by Dan Gibson
Click on the above photo somewhere. Watch as the focus changes. The forthcoming Lytro camera allows the user to shoot digital photos and then play around with the focal point of the image using computer software later. Worried that you're missing the point with what you're photographing? Just shoot stuff and work out the details later, which sounds like exactly the sort of camera I need.
From the New York Times:
Lytro’s founder and chief executive is Ren Ng, 31. His achievement, experts say, has been to take research projects of recent years — requiring perhaps 100 digital cameras lashed to a supercomputer — and squeeze that technology into a camera headed for the consumer market later this year.
Mr. Ng explained the concept in 2006 in his Ph.D. thesis at Stanford University, which won the worldwide competition for the best doctoral dissertation in computer science that year from the Association for Computing Machinery. Since then Mr. Ng has been trying to translate the idea into a product that can be brought to market — and building a team of people to do it.
The Lytro camera captures far more light data, from many angles, than is possible with a conventional camera. It accomplishes that with a special sensor called a microlens array, which puts the equivalent of many lenses into a small space. “That is the heart of the breakthrough,” said Pat Hanrahan, a Stanford professor, who was Mr. Ng’s thesis adviser but is not involved in Lytro.
But the wealth of raw light data comes to life only with sophisticated software that lets a viewer switch points of focus. This allows still photographs to be explored as never before. “They become interactive, living pictures,” Mr. Ng said. He thinks a popular use may be families and friends roaming through different perspectives on pictures of, say, vacations and parties posted on Facebook (Lytro will have a Facebook app).
For a photographer, whether amateur or professional, the Lytro technology means that the headaches of focusing a shot go away. Richard Koci Hernandez, a photojournalist, said that when he tried out a prototype earlier this year, he immediately recognized the potential impact.
“You just concentrate on the image and composition, but there’s no need to worry about focus anymore,” Mr. Hernandez said. “That’s something you do later.”