Lights, Camera and Sony

Camera Start-Up Light and Sony Announce Collaboration

Light is a start-up from California that develops multilens systems for smartphones and other products. Founded in 2013, its goal is to create a set-up using several cameras that will produce higher-quality photos by using the company’s software to combine many pictures into one advanced image.

The news comes at a time when manufacturers have focussed on adding more cameras to their smartphones. A few years ago, all smartphones had one camera on the rear. This week, Samsung launched a series of smartphones equipped with several cameras; one variant, the Galaxy S10 5G, employs a total of six lenses — four on the rear and two on the front (see Instant Insight: Samsung Unveils Galaxy Fold and Galaxy S10 Portfolio). This is a trend that we expect to continue at MWC Barcelona next week, where we anticipate further announcements of smartphones with numerous cameras.

Sony, which is already a major supplier of imaging components to the smartphone industry, has announced that it’s working with Light to jointly develop and market complex multi-image sensor designs. These will draw on the strengths of both companies, meshing Light’s multicamera technology with Sony’s image sensors. Computational imaging, which is Light’s area of expertise, is set to be the next frontier in capturing, sharing and interacting with the world around us, especially now that there’s a smartphone in everyone’s pocket.

With Leica as one of its main investors, Light released a $2,000 camera named Light L16 in 2017. The device uses 16 camera modules with different focal lengths — from 28 mm to 150 mm — to capture a single full-resolution 52-megapixel image combining data from all the sensors. This lets users do things such as adjust focus after taking a photo and crop without losing image detail. Also, the separate camera modules ensured no moving parts, unlike a traditional DSLR or mirrorless camera.

The L16 is a bulky design, and based on our very limited usage in 2018, we were disappointed with the results, particularly the time it takes to render a picture after pressing the shutter button (see image below). However, technology develops at an astonishing pace these days and there has been significant progress in performance and size since then. Adding the strength and depth that Sony brings to the equation can only help improve what Light’s technology delivers.

Light CEO Dave Grannan will take the stage at MWC next week, where he’s expected to speak about opportunities in imaging for smartphone makers and the entire mobile industry. The company appears to have an interesting future ahead and rumours suggest it won’t be long before its technology is the focal point of a fully commercial smartphone.