The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Photography Startup Light Launches Multilens Camera

$1700 will get you 16 lenses, 52 megapixels, and a lot of clever computing in a box the size of a smart phone

1 min read
Photography Startup Light Launches Multilens Camera
Photo: Light

Last year, stealthy Palo Alto startup Light picked up $9.7 million in venture funding to “reimagine the art and science of photography.” Job postings indicated they were looking for people with experience in combining multiple recorded images to reduce noise and improve image quality.

This week, Light demonstrated a prototype of its first product, what it calls a “multi-aperture computational camera,” the L16, at the Code/Mobile conference in Half Moon Bay. This flat camera, which looks like a fat smartphone, includes 16 camera lenses with a variety of focal lengths, 10 of which fire at any one time. Behind each lens is a camera module that records an image in 13-megapixel resolution; exposure is set individually for each lens. Then the camera’s software selectively combines those images.

Like light-field camera Lytro, you can adjust the focus after shooting. Besides shooting still images of up to 52 megapixels, it shoots 4K video. It runs Android and can communicate with Wi-Fi so you can share an image to social media without transferring it to your computer.

And while you can put your money down now ($1300 until 6 November, $1700 afterwards), the product won’t ship for almost a year.  Pricey, for sure, and clearly targeted at the early adopter who just has to have the latest cool technology. And though the name hints at a second generation to come (an L32, with double the number of lenses, say) this launch may be more of a clever public beta than a real mass market product. The company’s ultimate goal is to get its technology into smart phones; it has already signed an agreement with Foxconn. Light’s founders talk about the technology in the (admittedly promotional but still interesting) video below.

The Light Story from light on Vimeo.

The Conversation (0)

Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

Keep Reading ↓Show less