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posted by martyb on Friday October 28 2016, @12:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the who-would-want-a-camera-that-was-heavy-and-dark? dept.

The creator of the new Light digital camera explains how he made it work:

The best digital cameras today are SLRs (single-lens reflex cameras), which use a movable mirror to guide the same light rays that fall on the sensor into the viewfinder. These cameras normally have precisely ground glass lenses and large, high-quality image sensors. In the right hands, they can shoot amazing pictures, with brilliant colours and pleasing lighting effects, often showing a crisply focused subject and an aesthetically blurred background.

But these cameras are big, heavy, and expensive: A good digital SLR (DSLR) with a decent set of lenses—including a standard 50 mm, a wide angle, and a telephoto, for example—can easily set you back thousands of dollars.

So most photos today aren't being shot with DSLRs but with the tiny camera modules built into mobile phones. Nobody pretends these pictures match the quality of a photograph taken by a good DSLR; they tend to be grainy, and the camera allows very little artistic control. But smartphone cameras certainly are easy to carry around.

Can't we have it both ways ? Couldn't a high-quality yet still-tiny camera somehow be fit into a mobile device ?

The Light camera starts with a collection of inexpensive plastic-lens camera modules and mechanically driven mirrors. We put them in a device that runs the standard Android operating system along with some smart algorithms. The result is a camera that can do just about everything a DSLR can—and one thing it can't: fit in your pocket.

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by Zinho on Friday October 28 2016, @03:58AM

    by Zinho (759) on Friday October 28 2016, @03:58AM (#419709)

    If this thing is affordable for the masses, we will be able to see for ourselves how good it is.

    I can get behind that. Unfortunately, from TFA:

    Our first-generation L16 camera will start reaching consumers early next year, for an initial retail price of $1,699.

    So, it's still vaporware, and will be inaccessibly priced when released. He's obviously trying to recover his R&D expenses, since the article itself asserts that the hardware itself will only cost ~$64; the rest is just software. His margins will have to come down a long way before it will get traction in the smartphone market.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Immerman on Friday October 28 2016, @04:31AM

    by Immerman (3985) on Friday October 28 2016, @04:31AM (#419719)

    Well, $64 for the cameras and lenses - the actuated mirror system probably adds at last several bucks to that. And then there's the LCD display, and fast enough processor and RAM to capture, analyze, and merge between 4 and 16 simultaneously taken 13MPixel images into a single final image in near real time. Plus all the electronics, buttons, chassis, patent-encumbered memory slots and file systems, etc.

    I doubt it costs anywhere close to $1700, or even $800, to build the thing, but wouldn't be overly surprised at $200, maybe even $400. And there's the design, tooling, etc. to consider as well - none of that is cheap and it's all a sunk cost before you've made even one unit. While the cost essentially disappears when spread across millions of units sold, if you're only betting on selling a few thousand of your "prototype" product, those costs are thousands of times greater per unit, and you need to plan on recouping that cost if you're going to have a remotely viable business plan (unless you have enough cash reserves to afford to sell the first model or two at below cost as "advertising" for later models)

    Also, I didn't see anything to suggest this is targetting the smartphone market directly, though there's obvious long-term potential for the technology there if it catches on. For starters, I didn't see anything suggesting it's a phone. Seems instead to be designed specifically as a camera, and one designed specifically for photographers who already own thousands of dollars worth of bulky cameras and lenses that are often left unused in favor of the convenience of crappy cell phone cameras. Even if it's inferior to a "proper" high-resolution DSLR camera in terms of image quality, it still has the potential to more than make up for it in convenience, not to mention the ability to tweak many parameters in post-production in ways completely impossible with traditional digital photography.

    Bottom line, it sounds like it has a lot of potential (we'll see how well it delivers), and from what I recall as a non-photographer, $1700 is barely past entry-level pricing for a decent "pro-sumer" camera.

  • (Score: 2) by edIII on Friday October 28 2016, @04:31AM

    by edIII (791) on Friday October 28 2016, @04:31AM (#419721)

    Good point, but at that price point we may find at least enough buyers to verify some of the claims. If you had a major photography magazine for instance, this guy will probably send it there.

    Let's wait and see. On paper it looks good, and it didn't clock in at some insane price point like $50k or something.

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