started leaking out information about its much-more-ambitious efforts in the same area.
As a practical application, imagine having several small cameras on the back of your phone, each with different focal lengths or focus settings, and then having the GPU on the phone assemble the best possible image of whatever you were looking at in whatever way you wanted.
AJ Dellinger did a Q&A with Light cofounders Dave Grannan and Rajiv Laroia on the implications of the Light technology for smartphone users. Writing for The Daily Dot:
Grannan also thinks the additional power of the Light camera will eliminate the need for photo editors that populate most people’s phones. “Posting photos to social media has been a garbage-in-garbage-out process. If we can drastically improve the material going in by providing great imagery, the need for filters goes away and the overall experience is improved.”
Light wants to push photography to a point where people will want to see the high-res versions of images instead of a lower quality one caked in virtual makeup.
“Light cameras will put an end to the ‘good enough’ photos being produced by most smartphones today,” Laroia said. “We don’t think people should trust their memories to ‘good enough.’”
Dave Etchells over at Imaging Resource:
Smartphones have pretty much devoured the point & shoot camera market, but their somewhat wide-angle lenses and inability to zoom has left room in the market for pocket cameras. Looking upmarket, smartphones' (usually) itty-bitty sensors haven't been any kind of a challenge to higher-end cameras when it comes to image quality.
Image quality and zoom might not be such big stumbling blocks in the near future, though, thanks to technology from startup company called Light, who have only just now beginning to talk about their technology publicly.
Light's approach is built around two key concepts: Make up for the small size of smartphone sensors simply by having more of them, and substitute an array of different focal length "prime" lenses for the digicam's zoom. Shots from multiple camera modules are stitched together into a higher resolution image via fancy software, bringing not only significantly better image quality, but also some capabilities reminiscent of Lytro's "light field photography."
It seems that Light isn't focused (no pun intended :-) solely on smartphones though; they referred to the 16-module array shown above as something that might be used in a self-driving car or a home security camera. Still, Light has the words "reimagine photography" emblazoned on their home page, so it seems that photography is a big part of their plans.
And at Peta Pixel, Michael Zhang wrote:
And get this: Light has reportedly signed a licensing and investment deal with Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer that plays a huge role in Apple’s manufacturing.
So things are getting interesting in this space. In just one week, we’ve learned that Apple and one of its main manufacturers have both jumped into the world of multi-lens-and-sensor camera modules for smartphones. It looks like they believe this to be the future of smartphone photography.
We're grateful for all the attention and excited to share more soon. In the meantime, you can sign up for email updates at the top of this page (or here) and stay tuned to this site for updates!