Thursday, March 01, 2012

What is Lytro?

One of the hotter social network topics at the moment is Lytro, which is a camera that takes in a lot more information than what we now call a photo. I like the concept and think there is enormous potential in the approach and the technology but I do share trey ratcliff’s  google+ opinion post that the user click to focus feature is just a little banal and twee.

So lets begin with what it is? Lytro is basically a zoom lens on a single aperture camera (its a wide aperture equivalent to F2 so it takes in a lot of light). The sensor is an array of sensors that can all record the vector of the light (angle at which it has left the subject and arrived at the sensor). Most other parts of a cameras hardware are replaced by smart software then prepares an image as a light field (Lyrto’'s term), actually it seems to be 9 versions of the image.This is in effect a new format of digital negative that can be further processed at viewing time, either in the camera or on a computer. It is a representation that is much more 3D than a current 2D photo we are used to.

Check out the Cnet first look video on You tube for a “Gee Whiz” style review.

If you want to play with the click to focus feature have a look at the light field picture of the spider above some autumn leaves, on the Lytro photo gallery. Just click on the part of the picture you want to see in focus. It is pretty amazing.

Does this mean you will never have to focus again? I DOUBT IT.
Does this mean we will soon be able to do some amazing things that being photos to life, in a much more 3D way? I suggest YES
So what will drive this technology forward? Putting it on MOBILE PHONES! I do not think specialist hardware will get enough users into the technology. It is firstly the zoom lens that phones can’t or don’t do at the moment, plenty have limited aperture infinite focus lens and there is plenty of computer power on some models. After that it is licencing the technology and getting the light field sensor into the phones form factor.

I look forward to watching developments in this area. I probably wont be buying the camera right now, I still get joy focussing my camera on my subject.
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