A cluster of lenses is better than one: Startup to bring super cameras to smartphones in 2016

Light camera lenses
Smartphone photography has come a long way, but the quality of photos you can snap with your phone still falls short of the quality of photos you can snap with a DSLR camera. A startup called Light thinks it has a way to bridge that gap: a cluster of small lenses each coupled with its own image sensor. This departure from the one lens, one image sensor approach found in today’s phones may find its way to smartphones in 2016.

Light, based in Palo Alto, California, wants to implement its idea of a bunch of small lenses each paired with its own image sensor in smartphones and other devices. “They’ll fire simultaneously when you take a photo, and software will automatically combine the images,” according to MIT Technology Review. “This way, Light believes, it can fit the quality and zoom of a bulky, expensive DSLR camera into much smaller, cheaper packages — even phones.”

In a demonstration at its office, Light showed an array of 16 functional camera modules, which could eventually be used in self-driving cars or home security cameras. Co-founder and chief technology officer Rajiv Laroia explained to MIT Technology Review that when someone takes a picture with a Light camera, they’re essentially taking numerous photos simultaneously from different perspectives. These shots are digitally melded in a way that mimics what a larger camera lens could yield.

“Light cameras will put an end to the ‘good enough’ photos being produced by most smartphones today,” Laroia said in an interview with The Daily Dot. “We don’t think people should trust their memories to ‘good enough.’”

CEO Dave Grannan said he expects Light’s technology to add about $50-60 to the cost of producing a phone using one of its cameras.

While the company has yet to develop a full prototype, it has camera modules that can combine photos with its software. Light says it expects its first 52-megapixel cameras to be found in smartphones in 2016.

To achieve that goal, the startup obviously needs a partner to help it roll out its innovation to the masses. On Tuesday, Light plans to announce a deal with that partner: Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer and the world’s largest manufacturer of Apple products.

Foxconn is licensing Light’s technology for use in mobile devices and is investing an undisclosed amount in the company. Last June, Light raised $9.7 million in a Series A round of investment co-led by Bessemer Venture Partners and Charles River Ventures.

While this is certainly exciting for the future potential of smartphone cameras, there are questions about the real-world implications of Light’s super cameras. For example, how will this affect the time needed to snap a photo with your smartphone? How large will the resulting photo files be? Will consumers accept the added bulk Light’s camera will add to a phone, since it would make the device as thick as a current smartphone in a case?

Despite the concerns, “There’s no question what they’re doing is the future of cameras,” David Brady, leader of Duke University’s imaging and spectroscopy program and CEO of a camera-array company called Aqueti, told MIT Technology Review.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Whether by the pool or the sea, make a splash with the best waterproof phones

Whether you're looking for a phone you can use in the bath, or you just want that extra peace of mind, waterproof phones are here and they're amazing. Check out our selection of the best ones you can buy.
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.

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.
Social Media

Facebook Messenger adds quoted replies to better organize group chats

Facebook is rolling out a feature that should help make group chats a whole lot more organized. The feature allows you to reply to specific messages within a group chat, so others will be able to tell what you're replying to.

The 2018 iPad is often the best iPad for most people — and now it’s only $250

Apple may have recently taken the wraps off of a new iPad Air and iPad Mini, but it's still the standard iPad that is best for most people. Now, the standard iPad has gotten a pretty significant discount -- it's down from $330 to $250.
Product Review

With the S10e and S10 Plus, do we really need the Samsung Galaxy S10?

The Galaxy S10 is the middle child in this year’s Galaxy S10 range, between the Galaxy S10e, and the Galaxy S10 Plus. There’s no striking reason to buy it, but it’s still an excellent phone you’ll be happy with.

Looking to keep prying eyes at bay? Here's how to hide photos on your iPhone

People take tons of photos using their smartphones, but not all are meant to be shared or seen. Luckily, hiding photos on your iOS device is easy, whether you want to use built-in utilities or apps with added security.

Fitbit Versa Lite tips and tricks to get started with your new smartwatch

Got your hands on a Fitbit Versa Lite? The smartwatch may be the pared down version of the more expensive Fitbit Versa, but there's still plenty for you to tweak in the settings. Here are our Fitbit Versa Lite tips and tricks.
Smart Home

Postmates now offers a way to get free delivery on meal orders

Postmates is offering customers the chance to order meals with free delivery. But you'll have to be cool with the idea of waiting a little longer, as the delivery driver will be carrying other meals for different customers.

Browse safely and securely with Opera’s unlimited VPN on Android

Opera has added a new VPN to its Android browser, offering an easy way to keep your privacy and data locked up solid, and with no limits on usage or cost, you can keep it on all the time.
Product Review

The new iPad Mini certainly isn’t a beauty, but it performs like a beast

Apple’s new iPad Mini has beastly performance, fluid iOS 12 software, and good battery life. It also looks like it came straight out of 2015, because the design hasn’t been changed. Here are our impressions of Apple’s new 7.9-inch…

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks for the best portable chargers.

You can now listen to Google Podcasts on your desktop without the app

The Google Podcasts app is no longer entirely necessary to listen to the podcasts it offers. With a simple tweak of the sharing URL, you can listen to a Google Podcasts podcast on your desktop or laptop without the app.