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Camera maker Light joins a long list of hardware startups to leave customers waiting

The modular L16, originally due this summer, now won’t get to customers until early 2017.

A hand holding a phone in a forest; the phone is in sharp focus and the background is blurred with an effect called bokeh. Courtesy: Light (http://light.co/)

Light, a startup that aims to take on high-end cameras with a device made up of multiple smartphone camera modules, is notifying customers that it needs more time to deliver its initial product.

The company originally promised that the L16, which debuted at Code/Mobile last fall, would be in the hands of early backers by late summer, but Light now says its preorders won’t start shipping until the first quarter of next year.

It has become an all-too-familiar pattern for early adopters of new hardware who get excited about a promised tech breakthrough and rush to preorder it from Kickstarter or the company’s website.

Too often, what is cast as a conservative forecast from the well-meaning startup turns out to be far too aggressive and fails to account for one complexity or another.

“The cliché is hardware is hard,” CEO Dave Grannan told Recode in a telephone interview, admitting that he, too, had a schedule designed to be conservative that turned out to be overly optimistic.

And — as has also become somewhat of a trend — Light is announcing new venture funding at the same time as the delay. For Light, it’s a $30 million Series C round led by Alphabet’s GV (formerly Google Ventures). That comes on top of nearly $10 million raised back in 2014.

Light blamed the delay on problems manufacturing the custom chip that powers the heavy computation that the L16 must do to create a single, high-quality image out of the data gathered from all the little camera modules.

A sample image shot with an L16 prototype
Light

The company is using the extra time to beef up the camera’s features a bit, doubling the amount of included memory to 256 gigabytes and expanding the wide end of the camera’s zoom range.

Delays have become commonplace for hardware startups, especially those whose launch is funded in whole or part by early backers. Delays need not equal a death knell, though.

Generally well-regarded Eero, for example, endured a number of delays before shipping its smart router earlier this year to largely positive reviews.

Some customers had already been told their cameras wouldn’t be ready until late this year, but the earliest customers were promised, months ago, that they would have them this summer.

The delay in shipping the L16 camera will also mean a similar delay for phones incorporating its technology. A phone built by Foxconn using a similar approach (but a smaller number of cameras and narrower zoom range) now won’t be out until at least the middle of next year.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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