As you know well by now, our engineers are constantly refining and tuning the Light L16’s proprietary algorithms—what are essentially our camera’s secret sauce. In our most recent update, we made major improvements to the L16’s image quality through tone mapping, which has a big impact on how we render dynamic range in our images.

It’s helpful to understand dynamic range before we jump into local tone mapping. Dynamic range represents the values between the brightest brights in the image’s highlights and the darkest darks in the shadows. Having a greater range of tones between the brights and darks is generally sought after in photography because it allows the photographer to capture more detail in scenes with more contrast. A standard histogram like the first one pictured below is a representation of the range of brights and darks in an image.

*From left, standard histogram; example of histogram with global tone mapping; example of histogram with local tone mapping.*

Prior to this release, our algorithms modified the brightness of all the pixels in the image in the same way, mapping luminance globally as you see in the second histogram above. This method, however, can sometimes cause a loss of contrast because the same amount of brightness is applied to the entire image. Local tone mapping, on the other hand, looks at the the tonal values (or brightness) of each pixel in relation to the pixels around it and enhances the contrast in those specific sections. This effect better displays the range that the L16 can capture and emulates the way our eyes work, making the final image closer to what we actually see.

Below you can see our local tone mapping algorithm in action. Look for more accurate colors, as well as increased shadow and highlight detail.

*Photo credit: Brian Frank; left, without LTM; right, with LTM.*

Your images should now display improved shadow details and recovered highlights. Local tone mapping will also compensate for background blurriness, sharpening areas that should be clearer and more in focus.

*Photo credit: Brian Frank; left, without LTM; right, with LTM.*

This latest software update makes fine details, such as the lines in this man’s hand, much more distinct.

*Photo credit: Brian Fulda; left, without LTM; right, with LTM.*

All in all, our latest update translates to better, brighter colors and contrast in both low-light scenarios and brightly lit scenes. In other words, you shouldn’t have to do as much editing to your JPEG images in post production.

*Photo credit: Nick Schearer; left, without LTM; right, with LTM.*

You’ll notice these improvements when viewing thumbnail previews in the L16’s gallery and in Lumen. Local tone mapping (LTM) is also applied to any JPEG exports by default—but not to your DNGs.

One More Thing

Tone mapping isn’t the only thing we improved in this latest update. We also made huge strides in image compression, reducing the size of your DNGs by as much as 50%. Hopefully, they’re much easier to maneuver. By the way, our DNGs are also now compatible with a few other photo editing applications, like Apple Photos, Polarr, and even Snapseed. Read more about the other fixes and improvements we made in our release notes.

If you’re working with RAW files, we’ve created Lightroom and Photoshop presets to help you play with tonal range. Download them here and learn more about how to use them here.

What’s Ahead

In the next few months, we’ll continue to tackle HDR. We’re looking into ways to use the L16’s different sensors to capture a scene at different exposures; some modules would overexpose the scene and some modules would underexpose the scene. The result? A single-shot HDR. We’re still a couple months away from releasing our proprietary HDR, but we hope to update it and many more features in early 2018.

Wondering how to update your camera? Click here to learn.