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Lytro light field camera could be the future of photography

By Damir Beciri
4 Comments24 June 2011

lytro-light-field-cameraLytro, Inc. is developing a light field camera that can capture all of the light rays in a scene in a way that offers new photographic capabilities, such as focusing a picture after it is taken. Lytro cameras will also create interactive, living pictures that can be endlessly focused and refocused by both the photographer and the viewer, bringing new creative possibilities to photography.

“This is the next big evolution of the camera”, said Dr. Ren Ng, CEO and founder of Lytro. “The move from film to digital was extraordinary and opened up picture taking to a much larger audience. Lytro is introducing Camera 3.0, a breakthrough that lets you nail your shot every time and never miss a moment. Now you can snap once and focus later to get the perfect picture.”

Light field science and computational photography have been extensively researched for more than a century in academic environments. Light field science was the subject of Dr. Ng’s PhD dissertation in computer science at Stanford, which was awarded the internationally-recognized ACM Dissertation Award in 2007. Dr. Ng’s research focused on miniaturizing a roomful of a hundred cameras plugged in to a supercomputer in a lab.

The light field fully defines how a scene appears, from the foreground to the background and everything in between. Unlike conventional cameras, which capture a scene in two dimensions, light field cameras can capture all of the light traveling in every direction through a scene in four dimensions.

Light field cameras capture fundamentally more powerful data than possible in regular photographs. To record this additional data, Lytro cameras feature a light field sensor that captures the color, intensity and direction of every light ray. Powerful software within the camera then processes the picture into a light field picture file that anyone can interact without usage of special software.

By using the full light field, Lytro cameras improve the 3D picture beyond the conventional stereo 3D by controlling the perspective view of a scene. Since the camera doesn’t focus before a photo is taken, people will no longer miss important moments due to the conventional delay of the lens auto-focusing which occurs after you press the shutter button. Light field technology combined with software enables everything to be in focus as well. Another advantage of this technology is the ability to capture better pictures in remarkably low light environments without the use of a flash.

The first Lytro camera will be available for purchase online later this year, and they haven’t announced even a rough estimate of the price. For more examples of living pictures, visit the Lytro Picture Gallery. For more detailed information about digital light field photography, you can read the full dissertation of Dr. Ren Ng named: ”Digital light field photography” (PDF).

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4 Comments — Leave your response!

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    Major advancement in photography.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

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    Article update

    Lytro began taking limited orders in the United States for two Lytro camera models, a $399 version capable of holding about 350 pictures and one priced at $499 offering twice the memory space. Lytro cameras with 8 gigabytes of storage were being offered in blue or graphite, while the higher priced model was red.

    Software tailored for Macintosh computers will use light data captured by the cameras to allow shifting of the points of focus in digital images. The company promised that a version for PC will be available later.

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    Article update

    Turns out that Lytro camera has a little wireless chip inside. The folks from Lytro recently enabled it with a software update which allows wireless uploading and sharing.

    Lytro Mobile app is available for iPhone, iPad or iPod touch device, where you can view and share light field pictures on the go. The app communicates with your Lytro camera, whose wireless capabilities can be activated with a free software update, and lets you preview those pictures or using either a cellular or Wi-Fi network to share those on Lytro.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

    If you don’t own a Lytro camera yet, you can still download the app to experience available living pictures on your iOS device, including refocusing pictures and checking out Perspective Shift.

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    I got one and it’s just awesome to play with. The image size is pretty large, but definitely worth it.

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