A parallel Worlds

Sunday January 29 2012 / Science & Technology

Californian company Lytro have revolutionised the world of photography with their amazing light field camera.

Unlike conventional cameras, the Lytro light field camera captures all of the rays of light (angle/colour/intensity) in a scene, providing new photographic capabilities hitherto impossible – including the ability to focus a picture after it has been taken!

The terrific pocket-sized camera creates three-dimensional, interactive ‘living’ images that can be refocused as many times you wish thanks to a light field sensor that records a far richer set of data than any previous photographic instrument – in terms of colour, intensity and the direction of every light ray that flows into the camera – about 11 million of them.

To process all this additional information, the camera contains a light field ‘engine’ that allows users to refocus the images directly on the camera via an intuitive glass touchscreen.

And when the Lytro’s living pictures are shared online, this light field engine travels with each picture, so anyone can interact with them on virtually any device – web browsers, mobile phones or iPads – without having to download special software

The camera also offers a pretty powerful 8x optical zoom and f/2 lens – and you don’t need a degree to work out all its functions; it features just two buttons – power and shutter – that both activate instantly. It also performs well in low-light environments, so there is no need for a flash.

Another neat feature is the minimalist, rectangular design that, thanks to its anodised aluminum case, weighs in at approximately 225g/5lbs, making it an extremely light yet sturdy companion wherever you want to exercise your picture-taking skills.

Light field science was the subject of Lytro CEO and Founder Dr Ren Ng’s PhD dissertation in computer science at Stanford University, and was once only possible with 100 cameras tethered to a supercomputer in a lab.

This year Lytro plan to apply special light field algorithms to the pictures to enable viewing on any 3D display – where viewers will be able to shift the perspective of a scene. We can’t wait!

Interview with the inventors

And is the Lytro really any good as a camera? Well I'll let you know as I've just ordered mine!

For more information on the Lytro camera, please visit www.lytro.com/camera. And for a demonstration of the ‘living’ pictures, visit the Lytro Picture Gallery at www.lytro.com/living-pictures (click anywhere inside a photo and watch that section come into focus). 

Suggested by
Ian Skellern