It has been a while since the camera industry has seen an invention that can dramatically change the way images are delivered. So the Lytro Light Field Camera, priced at $399 for an 8GB version (which can capture 350 pictures) and $499 for a 16GB version (750 pictures), is turning heads.
And not just because of its spare, rectangular shape.
The Lytro is the first camera to measure the amount of color and light hitting its sensor, and the directions the signals are coming from, explains The Verge. By collecting all of the light in the area and essentially measuring and translating the intensity level of each ray, the camera can later manipulate the data for a variety of uses. As a result, the camera can focus different portions of a photo image after the photo is taken, capturing all of the objects and surfaces in the image just as the human eye would see them.
The technology is based on plenoptic cameras, which Lytro’s founders helped research back in the early 1990s. Plenoptic cameras used multiple micro lenses coupled with a sensor to capture light simultaneously from a variety of different perspectives.
According to Robert Scoble, a blogger who has taken photos with the camera, the Lytro still has lots of quality issues to overcome before consumers give up their digital cameras or smartphones. Besides the shape, which affects how you carry the camera, the Lytro doesn’t produce good pictures in low light, largely because it has no flash, and has no capacity to add a flash. The camera also doesn’t produce sharp pictures, so pictures that are printed or blown up may not be worth using. Scoble also noted that the pictures have to be imported into a computer and processed before they can be viewed, but only after the photographer selects a focus point.
Lytro’s CEO, Ren Ng, promised to introduce software updates that unlock additional features, including 3D viewing of existing light field shots. Whether that will be enough to quiet critics regarding the Lytro’s shortcomings is uncertain. But in the context of the camera industry, Lytro has introduced major innovations, and that makes the camera and its creators worth keeping an eye on.