Back in June, a Californian start-up company assured us that its new camera would revolutionise the photography world.
Now Lytro, founded by Ren Ng, is puttin its money where is mouth is and backing up these claims by launching the world’s first light field consumer camera, which is now available to order and will ship in early 2012.
The Lytro camera is available in two configurations with the 8GB model storing up to 350 pictures and costing $399, while the the 16GB model will allow for storage of 750 pictures at a cost of $499. The camera will be available in blue, graphite or red.
Regular digital cameras require you to manually focus first or wait for auto-focus to kick in before capturing a snapshot of light on the sensor. The new light field camera from Lytro however, captures far more light data (including colour and intensity) from many angles using a micro lens array, which basically puts many lenses in the space between the main lens and the image sensor.
These microlenses measure the amount of light coming in and from which direction thus creating a light field. The real breakthrough Ng has achieved is to have condensed what was previously being done with an array of 100s of digital cameras and a supercomputer into a point-and-shoot camera. This was what Ng wrote his dissertation on as a PhD student at Stanford University eight years ago.
To process the information, the Lytro camera contains a light field engine that allows camera owners to refocus pictures directly on the camera. When the Lytro’s living pictures are shared online, the light field engine travels with each picture so anyone can interact with them.
This can be done on nearly any device, including web browsers, mobile phones, and tablets – without having to download special software. So get ready to see these "living pictures" clogging up your Facebook feed sometime in early 2012.
The new camera is certainly unique-looking and has been designed to eliminate as many dials as possible. It has just two buttons – power and shutter – and has a glass touchscreen allowing for framing pictures as well as re-focusing directly on the camera.
Strangely the shutter button turns the camera on anyway, so it seems as if the power button may be soemwhat redundant. It is encased in anodised aluminium and weighs less than 225g
The Lytro has a 8x optical zoom lens with a nice and bright constant f/2 aperture. Lytro claims this camera will “never miss a moment” thanks to the camera turning on instantly and of course with the need to auto-focus eliminated, it has no shutter delay.
The Lytro camera has a resolution of 11 megarays, meaning that the camera's sensor is capable of capturing the data for 11 million rays of light per picture. The battery is set to last for two week according to Lytro.
Lytro also claims that low light performance is good despite the absence of a flash thanks to the camera using all the available light in a scene.
“Light field photography was once only possible with 100 cameras tethered to a supercomputer in a lab,” said Ng. “Today it’s accessible to everyone in a camera that’s small and powerful, but incredibly easy to use. Our goal is to forever change the way people take and experience pictures, and today marks our first major step.”
The Lytro desktop application will be available initially for the Mac operating system; a Windows version will be available in 2012. Lytro is promising updates software in 2012 which will allow you to view the inherently 3D images on any 3D display.
The resolution of the pictures taken with these pictures may pale in comparison to most compact digital cameras, and the price may be a lot more expensive than those same cameras but just for sheer innovation, the Lytro camera may just be a worth the investment.
Let us know what you think in the comments.