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Lytro: The Camera That Lets You Shoot Now, Focus Later

22 Jun

Ever snapped a photo and only noticed it was out of focus after the fact? A new kind of camera from an ambitious startup could make such focusing mistakes obsolete. Able to take so-called “living photographs,” the Lytro camera captures images in such a way that viewers can change which part is in focus while viewing them.

“I am thrilled to finally draw back the curtain and introduce our new light-field camera company, one that will forever change how everyone takes and experiences pictures,” Lytro CEO Ren Ng wrote in a blog post. “Lytro’s company launch is truly the start of a picture revolution.”

The camera is based on light-field photography, a method of taking photos that captures much more information than regular photography. Regular digital cameras only record the sum total of light rays hitting the image sensor, according to the Lytro site, but the Lytro camera records the color, intensity, and vector direction of every individual ray. Not only does it result in images with flexible focus, but it also can create 3D images from a single lens.

The idea of light-field photography has been around for a long time, and has been used in professional circles for years (it’s the same method that created the groundbreaking wraparound special effects of The Matrix movies). Typically, such a setup requires multiple cameras and a lot of computing power to render the images, but Lytro says it has put the tech into a single camera that’s “portable and stylish” via sophisticated optics and algorithms.

The Lytro website posts a gallery of “living” photos to show off the light-field technology (you can see one of the pics below). With a simply click, viewers can re-focus the pictures on any part. The effect is impressive: a photo can take on entirely new meaning, depending on which part you focus on. For example, a picture of two cats looks like a simple close-up when focused on the one in the foreground, but zeroing in on the background cat almost implies an ominous threat.

When contacted about when the Lytro camera would be available, a company spokesman only said the camera would debut “at the end of the year.” There are no pricing details yet.

For more from Peter, follow him on Twitter @petepachal.

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Article source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2387422,00.asp

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