Two Innovative Cameras to Get Excited About

Ed Lee
Oct 9, 2015

We live in exciting times with a constant stream of innovations. With recent announcements from DxO and Light, the imaging world is about to experience a new revolution in photography.

The DxO One camera

DxO (headquartered in Paris and San Francisco) is best known for its advanced image processing technologies. The company is making its first foray into the camera hardware market with the new DxO One, which launched in September. We see the DxO One as the next evolution of the lens camera segment, which Sony initiated in 2013 with its QX series.

Delivering on the desire for DSLR-like image quality in a mobile device is one of the goals of the DxO One. One of its most significant features is a 1-inch 20.2 megapixel CMOS BSI sensor, which is distinctive for a mobile-focused camera. (Sony’s DSC-QX100 lens camera uses a similar sensor.) The lens is a wide 32 mm prime lens with a fast f/1.8 aperture. The DxO One is designed to connect to newer Apple iPhones and iPads via the Lightning connector, unlike Sony’s products which use a Wi-Fi connection. Another attribute of the DxO One is its small size. Measuring only 2.7 x 1.9 x 1 inch, it easily fits into a pocket.

Thanks in part to DxO’s image processing technologies, the image quality is quite impressive, as seen on the evaluation unit that we have used. The images are sharp, thanks to the large sensor and quality optics. The bokeh effect, thanks to the shallow depth of field of the f/1.8 lens, is pleasing, especially for portraits. The ergonomics of holding the camera and the iOS device was a little awkward at first. I was not sure where to place my hands to ensure a stable grip and a comfortable position to fire the shutter button (one on the iPhone screen and another on the top of the DxO One camera). But I got used to it after a little while. The most significant downside I found with the current camera design is that it is incompatible with my OtterBox phone case; I had to remove the case to connect the camera to the Lightning connector. This relegated the use of the camera to planned photos rather than spontaneous ones.

Priced at $599, it is a little expensive for the average consumer. But photo enthusiasts, who want a large-sensor camera that will help them take their photography to a new level, will find that the DxO will capture excellent images.

The Light L16 camera

Light, a Palo Alto-based startup company, is trying to change how images are captured. On October 7, it announced the Light L16 camera, which is described as the first multi-aperture computational camera. Light’s mission is to deliver DSLR-like quality in a pocket-sized device.

For mid- to high-end DSLR cameras, a high-resolution sensor with large pixels combined with a high-quality lens are critical for delivering a high quality image, but this comes at the expense of a large form factor and high cost. Light attempts to deliver on the DSLR image quality expectation with a device reportedly about the size of an iPhone 6+ that houses sixteen camera modules, each with its own 13 MP image sensor and built-in optics with a combination of focal lengths of 35 mm (five of them), 70 mm (five of them), and 150 mm (six of them), which deliver continuous optical zoom from 35 to 150 mm. The camera is set up to fire ten cameras at one time and then processes all the data from each camera module through Light’s computational algorithms and combine it into a single image of up to 52 megapixels. According to the company, the camera uses an Android OS, will capture 4K video, and come with built-in Wi-Fi. iOS and Android apps will be available for connectivity to smartphones for sharing. The company is taking pre-orders through November 6, at a discounted price of $1,299, (regular price will be $1,699) and the delivery date is late-summer 2016. Given the price point, the L16 is not for the entry-level photographer, but instead will appeal to advanced hobbyists or pros who are early adopters with some disposable income on hand.

The key to image quality is no longer just tied to the physics of light and lenses. It is now all about the computational photography software that processes the data. So in this regard, the future of photography will be very software-intensive and the old adage of “What you see is what you get” will become “What you see is what the software developer wanted you to get!”

While a standalone camera is interesting, the technology behind the L16 could be much more exciting when it gets incorporated into a smartphone, which is something the company says it is working towards. The major benefits will be high resolution, high quality images, and optical zoom capabilities, which most smartphones still lack. The drawback would be significant added thickness to the phone, something that consumers may not want. However, any smartphone with the Light technology is likely to be considered a photo-centric device and would be targeted at the photo enthusiast who may be more agreeable to trade off thickness and weight for a much better photo experience.

InfoTrends Opinion

Traditional camera vendors should take note of these recent announcements as they push the boundaries of Intelligent Imaging. Both products are focused on bringing higher quality images to mobile products where they are still lacking today.

That said, however, camera vendors are not standing still and continue to push sensor resolutions to higher levels. For example, at its Imaging Expo in NYC in September, Canon demonstrated a 120 MP CMOS sensor and showed off a prototype of a whopping 250 MP APS-H CMOS sensor.


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