I hate (and that’s a strong but right word), that I end up using my phone so much for photography. And before you dismiss anything I have to say on SLRL ever again, let me clarify that I don’t do professional shoots with it; I still leave that to larger format cameras. However, that old platitude that the best camera is the one you have on you has a lot of truth to it, and it’s painful, because you know just how much better your everyday images could be with a proper camera. Alas, the burden of size and inconvenience wins in casual situations.
Carrying around a big camera to get big results just has practical limitations, and frankly, something else I hate is whipping out a big camera with a phallic lens at a party or event, because, well, that’s somewhat akin to pulling your John Thomas out at a party. It may be impressive, but it’s not exactly civilized.
This conundrum thus far has been addressed by increasingly good smartphone cameras and a few powerful pocket cameras like the Sony RX100 series. Sure, the new iPhone 6S camera is good (for a phone) and a step in the right direction, but it’s not a big enough step, and the approach isn’t exactly in the right direction. There’s a new player at the table now though, and it’s sitting across the table as mysterious and attractive as a Bond Villain’s girl. It’s called the L16 from a company called Light, and it looks brilliant. Here are the Cliff Notes:
It’s the world’s first multi-aperture computational camera, and it’s more like many little cameras in one. It uses breakthrough folding optics design with what’s touted as the most advanced imaging engine ever created; all to give you the control and ability of a DSLR with the convenience of a smartphone. It has 16 individual cameras and fires 10 of them simultaneously from a series of fixed focal lengths (35, 70, 150mm). The images are then computationally fused to create a final 52MP resolution file.
One of the problems I’ve had with smartphone cameras is the issue of focal length because they are typically very wide, and the zoom is digital so you get no benefit of compression. The L16, however, seems to be able to do away with this issue. Similarly to a Lytro, the defocus of the image can be done after the fact to mimic something either 35mm, 70mm, or 150mm. Nice.
The L16 features a large rear screen which rids the need of a viewfinder, and even with that screen should be able to take 400 shots per charge. It uses a modified version of Android to run, but it also will be able to share photos via WiFi. To handle all this functionality and massive files requires a lot of processing power, which will come in the form of the Snapdragon 820 from Qualcomm (QCOM in case you want to jump on the stock), which is a quad-core 2.2Ghz “system on a chip.” Oh, and while it may be an Android OS, it’s more like Apple hardware, given it’s beautiful, and will be made by Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn who also makes iPhones.
It’s going to get a lot of resistance, I think, from the photography community at first, but such is the way of the world that it all changes. This to me is a good indicator of the future, maybe not even ten years from now. It’s just not in our nature to snuff out the fire. Let it burn. To buy one, you’ll also need to let it burn a small hole in your wallet, to the tune of $1600 USD for a mid-2016 delivery. You can do that here.