Over the past few years we’ve seen the rise of smartphones with dual-camera systems that offer features like optical zoom without a camera bump and adjustable depth effects. But why stop at two lenses?

The Light L16 isn’t a phone, but it is a high-end camera that’s about the size of a smartphone. And thanks to a series of 16 built-in camera lenses, it’s designed to let you take DSLR-style photos without changing out lenses.

It’s a funny looking camera that went up for pre-order way back in 2015 for $1,699. The company said the L16 started shipping this summer, but reviews and hands-on impressions have been hard to find on the internet (although they’re starting to appear).

Now the L16 has passed through the FCC website, which gives us a better look at the camera’s hardware (and user manual).

The Light features 16 different 13MP image sensors and circuitry that lets you stitch together photos from multiple lenses to create 52MP images.

It has shutter speeds ranging from 1/8000th of a second to 15 seconds and supports ISO 1000 to ISO 3200 sensitivity options. The camera has an aluminum alloy case with a rubberized grip and there’s a 5 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel touchscreen for controlling the camera and adjusting settings. The L16 has 256GB of storage, a 4,120 mAh battery, a USB 3.0 Type-C port, and Android-based software.

Among other things, you can adjust the depth of field in photos, edit depth after a picture has been taken, and up to 5x optical zoom. There are 28mm, 70mm, and 150mm camera lenses built in, a dual-tone LED flash, laser-assisted autofocus, and a proximity sensor.

The camera measures about 6.5″ x 3.3″ x 0.9″ and weighs 15 ounces. The $1,699 price tag will put it out of the range of casual photographers, but it’s not really designed to compete with point-and-click or smartphone cameras. This is a new type of camera for folks willing to drop a lot of money on a more powerful, versatile solution.

But will any of those built-in features make the Light L16 a better option for serious photographers than a DSLR or mirrorless camera? Not necessarily. I suspect pro users will still prefer the ability to customize their camera by selecting just the right lens for each situation. But for folks looking for a compact, all-in-one solution the L16 certainly looks a lot more portable.

The initial batch of Light L16 cameras are currently sold out. But the company says it’ll start taking orders again in “late 2017” and you can sign up at the Light website to be notified when orders are open again.



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15 replies on “$1699 Light L16 camera (with 16 lenses) hits the FCC”

  1. Unbelieveable how this kind of information constantly leaks from the FCC.

    1. Look up the “Gathering Light” talk by Rajiv Laroia, and the Interview at Light HQ video on YouTube. Both give a pretty good overview of the technology. there were a few good interviews on Mac Edition Radio, and imaging-resource . com, etc. Possibly a few others I’m forgetting (IEEE article, I believe?).

      Part of it has to do with compositing/tiling images to achieve super-resolution (4x 13MP sensors –> 52MP+ final image, + 1 13MP sensor aimed at the middle of the tiling to make sure there’s plenty of resolution and cross-check pixels for errors, etc.), part of it has to do with the ability to literally gather more light across multiple sensors, part of it has to do with using it for zoom capability, etc.

  2. I think you missed “3” in “256GB of storage, a 4,120 mAh battery, a USB .0 Type-C port, and Android-based software.” it should be USB 3.0

  3. I want them to license the stitching algorithms. And then a smart phone could have four 12 MP cameras on the back. One with wide angle, one at 1x , one with 2x optical zoom, and one with 4x optical zoom. Then just stitch the four together for the camera app. No switching of lens selection button, just a seamless wide to 4x optical zoom that would also collect way more light for low light situations (example: indoor sports with family).

  4. I’d like to get my hands on one of these but not for this price. There’s no way I could justify that much money on a camera I’d barely use. Maybe later one they can make a cheaper one when the technology gets cheaper.

    1. Yeah, in some ways this seems like a natural evolution of what’s happening in smartphones… and I could also see it being the future of smartphone camera photography (on a slightly ridiculous scale).

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see tri-camera or quad-camera phones in the future that incorporate some of the extra features you can get from an extra camera or two.

      16 might be pushing it a bit though.

      1. Which is pretty much exactly where things are headed, point-of-fact. Both from vendors like Apple and Samsung, or whoever, adding 1-2 extra modules for stereoscopic images or HDR compositing, or from Light looking to “go big” with many modules and supreme flexibility for multiple focal lengths, HDR, etc., etc.

        The future is now, and/or coming shortly, incrementally.

  5. Also, Brad, I think you’re right. Most pro users probably won’t switch to something like this. Lens selection aside, most pros would be VERY hard pressed to forfeit the manual dial controls (shutter, aperture, etc) and the ergonomics that they pay big dollars for.

    Photographers are very insistent and dependent on having ergonomic and intuitive workflows. Asking pros to use a touch-screen to do things that they normally have dedicated dials for is deal breaker. But as a niche secondary device, some might be convinced.

    Some pros would probably see alot of value in something like this as a companion device. But I don’t see anyone heading out for a shoot with this as a primary camera.

    1. Most folks seem to misapprehend where Light is positioning this camera. It is not designed to *replace* top-of-the-line professional-grade cameras like the 5D Mk IV, or what have you. (Though they believe that 5-10 years down the road, this approach might supplant monolithic sensor and monolithic ‘glass’. We’ll see. Nobody’s quite that prophetic. But it shows promise…)

      It is designed to bring DSLR-like quality to a portable form factor, with an eye toward miniaturization and licensing for use in cell phones, tablets, etc. Wouldn’t doubt they’ll eventually make a more pro-grade version some day. Right now, Gen 1 is just the first step on the path to much-improved mobile imaging. “Good enough” isn’t anymore…

      That’s all. I’m sure some pros will add it to the tool kit, as another option when they don’t want to carry around all their bodies, gear, glass, filters, etc. Likewise hobbyists who bought something “above their pay grade” for some short-term event like a wedding or vacation, and now it just sits on a shelf due to bulk, learning curve, complexity, etc. Wouldn’t be surprised if some of them trade in their unused bulk for something closer to their cellphone (where most photos are taken these days, for good or ill).

  6. Wow, I really like this concept. I would actually be more interested in this with less lenses. Maybe one with just 3 cameras. I think a 24mm, a 50mm, and a really high resolution 70mm (giving you the ability to do a Crop/zoom, and retain lots of detai). If each of the lenses were around f1.8 max aperture, I think that would be a winning product.

    1. I don’t think they’re using one lens for macro, another for zoom, etc. – my understanding is that it uses all (or most) of the sensors for every shot, and then uses software to produce whatever image the photographer asks for (unclear if that means you can retroactively change aperture, say – like the Lytro).

      1. It’s not the same principle that was applied on Lytro but, because the different mm lens have a different field of view, the camera can compute distances and apply something a little more advanced than the iphone’s portrait mode bokeh, since it knows the distances it also knows how much bokeh to apply, it enables the same flexibility of the Lytro.

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