One of the hottest news items in the photography industry lately is an impending camera from Lytro, in which photographers can choose the focus point after the shot has been taken. Pretty ground breaking and thought provoking stuff. Just imagine not having to worry about whether your subject is in focus or not, taking care of it in post processing. Here’s a picture gallery showing what Lytro has been able to accomplish so far. It enables you to click on different parts of the image, choosing the focus point as you wish. Overall, it’s impressive but I’m not entirely sold on the look of the images.
The idea of this kind of camera is very interesting, but we have mixed feelings. If the technology develops to the point where you never need to focus your image, imagine what that takes out of the photographic process. Locking on a precise focus point is a big part of the challenge and experience of being a photographer. I know that I grapple with focus points all the time – it is core to the experience of shooting wide open with prime lenses, as I often do. However, removing the challenge of focus points would open a lot of creative avenues, enabling one to focus on composition, exposure, etc.
Although this technology is only aiming for the “point and shoot” mass market at first, we wonder if it will ever reach the pro level. Either way, Lytro is planning a release by the end of the year, 2011. Keep your eyes open for this exciting new release.
Here’s a video explaining the basics:
In a recent interview with dpreview, the founder and CEO, Ren Ng, explains how the camera works and what it means:
‘Light field photography creates a fundamentally different type of data. When we moved from film to digital it made all sorts of changes to what we could do with photographs, but we were still collecting essentially the same 2D data that we always had been…There are opportunities as an artistic process for people to experiment and be creative. The type of data is very resonant with that – you can create an image and invite the viewers to explore the picture. There are opportunities in terms of crafting and posing pictures in a way that gives a sense of discovery to the viewer. A sense of discovering a story for themselves.’
Like the founders of Google, Ren Ng is a PHD student at Stanford (who actually graduated), and is in the process of taking his dissertation from theory to the mass market. He seems to have assembled quite a team of engineers and scientists to bring the product to fruition. Here’s an interview with Ng from CNET TV:
More about Lytro:
How the Lytro Light-Field Camera Works from PCMag
Lytro: A Camera That Couldn’t Care Less About Focus from Mashable