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October 20, 2011

Focus-after-shooting Lytro camera is here (almost).


Excerpts from Sam Grobart's New York Times October 19, 2011 Gadgetwise blog post about Lytro's revolutionary device follow.


Today, the start-up Lytro has unveiled a new kind of camera that makes a significant leap forward from where photography was yesterday

With Lytro's camera, you can focus on any point in an image taken with a Lytro after you’ve shot the picture.

When viewing a Lytro photograph on your computer, you can simply click your mouse on any point in the image and that area will come into focus. Change the focal point from the flower to the child holding the flower. Make the background blurry and the foreground clear. Do the opposite — you can change the focal point as many times as you like.

Lytro does this by capturing what is called "lightfield" data. The technology has existed in research facilities for more than a decade, but early lightfield cameras were the size of a wall unit in your den.

Lytro's camera fits in your hand.


By capturing the angle of light beams, all pictures shot with a Lytro camera are natively 3-D (you still need a 3-D display and glasses, but the information's already there). More importantly, the camera no longer has to focus because it’s capturing every focal point, which means there's no focus lag. The camera can respond almost instantly to a shutter-release button.

Images taken with a Lytro are saved in file sizes similar to regular photos, so you can e-mail and post them easily.

Furthermore, each file contains the viewer software, so friends who want to see your Lytro photos do not have to download a viewer or additional programs to see them.

The shape of the camera itself is also something new and different. The aluminum-and-rubber rectangular case is about four and half inches long and features a lens on one side and a touch screen (think iPod nano) on the other.

On top is a shutter-release button and a slider for the 8X optical zoom. On the bottom is a power button and a micro-USB port. That's it.

Photos taken with a Lytro can be stored, viewed and shared on a private account on lytro.com, which will be free.

One-touch links to social networks and e-mail are also featured.


The camera is powered by a lithium-ion battery.

The entire assembly weighs about half a pound.

Blue and gray models have 8GB of built-in storage (about 350 pictures) and cost $399.

A red model has 16GB of storage (about 750 pictures) and costs $499. The Lytro only works with Macs, but Windows software is in development.

Orders can be placed on lytro.com, but delivery will not take place until the beginning of 2012. 



Don't take Grobart's word for it: try out the technology for yourself here.

This camera brings to mind three things:

1. "Sentence first—verdict afterwards," from "Alice in Wonderland."

2. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law, first published in his 1961 book "Profiles of the Future."

3. The thought that this technology will be in phones within two years.

October 20, 2011 at 03:01 PM | Permalink


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It has a 35-270mm (135 equiv) F2 lens, so that's a good start.

I'm guessing it can be adjusted to higher F stops through the rear touch screen, so that would allow a greater depth of focus if needed.

My beef is that it's only at best 1 megapixel (some reports are that it could be just over half a megapixel). And it seems to have only 5 to 7 focus depths per photo.

As Nikon have recently shown with their new "1" line, they can take 60 10 megapixel photos in a second. Not much of a post-processing software stretch to have the camera assemble 10 photos in a 1/6th second "shot" to provide 10 TIMES (!) more resolution than the Lytro with even more focus depths. This will trickle down to $200 cameras in a year or two.

The Lytro would have been a great idea 7 years ago.

Who knows, it'll probably sell well to people that only post pics on facebook.

Posted by: Fred | Oct 22, 2011 6:18:46 AM

EEJ -- I think you are missing the point. The applet allows US to change the focus, but in practice, the photographer is going to be the one that does this before presentation...unless they just want to have fun and play with it.

My only complaint about the focus is that there isn't a way to bring some things in focus without taking others out...not a photographer but I like taking photos and I know there are some lenses that keep a lot more in focus than others. No extreme blur of the background while keeping the front sharp...sometimes you want something in-between where you can still get the subject highlighted without throwing everything else out. Probably a simple term for this, but I don't know!

Either way, I may have to find a reason to pick one of these up...

Posted by: clifyt | Oct 21, 2011 11:30:00 AM

I shudder to think how our government will use this technology.

Posted by: MsRadoo | Oct 21, 2011 9:52:50 AM

Mole Day: A lens truly worthy of extreme envy!


Posted by: Joe Peach | Oct 20, 2011 7:23:42 PM

speed of light,

I think that the images we see on the website constitue the image and some sort of viewer applet, not just the image. 22MB isn't exactly "easily emailable" by older standards, but is quickly becoming easy (unfortunately to those of us that run email servers/services where the data is retained on a server) to do with most clients.

Posted by: EEJ | Oct 20, 2011 5:52:27 PM

I spend a fair amount of time composing my photos. Back in the day I would print B&W photos so that the frame was visible and showed that I had not cropped a single thing. I don't always take a perfect photo - that's why I take 3 or 4 for every one that I actually use - and, it is possible that the Lytro will cut down on bracketing albeit, that that the depth of field of a photo is not the only variable; exposure and framing are crucial. Weegee's editor gave him great advice for a newspaper photojournalist: "be there and shoot at f/8".

This gadget will either be a portable 2d holograph device or hell on earth. At under $400 - it is well within my experimentation budget - and the photos appear to be about 22 Meg in file size - judging from the website. Either it will be a great tweaking tool or an OCD's nightmare.

What isn't in my budget, and dearly desired, is a Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M...

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Oct 20, 2011 5:39:27 PM

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