You’d be forgiven for thinking the Light L16 Camera is some weird smartphone with crazy decals on one side. However, the reality is L16 has different lenses which can work together to produce either huge images or various focal lengths and apertures. The concept takes what is currently happening with the latest smartphones with multiple lenses and almost takes it to its logical conclusion.
Size wise, the Light L16 is like a very chunky smartphone, small enough to be taken anywhere and in theory packs the equivalent of loads of camera lenses into one small unit. The camera isn’t a cheap proposition, so let’s see if this unique way of thinking translates to the real world.
Let’s start with some of the technical specifications. The whole unit measures 6.5 x 3.3 x 0.94 inches and weighs in at 15.3 oz. built around a die-cast aluminum alloy body. There’s a nice rubberized nonslip grip which should keep everything nicely in place. The face with all the camera lenses holds 16 modules, which consist of 5 lenses with 28mm focal lengths at f/2.0, 5 lenses at 70mm at f/2 and 6 at 150mm at f/2.4. Each has a sensor of 13MP which should give a zoom range of 28-150mm or 5 times zoom.
The flip side of the camera holds a 5-inch FHD touchscreen, where all the functionality is accessed. Clearly, the camera wants to be a step above what you’d find in a smartphone and provides more high-end features such as center-weighted and touch-weighted metering, different exposure modes, shutter release modes and a nice range of shutter speeds from 1/8000 to 15 seconds. The camera can also shoot video at 1080p at 30fps with files outputted as JPEG or DNG. Lastly, battery life is rated up to 8 hours, which in reality is around this figure point.
Smartphone or LiveView functionality seems to be the order of the day on the touchscreen. Scrub across the screen and you can easily go from wide-angle to zoomed into the full 150mm. However, the camera doesn’t react as fast as you’d like it to, especially with more demanding situations. There’s also desktop editing software, which is needed to process the full resolution images. This in itself is fine to a point, but still, slow on the uptake.
In essence, the Light L16 works more like a multi-lens smartphone where you can zoom in from wide angle to telephoto, but with far more reach. The information from each camera lens uses optical zoom to stitch images together as you go, producing higher resolution images than what you’d find on a top smartphone, all crushed together with clever in the box processing. A low-resolution image is first shown as a preview, which during playback can produce the full resolution image which gives far more detail. But, the full 52-megapixel versions have to be run through the desktop software to produce results. The 13MP images are usually good enough quality to serve most purposes. However, quality does start to drop off in low light conditions.
Having something that is meant to be a step up from the average smartphone and approach DSLR territory is cut back by the touchscreen only way of working. Everything here is responsive, but tactile manual controls will always be the way to go for quick and impromptu photography. It’s obvious they have kept the whole unit as small as possible, but things like viewfinders and knobs have been omitted, but then everything feels more smartphone in use.
Images can be sent to the supplied imaging software, but it can be clunky to use at times. 13-megapixel JPEGS can be transferred via Bluetooth to Android, but not the full DNG files. Sorry Apple users as there’s no quick way for you, as transfer has to be done via a computer, then onto a phone. Odd when the iPhone X can shoot and edit RAW files.
Fully zoomed in is where the most problems lie. The aperture isn’t as wide as the wide-angle lenses, which means they don’t let in as much light and there is no image stabilization, being hard to keep things steady at the most zoomed in levels. In other words, the zoom facility is there, but you really need a tripod to make the most of it. But it’s not all to waste, as when fully supported its a great facility to optically zoom at a moments notice.
Speed is also a concern if you’re trying to take shots in quick succession. Considering how much processing power is needed to get top resolution is impressive, but it really slows things down if you want to take a few images at a time. The same goes for the autofocus, which can also be slow in low light. This means that when the Light L16 is pushed, it will lack the versatility of a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
How Does It Compare?
There aren’t any direct competitors to this unique camera, so we can’t really bring you the usual comparison table. But as per the theme throughout this review, the camera is like a halfway house between a smartphone and dedicated digital camera. Maybe it could occupy this market, but it’s currently just too expensive to do so.
Overall as a camera that has a wide zoom range in a compact design, there are better and cheaper options. For a camera that is almost $2000, there are lots of other alternatives out there, but the concept is a step in the right direction for Light. Covering lots of optical zoom on a flat surface has resulted in multiple lenses. A path taken by many smartphone manufacturers, so it makes you wonder if all the extras that are provided with the Light L16 is worth it. More than likely a lot of the technology will end up in future smartphones or at least the concept of working.
The concept and especially the internal processing is very impressive. But it sits too much in the middle between a smartphone and dedicated camera such as a mirrorless or DLSR. More than likely people are will buy one or the other, especially considering the price. The Light L16 is a great idea and has clearly sold a few units, but as a standalone camera, there are better options.
Good one shot ability
Image quality variation