Lytro Is the Camera That Lets You Focus After the Fact

January 12, 2012

To explain why, precisely, the Lytro camera is worth 400 of your hard earned dollars, we have to delve into some science first:

Your typical camera captures all the light coming from one direction. But light doesn't come off of an object in just one direction; it bounces everywhere. This is called the "light field." The camera you own now can't capture that. Actually, until the Lytro, it took a supercomputer wired to a bunch of cameras to capture the light field.

The Lytro, showcased here at CES, can capture that light field via software. And this is where it gets wacky.

First of all, capturing the light field means you don't have to worry about focus: you can literally just focus your picture after the fact. Or you could, say, post a digital picture on your Facebook that lets people move a focus slider back and forth to find the things they want to focus on. And the effect is scalable; you could crop the photo and still have the effect.

Second, it also eliminates what photogs call "shutter delay." Know how, when you take a photo with your cell phone, it takes a moment to grab the image? That's shutter delay. This is literally point and click photography.
Lastly, you could build three dimensional images out of the two dimensional image taken by the Lytro. Or you could move to the other side of the room and see the picture from there. No one's really played with this extensively yet, but the Lytro should be able to provide the information necessary for it.

Yeah, we'd say that's worth the money. ...Anyone got 400 hundred bucks?