Forget Auto-Focus: Lytro Camera Focuses Photos after they are Snapped

By Talia Beechick

Some call the Lytro camera magic and others call it a waste of money. The basic battle between the Lytro camera and the regular digital camera boils down to one main distinction—Lytro’s Light Field camera enables users to focus and re-focus a picture after it has been taken.

Lytro Camera Captures Entire Light Field Allowing for Refocusing of Photos

Nvate Lytro camera light field camera by Ren Ng

Typical cameras capture a single plane of light when capturing a photo, according to Lytro, whereas their camera captures the entire light field using a new light field sensor. This sensor enables the camera to obtain the color, intensity and vector direction of all 11 million light rays traveling in every point in space. The Lytro website states that the light field fully defines how a scene appears, and typical digital cameras are only able to capture a fraction of that by adding up all the light rays and recording them as one amount of light. The Light Field camera, on the other hand, uses advanced algorithms and software to increase the speed of picture taking and improve photos taken in low-light.

“Traditional photography relies strictly on physical optics to focus objects either near or distant,” said Michael Krigsman, an information technology professional that contributes to the profession’s news website ZDNet. “Lytro adds a special sauce consisting of electronics and modifications to the digital sensor. This allows virtually the entire scene being photographed to remain in focus.”

Lytro has Two Camera Modes, Allowing for Photo-Taking Simplicity

Because users can focus after the picture has been taken, the Lytro website asserts that they no longer have to worry about the auto-focus motor causing shutter delay—the second you press the button, the photo is taken and that moment is captured. Krigsman praised the Lytro camera primarily for its simplicity because without auto-focus, unnecessary settings and even a flash option, there is virtually nothing to confuse the user. Krigsman did mention two modes on the camera called “creative” and “everyday.”

“Creative mode provides greater flexibility over the placement of focus in the photo,” Krigsman said. “It requires more skill but gives you more control as well. Most people should stick with everyday mode.”

Gizmodo contributor Adrian Covert also mentioned Lytro’s simplicity as a bonus in his review of the camera, yet maintains that the camera requires too much light for a stunning shot. “The amount of light this thing needs for truly beautiful shots is considerable,” said Covert. “Anything less and some part of the shot will end up hazy or grainy or lacking in detail.”

View Photos in 3-D

According to the Lytro website, Ren Ng founded Lytro after earning a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University. His dissertation focused on light field photography. Lytro first released their pocket-sized, Light Field camera to the public in October 2011 with its glass touchscreen, allowing users to view and re-focus images directly on the camera. It boasts an 8x optical zoom lens, a multi-touch screen, a strong aluminum skin and a weight of less than 8 ounces, according to the product’s website. The Light Field camera also has the capability to go 3-D.

Nvate Lytro camera light field camera by Ren Ng

From the Lytro website, this photo was taken by user hickabee.

That’s right, whip those glasses on. Because of its unique ability to capture the entire light field, Lytro has enabled users to switch seamlessly from a 2-D viewing experience to a 3-D one merely by using colored (anaglyph) glasses or a 3-D display. It also has fantastic sharing capabilities—users can share their masterpieces on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. In June, Lytro teamed up with Twitter to create “expanded tweets” so users can play with their photos directly on their Twitter feed, refocusing images while simultaneously social networking. Your friends can even interactively control the photo on nearly any device, including web browsers, mobile phones and tablets, without special software.

Is the Lytro Field Photography Camera Worth it?

On the Lytro website, the camera is available in an 8GB model in electric blue or graphite and stores 350 pictures. A 16GB model is available in red hot and stores 750 pictures. With a $399 price tag for the 8GB model and $499 for the 16GB, Krigsman recommends this product to “early adopters who want to experiment with the latest technology.” He also mentioned Lytro’s potential to change the game of photography entirely.

So far, available Lytro camera accessories include a $20 wall charger and a $20 tripod mount to keep the camera steady. The Lytro Desktop Application is available for Mac and, more recently, Windows users and is pre-loaded onto the camera.

With all of the camera’s features Krigsman does not recommend the camera to everyone. “For most users, I would not recommend the camera as it stands today. Ordinary point-and-shoot cameras offer greater flexibility, more features and higher resolution at a lower cost,” he said. Yet Covert seems to sing a different tune in his review. “If you’re at all into technology, photography, or both, get your hands on this thing and enjoy it.” So decide for yourself if you’d pay for what Lytro refers to their camera as, “the only camera that captures life in living pictures.”

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