The changing light: transformations in the photography industry

The winds of change

In the last decade, there’s been a seismic shift in the photography industry. What was previously the preserve of DSLR (those big cameras pros use) toting professionals is now the domain of everyone, and the selfie rules them all. The figures are just staggering. Every second, Facebook and WhatsApp users send over 12,700 pictures to each other. That’s 1.1 trillion pictures per year. The game has changed for photography, and we now live in the digital world. 

This change comes as a result of progress in the smartphone industry. The vast majority of pictures snapped today are done so through phones. This has left companies like Canon, Sony and a whole host of others in a dilemma. Do they keep making the same products and risk losing a market share or conform to the trend and try to innovate for the new world of photography? One company certainly thinks it’s found the answer.

The Light L16

Cue the Light L16. At first glance, the L16 may look like a cheap point-and-shoot. In actual fact it’s the opposite. This $1,700 (£1,100) gizmo contains 16 small separate cameras, a Snapdragon 820 chip and finally enough sensors to create mouth watering 52 megapixel photos.

The L16 works by using combinations of the 16 smaller cameras every time the shutter is clicked. An example of where this is used is the zoom. Instead of using large interchangeable lenses, the L16 has five cameras with a focal length of 35mm, five with 70mm, and a further six with 150mm focal length. It achieves this remarkable range of zooms by using what it calls “folded optics”. This essentially means that the lenses are placed parallel to the front of the camera but still within the body.

Although the multitude of sensors allows the camera to fit into a body not much larger than a smartphone-and the ability to  choose the aperture after having taken the shot, the real party trick is the camera’s effective resolution of 52 megapixels. This is achieved again by using the 16 individual cameras, each with a resolution of 13MP.

The L16 will be powered by a 2.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip. For some reference, the new Nexus 5X has a 2.0Ghz  Snapdragon 808 chip. The L16 also includes a 5 inch touch screen, though at this point the resolution is unknown.  

The shape of things to come?

Well, put simply, yes and no. No because not a single professional photographer will drop his X-thousand pound DSLR in favour of a machine that essentially does much less. After all, they’re paid to lug round 10Kg worth of equipment. It’s also important to note that the L16 won’t go on sale until summer 2016, for the moment it’s just a prototype.

However perhaps the L16 is more of a proof of concept – it shows that the gap between high-end and low level cameras is shrinking at an astounding rate. No longer are professional grade photos bound to the traditional camera setup.  But more importantly, it may show where the camera technology in smartphones is heading. Foxconn, the world’s second most profitable electronics company after Apple, certainly believes it-partnering with Light in April of this year to develop the design. As do the various companies who have invested over $30 million in Light over the past year and a half.

So while it’s unlikely that the L16 will ever end up replacing your DSLR, it may still end up in your pocket.

Images courtesy of Light