Sony partnership with Light aims to take smartphone photography to new heights

multi lens camera firm light is putting up to nine lenses in a smartphone phone

The race to turn out the best camera phone has intensified in recent years. Most manufacturers have increased the number of lenses they employ, some have worked hard on post-processing algorithms, and many have done both. The result is a whole new level of smartphone photography, but the trend has yet to reach its peak. Light bills itself as a pioneer in the era of the software-defined camera, and it has just struck a partnership with Sony Semiconductors Solutions to develop and market multi-image sensor designs for smartphones.

You may remember Light from the L16 camera, which combined 16 small lens and sensor modules into a compact camera that was designed to match DSLR performance. The company also showed off a working prototype smartphone with nine lenses, intended as a proof of concept. Now Light has secured privileged access to Sony’s image sensors, and it plans to create reference designs that combine its computational imaging solutions with Sony’s sensors, starting with smartphones with four or more camera lenses.

“We work with OEMs to figure out what their goals are with mobile imaging, help them find the right mix of sensors, and then optimize the array,” Prashant Velagaleti, senior vice president of engineering and product management for Light told Digital Trends. “We can help them realize a very specific vision they might have that will differentiate their phone.”

The vast majority of modern smartphones use Sony’s image sensors, but there’s a lot more to good photography than the hardware, arrays must be optimized, systems tuned, and algorithms applied. While we’ve seen Samsung and Huawei add more lenses, Google has focused on an advanced image processing unit and machine learning to squeeze the best quality results from a single lens. The ideal approach may be somewhere in the middle, but there are obvious advantages to more lenses.

“More data is better, so we’re always looking to capture and put together as much information about a scene as possible,” explained Aric Marshall, Light’s head of product. “A mix of color and monochrome sensors, for example, can help us capture more detail and more of the available light.”

Light has expertise in mixing and matching sensors and finding the right balance between the hardware and the software to get the best possible final image. With multiple lenses shooting simultaneously you can achieve high dynamic range and stack a single shot to improve the quality, possibly more effectively than by taking a series of frames over time, which is how a lot of smartphones do it right now.

Phone manufacturers are working with strict size limitations, so combining multiple cameras can be a smart way of improving performance without compromising designs. No one wants unsightly camera bumps. But phone manufacturers do want to offer a camera experience that will wow us.

“Smartphone manufacturers are looking to differentiate with camera expertise,” suggests Marshall. “Light and Sony working together can bring that expertise.”

We don’t expect it will take long for this new partnership to bear fruit.

Product Review

Sony's Xperia 10 falls frustratingly short of budget brilliance

Better know for premium products, Sony does also have a budget smartphone range, but can the Sony Xperia 10 compete with great cheap phones from Nokia and Motorola? We put it through its paces to find out how it measures up.

Sony's Xperia 10 smartphone boasts a 6-inch screen and is now available

Sony took the wraps off of three new phones at Mobile World Congress 2019, including the new Xperia 1, which is the company's new flagship phone and the first with a 4K OLED display with a 21:9 aspect ratio.

Photography News: Taking a smartphone photo probably saved this guy’s life

A man was snapping a photo in Australia when the smartphone stopped an arrow shot at his face. In this week's photography news, see Canon's plans for a stabilized mirrorless, Hasselblad's newest accessories, Samyang's latest lens, and more.

Bigger isn’t always better: 5 of the smallest smartphones worth buying

Phones are getting larger and larger, but what options exist for the small-of-hand, or people who just want a phone they can use one-handed? In a world of phablets, some of the smallest smartphones can still pack a punch.
Smart Home

Amazon drops price of newest Echo Dot with Sengled two-bulb smart light kit

Amazon just dropped the price of a new third-generation Echo Dot bundled with the Element Classic by Sengled Starter Kit with two smart light bulbs and a Sengled controller. Connect the lights to turn lights on and off with voice commands.

FCC to help first responders pinpoint 911 callers in multistory buildings

When someone calls 911 from their cell phone, wireless carriers provide operators with an approximate location. Now the FCC wants the carriers to provide vertical location data to pinpoint 911 callers inside multi-story buildings.

Latest Samsung Galaxy smartphone will pop up on April 10

Samsung will show at least one new Galaxy phone off on April 10, it has confirmed in a teaser tweet. The Galaxy A90 may make its first appearance, and it's rumored to have a pop-up camera and a notch-less screen.

Leaked ZTE concept phones are crazy, possibly fake, and totally worth seeing

Renders of what may be ZTE concept phones may show how the manufacturer could avoid using the notch on future devices. They're crazy -- and maybe not even real -- but they're definitely worth looking at.

The iPad Mini, Apple’s tiny tablet, makes a return with powerful specs

Apple has finally revealed the iPad Mini. With all-new and upgraded specs, support for the Apple Pencil, and a fantastically inclusive price, here's everything you need to know about the iPad Mini.

The Apple iPad Air is the power-packed tablet for everyone

The iPad Air is the less serious cousin to Apple's iPad Pro range, and it's the perfect addition to your coffee table. But it's no less powerful. Here's everything you need to know about the iPad Air.

Get excited for your Sony Xperia 10 or 10 Plus by getting it set up just right

If you've picked up one of the Sony's more affordable smartphones, you may be be wondering what hidden depths lie within. We've got some handy Sony Xperia 10 tips for you here to help you get to grips with your new phone.

This is the one thing you need to do before giving your child a smart phone or tablet

Monitoring your kids' digital habits can be a challenge in today’s high-tech age, but great parental control software like Qustodio gives parents a much-needed advantage Read on to find out how you can protect your child from online…

How to choose an iPad in 2019: A practical guide to Apple’s tablets

Selecting an iPad from Apple's lineup can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Our comprehensive guide should put the numbers and specs in practical, easy-to-understand terms. Find your ideal iPad with the help of our guide.

These voice-changing apps will have you punking friends and family like a pro

Have you ever wanted to call your friends as Darth Vader or Alvin from the Chipmunks? If you want to play a prank on your friends, we have the best voice-changer apps for iOS and Android, whether you want to record audio or make a call.