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The Technology Behind the L16 Camera Pt. 1

Photography is as much of a science as it is an art. In order to craft beautiful, inventive images, it’s essential to understand how the tool you’re using works. After all, a camera’s technology is what makes pictures possible.

The L16 camera is the first of its kind. It doesn’t require switching between different lenses because it already has 16 built in. And it doesn’t just capture one photo—it takes ten or more simultaneously and fuses them together. In other words, it’s a very smart camera. And the technology behind it can be a little complicated, to say the least.

But we’re going to break it down for you. In this handbook, we’ll show you how the L16’s innovative technology actually works, and how it relates to some of the photography concepts you might already be familiar with.

Disclaimer: the following articles are not 100% technically accurate, but meant to convey how the technology works in layman's terms. The actual camera technology is extremely complicated and rather difficult to explain.

Part One: How does the L16 work?

Part Two: Auto and Manual Exposure Modes

Part Three: Crop Factor and Focal Length

Part One: How does the L16 work?

Before You Snap a Photo

In most traditional DSLRs, light enters the camera through a single lens and strikes a light-sensitive surface or sensor. That sensor records the light to create a smaller version of the scene you’re looking at. That’s your picture.

The image capturing process in the L16 is slightly different.

As you can see above, the L16 has many different camera modules—16, in fact. You might want to call them “lenses,” but they are actually much more than that: each module includes a sensor behind the lens, and, in the case of the 70mm and 150mm lenses, a mirror in front. These three different types of modules allow the camera to zoom from 28mm to 150mm. Most other cameras use a single lens to capture an image—the L16 uses at least 10 for every single photo.

If you look at the screen on the back of the L16, you’ll see a live preview of your image. This is generated from just one of the 16 camera modules, which we call the “reference module” because it gives you a reference for composing your photo.

The Shot

Taking a picture with the L16 should feel familiar: click the shutter button and your photo is captured. Though it may sound simple, the L16’s process is much more complex than it seems.

When you press the shutter button, the camera will capture at least 10 different photos simultaneously. Depending on your zoom level, the L16 will utilize different camera modules to take those photos.

Take the following image, for example. The zoom was set to 28mm, so the L16 captured photos using all five 28mm lenses and all five 70mm lenses. Each 28mm photo has a slightly different perspective of the same scene. Simultaneously, the L16 shifted its mirrors in front of the 70mm modules to point their lenses at the corners of the scene. Since there are only four corners, the fifth module captured the center of the image, ensuring that the center of the image was the highest resolution possible.

Fusing the Photos Together

This is where the L16’s magic truly shines. Once the camera captures 10 different images, the Light desktop software uses computational imaging techniques to fuse them together, creating the final, high-resolution photo.

First, the camera generates a 3D depth map of the scene using the five 28mm photos. Essentially, the depth map measures how far apart objects are from one another in a photo and uses that data to generate a grayscale image, which is later used to edit depth of field. Depth perception happens naturally in our brains—it’s why we can see in 3D—but the L16 has to create that capability. Since the L16 knows the distance between its camera modules, it can utilize each of the different perspectives in the 28mm photos to calculate the distance between different surfaces in the image.

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The software uses this depth information to correctly position and overlay the 70mm images with the 28mm images in the scene. Fusing these 10 different pictures together produces an extremely high-resolution photo, with up to 52+ megapixels.

The depth map also enables the photographer to control the image’s depth-of-field after the photo is taken. Our desktop editing tool allows you to create multiple versions of the same photo, each with varying degrees of depth of field.

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Click here to go to Part Two: Auto and Manual Exposure Modes

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