Luxi For All turns your smartphone into a super convenient light meter that allows you to achieve perfectly exposed photos without a hitch. Jarrod Whaley, Operations Manager at Extrasensory Devices, the company behind Luxi, talks about this smart little tool in this exclusive interview.
Hi Jarrod. Please introduce yourself to the readers of Lomography Magazine.
I’m the Operations Manager at Extrasensory Devices, the makers of Luxi For All. I’m also a filmmaker, and generally a geek. I live by the beach.
Tell us more about Luxi For All — what is it exactly and how did it all start?
Luxi For All is a small device which clips onto your smartphone and turns it into an incident light meter. The hardware places a diffusion dome over the front-facing camera on your mobile device, and then an app both processes the light data and serves as a user interface. Luxi measures the light striking your photographic subject and then suggests the optimal exposure settings you’ll want to use in your camera to perfectly expose your photo.
Until Luxi, light meters were very expensive devices, often costing upwards of $200. We saw an opportunity to empower students and amateur photographers to learn about light metering at a much lower price point—just $30—by making use of a device they’re already carrying: a smartphone.
What’s the difference between Luxi For All and common light meters that are built into cameras?
Built-in camera meters are reflective (or “spot”) meters, which means that they read the camera sensor’s exposure at a given spot in the image and then provide data about that spot’s brightness, suggesting exposure changes in the process. Luxi For All is an incident light meter, meaning that it can measure the actual light striking the entirety of your scene. Incident meters provide better exposure settings because all of your scene is taken into account, rather than just one spot.
Talk a little bit about the Luxi App. How does it work and what was the process of designing it like?
Light meters can be used in many different contexts, including photography, cinematography, lighting design, science, and engineering. Because our original idea was to lower the barriers to light metering for students and new photographers, we decided to create software that would be easy to understand, with a set of features tailored to the needs of photographers. We didn’t want to add features like footcandle readings, data logging, or frame rate settings, because those features aren’t useful for our core customer base. We just didn’t want to confuse our users with a lot of needless complexity, so we really tried to zero in on what was necessary. While our own app is targeted at photographers, we have worked closely with developers of third-party applications to bring other sorts of functionality to users with more specific needs. We provide our Luxi algorithm to third-party developers, and so there are apps available for cinematographers, for lighting designers, and so on—and these apps work perfectly with the Luxi hardware.
Luxi For All is useful for both digital and film photography, but especially handy for those who still shoot film. What’s your experience with analog photography like?
I’m personally more of a video guy than a still photographer, and movie film has been prohibitively expensive for many, many years. I have played around with pinhole cameras a bit, and I have to say that a good light meter is indispensable in that context!
With the Luxi For All being your second successful crowdfunding project, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered during these campaigns?
The hardest part is launching these campaigns and not knowing exactly when you’ll be able to deliver. Manufacturing is very tricky, and there really is no way to know exactly when you’ll be able to ship. In the end, things always end up taking longer than you’d thought, and we hate to disappoint our backers with a long wait. We’re trying to get our next product a little further along in the pipeline before we launch the campaign, because we want to shorten that frustrating waiting period as much as possible.
Luxi For All is incredibly effective — its accuracy is excellent, and the results are comparable to much higher-priced standalone light meters plus it’s small, light and portable. How do you analyze the success of your projects so far?
On the one hand, we’re building a business that can remain strong for years to come, which is certainly one way of measuring success. At the end of the day, though, we just really have fun making cool stuff that helps people tap into their creativity and make cool things of their own.
What’s next for Luxi?
Well, some of that is a secret. Mainly, we want to continue refining the software to make it even better while working to make Luxi available to more and more people. We want every photographer to have a Luxi.
To get perfect exposure settings, visit our Online Shop to order your very own Luxi for All light meter.