It has been a long time since something has come out to revolutionize the camera industry, many feel that the new Lytro camera does just that. After nearly 20 years of development, the light field camera is now available commercially. It is referred to as a light field camera since it captures all the light travelling in every direction at any given moment in time, including all the color and intensity of that light. This is done with an eleven “megaray” sensor that is coupled to a 8x optical zoom, constant f/2 lens. With the information that the sensor collects and using the proprietary software it is possible to focus and re-focus anywhere in the picture after it has been taken. The Lytro website shows off some great examples of this capability, that you can try out yourself.
The design is quite minimalist, it actually looks like an old fashioned rectangular kaleidoscope. It is measures 41 mm x 41 mm by 112 mm long and weighs a mere 214 gm. The unit has a 33 mm square back-lit touch screen LCD display on which you can view your creations. Since you don’t have to worry about focus, the only controls necessary are exposure time, zoom and the botton that snaps the picture. It is available in three different colors and two different memory sizes, 8 GB and 16 GB that will allow for storage of 350 and 750 photographs respectively. The software that is needed to post process the photographs is only built for Mac OS 10.6.6 or higher, the company promises that a Windows version is in development.
Early reviews are a bit luke warm on the device as it does not perform well in low light situations or in complex outdoor scenes. As well, due to the sensor, the resolution of the photographs is quite low, only good enough for 5×7 prints. It must be remembered though that this a first version that will improve with time. Given the huge potential in this technology it will not be surprising to see it incorporated in future versions of DSLR’s or smartphones. An outcome, the company is no doubt betting on for its future.
If you are interested in purchasing this device, head on over to the Lytro website. The 16 GB model costs $499 while the 8 GB model is $399.