This Pocket-Size Camera Takes Pro-Level Photos

Photo: Courtesy Light.
Thanks to smartphones, we've got a camera in our pocket (or purse) at all times. However, there are times when smartphone photo quality, for all its miraculous leaps and bounds over the years, still doesn't cut it. But it's such a pain to drag that giant DSLR on vacation with you, just on the off chance you want to take some better photos. A company called Light has a solution: A pocket-size camera that takes professional-looking photographs thanks to some nifty camera trickery.

The Light L16 camera is actually 16 tiny camera modules rolled up into a single package that emulates a much larger, more expensive lens. It shoots an image from multiple cameras and apertures at the same time; software then fuses the resulting image together. Its cameras shoot at three different focal lengths: 35 mm (which is similar to a smartphone camera), 70 mm (for mid-range shots), and 150 mm (for far-off, distant imagery). By honing the angle that each individual camera lens is facing and then overlapping and stitching their shots together, the L16 ends up giving you a 52-megapixel image that includes up-close, mid, and distant detail.

Sample images shot by the most recent prototype of the camera seem promising. It appears to have good low light performance and can capture a serious amount of detail in a shot.

The camera offers optical zoom and fine depth of field controls and has a five-inch touchscreen on back for framing and composing photos. Similar to the Lytro light-field camera that launched back in 2011, with the L16, you can take a photo,and then adjust the depth of field of the image after the fact (with Lytro, you could actually change the focus of the photo). And thanks to a Wi-Fi chip, the camera would offload images as soon as you get back on your home network — no plugs or cables needed. Light eliminated the knobs and buttons customary on traditional cameras in favor of a simpler, more approachable interface.

"We’re trying to break through to the audience that aspires to creativity but is intimated by the technology," Light CEO and co-founder Dave Grannan told Refinery29. However, an advanced menu gives photo veterans more granular camera setting controls.

The L16 is a fraction of the weight and size of a traditional DSLR — the top-of-the-line cameras that professionals and serious hobbyists use. But the price is heftier than baseline models: It will cost $1,699 ($1,299 if you pre-order the camera) when it goes on sale in late summer 2016. Still, the portability does make it attractive. An expensive camera isn't worth anything if it's only gathering dust.

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