From The Editors Technology

Light L16 Camera: Brilliant Concept but Leaves a Lot to be Desired

Manufactured by digital photography company Light, the L16 is a one-of-a-kind device that incorporates 16 precisely aligned smartphone-sized cameras that work in unison to create images that are superior to what the cameras can create individually.

The Light L16, dubbed the camera of the future by its manufacturer, is more a prototype than anything else, at least for now.

So, let’s delve a little deeper into this pricey piece of camera technology and check out the good, the not so good and the downright bad about the L16.

To start with, the L16 does flaunt a big touchscreen, symmetrical rectangular body, and an Android operating system, and while it may look like a smartphone in photographs, it’s much more sizeable in reality, bigger than the biggest Samsung out there on the market.

Well, size doesn’t really matter here as it is not seeking to compete with smartphones – not by a long shot.

It’s target audience, rather, are professional photographers who are more inclined to editing their work on computers using Lightroom than on their smartphones.

Weighing in at a hefty 435 grams, the L16 demands both hands, which should not be an issue at all, given that the casing’s textured rubber grips are there for that exact purpose.

If you put the L16 alongside a micro four-thirds camera, like the GH4 for example, you’ll find that the L16 is actually quite dainty in comparison.

Gone are those unwieldy knobs, buttons and switches; practically all of them replaced by 5-inch touchscreen display instead.

Mercifully, a good springy shutter button holds on to its place in the L16 scheme of things.

A small touch panel on the back of the camera is there for your thumb zooming – a feature that could not be put to the test as the kit hadn’t been activated in the device software at the time.

Also not yet activated is the proprietary accessory port on the bottom, and while the 3.5mm headphone jack next door is active, there’s little or nothing to listen to because of the missing video recording feature – something that’s fast approaching down the road.

It is because of these missing pieces of the puzzle that you are forced to look at the L16 as work in progress – a prototype, really – rather than a consumer-ready product.

Again, looking at it from the company’s perspective, it all makes sense, in that Light is leaning more toward licensing the L16 as a camera technology to other companies than selling it as a finished product.

Of course, there is no denying the fact that this technology from Light is indeed brilliant – you can ignore the pun – and certainly has the potential to attract other players.

Different focal lengths, ranging from 28mm to 150 mm, together with different exposure rates per image, are employed by the onboard cameras to create images whose quality we’ll discuss in a bit here.

You can shoot with this thing as easily as you do with your smartphone, tapping to focus, pinching to zoom in, and so forth.

To give you an idea of how this camera works, in as simple an explanation as possible, let’s just say that the moment you snap that shot, it’s all systems go for the multiple sensors that work individually toward achieving their collective target of creating a single improved picture.

Of course, it’s the software that stitches the overlapping 13MP photos, creating files of varying sizes, which during the tests ranged from 50 to 80 megapixels.

The files are saved in a dedicated format that makes it possible for you to access and edit your photos using the Lumin desktop software.

Contrary to Light’s claims about the L16’s outstanding dynamic range and exceptional low light performance, lab tests conducted by proved somewhat otherwise.

Reviewed said that the “L16 puts its camera array to good work in preserving shadow detail and limiting noise in our lab environment, which is a key limiting factor that (typically) reduces the dynamic range in smartphones, but it fails to deliver those same results in the real world with more complex, detailed subjects.”

Honestly, the mediocre image quality of the L16 becomes evident when you compare it with that of a Pixel 2 XL; not a single L16 image could match the Pixel 2’s picture quality during the tests.

Another glaring drawback, hopefully, a temporary one, is the incomplete software, which effectively means that you have to connect to a computer every time you want to take images off your L16.

To be fair, there is a provision for that via the built-in browser but, unfortunately, the ToS and privacy policy don’t upload. So, thanks but no thanks!

Professional photographers who are used to working with desktop software for their photo editing needs are likely to relate to the L16 and its Lumin software a lot better than the regular user.

When it comes to applying depth effects, the L16 does not even come close to some smartphones out there.

To sum it up, the image quality is average, at best; the unit is a bit too hefty to easily fit in a pocket; the missing video capability is disappointing; and the absence of wireless sharing from the device, though temporary one understands, is another disappointment.

Well, on the positive side, the L16 creates some decent daytime landscape photos, which no one will consider a good enough reason to dish out $2,000.

So, until we see some encouraging developments, including a price cut, we would recommend you stay away from this exorbitant piece of flamboyant technology.

For now, let’s just wait and watch!

Tech Specs

  • Soc: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 +Light ASIC
  • 256 GB Internal Storge
  • 4120 mAh Battery
  • 5-inch FHD LCD Screen
  • Cameras:
    5 x 28mm, f/2.0
    5 x 70, f/2.0
    6 x 150mm, f/2.4
    5 x optical zoom
    52+ MP effective resolution
  • Shutter: 1/8000 to 15 sec

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