Lytro – Light Field Capture Camera: Adjustable Focus, After the Fact

June 23, 2011

Now here’s something that certainly sounds too good to be true: imagine a camera where you don’t ever have to worry about focusing.

Snap your picture and, after being digitally processed with some astonishing new software, have an image that you can click on to change the focus! That’s the promise of the new Lytro Light Field Capture Camera. Seriously, you’ve got to play with some of these pictures in their image gallery.

If I understand it and I’m not sure I do, the concept is that light is traveling from the scene you want to capture in all directions. In a normal photograph all this light is collapsed (or focused) on one plane and exposure and focus are set – unchangeable, irrevocably – at that instant.

Somehow – and here comes the tricky, proprietary, secret formula for Coca-Cola part – the folks at Lytro are able to capture all the wavelengths of light in one file. They do this by substituting software for many of the components of a traditional digital or film camera and in combination with a new type of light field sensor. This sensor is capable of recording the vector direction of all the rays of light in a given scene simultaneously. If that doesn’t clear it up, I’m sure the following illustrations will answer none of the questions you may have.

There’s an awful lot of information that isn’t on the Lytro site right now, like pricing, availability and specs (such as image resolution) on the new cameras. Also, whether or not these new picture files can be viewed on any digital device across all platforms. Still, this does sound interesting.

Will it be a short-lived gimmick or a new era in photography? A toy or a tool? Threat or Menace? Who can say. Me, I thought the development of the Foveon sensor was going to change digital photography forever. But we’ll be watching this one. . .


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