facebook rss twitter

Lytro light-field camera - a forward step for photography

by Alistair Lowe on 21 October 2011, 09:25

Tags: Canon (TYO:7751)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qa7q7

Add to My Vault: x

Lytro has announced the world’s first affordable, portable, infinite-focus camera.

Lytro Light Field Camera

This new device enables users to take photos instantly, without the delay of an auto-focus, and actually adjusts the focus of an image after a shot has been taken.

The technology works by capturing light-fields that contain not only the intensity, as with a normal camera, but also the direction of light-rays. This feat is made possible through the use of advanced processing, dubbed ‘Light Field Engine 1.0’ and a micro-lens array placed directly on a standard image sensor.

Lytro Cross-Section

The technology for this isn’t new; it was first trialled over 15 years ago in lab conditions. At that time it required a supercomputer and several cameras. Lytro has been able compress this technology into a handheld 41mm x 41mm x 112 mm cuboid object.

The device itself features a large f/2 aperture lens for wide-angle shots that remains constant over the available 8x optical zoom. The sensor is able to capture 11-million light-rays, which, presumptively, requires far more storage than equivalent 11-megapixel cameras. We suspect that the effective pixel-count will be lower, though details are currently unavailable. The  large aperture will likely allow for impressive low-light performance, important as the device does not include a flash.

Found at the opposing end of the cuboid is a 1.46in backlit LCD touchscreen display. There is a top-mounted zoom slider along with shutter and power buttons. Exposure is controlled by tapping the touchscreen. The device is connected to a PC via micro-USB, which is also used to charge an internal lithium-ion battery.

Hand Camera LCD

The camera has also been shown to be capable of generating 2.5D images, similar to looking at a pop-art book. In the same way NVIDIA is able to create a pseudo-stereoscopic experience in older games from depth information, Lytro can use the information gleamed from capturing individual light-rays to reconstruct depth within a shot. We use the word pseudo as the generated footage lacks the perspective of capturing light from multiple angles.

The Light-Field Camera is certainly impressive and a step forward for photography. We’ll have to wait for more hands-on information before passing judgement on this particular piece of hardware, but with likely year-on-year improvements, this technology could have a significant role to play in the future of the photography and, perhaps, film industries.

The device is already available for pre-order in the US, scheduled for release early 2012 with prices at $499 or $399 for a 16GB 750 picture model and 8GB 350 picture model, respectively.

Not convinced? Try it out for yourself:

HEXUS Forums :: 6 Comments

Login with Forum Account

Don't have an account? Register today!
Wow that's awesome. Was discussing this with a friend recently, my issue with 3D media is that it forces your depth of field so it feels unnatural, impossible to avoid with traditional cameras, but possible with cgi. Of course good luck to the production teams as you can hide a lot out of focus :P
Looking forward to the tech that comes out for it.

Plus forcing the depth of field directs you to focus on what they want you to focus on.

I'm not sure I fully understand the concept behind this, but never mind :(
you can also change depth of field in post processing too, i'm on the waiting list, not sure if I will though.
Very interesting concept, though I don't think it's a step forward, just a side step. I read elsewhere that you'll only be able to play around with your photos on their site? Would be nice if they included software for it, though they probably will release some if this hits off.
I'm surprised by the muted responses to this. As a rank amateur photographer who enjoys mucking about with camera settings, I'm very interested by this story - the technology looks awesome, and has some potentially ground-breaking implications if the same tech can be used elsewhere in the science sector. Certainly got my professional side thinking here. Cool stuff.