There's a holy grail in the world of digital cameras. Alongside all the incremental things our cameras could still do better – higher megapixels, enhanced low-light performance, and so on – the one thing that would really transform everyday photographers' lives would be if regular handheld cameras (like smartphones or point-and-shoots) could offer the same image quality as bulky DSLRs with massive lenses.
Now, one US-based startup called Light might have nailed this very challenge. Its newly announced Light L16 camera squeezes 16 separate lenses into a device that's about the same size as a regular point-and-shoot camera. When you take a shot, up to 10 of these lenses will fire simultaneously, effectively taking 10 separate photos of the exact same moment in time.
Now for the clever part. Kind of like the panorama function in modern smartphones and cameras, the Light L16's internal software uses special algorithms to 'computationally fuse' one super-high-resolution final image, up to 52 megapixels at maximum settings.
It's a neat trick. While conventional camera manufacturers are always chasing higher resolutions by improving image sensors – Canon announced a 120-megapixel camera last month – developing these kinds of advanced optics is never cheap, which is why the cameras on the market with extraordinarily high pixel counts always cost the most.
Arriving at 52 megapixels by instead using a bunch of lower-grade smartphone-quality lenses – which are much more affordable to produce at scale – is pretty impressive. But that's not the only trick the Light L16 has up its sleeve. In addition to shooting in very high resolution, the camera's makers say the multiple lens array enables the photographer to shoot effectively like a DSLR, with manual control over focal adjustments and depth of field.
It's too early to say how truly comparable the Light L16 is to a dedicated DSLR camera with detachable lenses, but certainly the company's gallery of photos online, all taken with the camera, look the goods, showing great colours, selective focus on subjects near and far, plus pretty stellar low light images.
But while the Light L16 does away with the bulk of carrying around a heavy DSLR with multiple lenses to create such sumptuous shots, it doesn't do away with the price tag. The device is available for pre-order for US$1,299 during this launch month only, with the price tag hiking up to US$1,699 in November. And sorry folks, it's US only for now.