One Small Camera for Man, One Giant Leap for Camera-Kind

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The next evolution of digital camera has arrived! A camera with no boundaries, called Lytro, is incredibly easy to use and changing the way we see the world.

How  does one describe change? Is it by the lives that are affected by it? Is it by the ways that things are done? Is it by the equipment that affected the change? While all of these may be true, let us examine how equipment can affect change in the world, especially that of technology. One such piece of equipment is the Lytro Light Field Imaging Camera, truly a marvel of modern engineering. The Lytro uses old and new technology in a fresh and innovative way, showing that with a little ingenuity one can provide a platform for a new direction in an industry.

It is fairly common knowledge that all cameras up until now have been single focus; in fact the idea of having multiple focus points was a matter of having multiple camera's trained at the same object. With a regular camera, the light is let in through a shutter for a brief moment and burned onto a sensitive piece of film or photo sensor. This and the subsequent processing in the case of a digital camera all happen in the space of a second or two. The image must be focused ahead of time and cannot be refocused later. Images had to be composed of a good quality situation in order to turn out to be good pictures. Because of this delay, many good images were lost or merely passed on for the sake of other images, the technology just wasn't there. That is all about to change, however.

The Lytro LFI Camera uses common lens technology in an uncommon way. While at first glance it may seem like it only has one large lens on the front of the long rectangular body, on the inside the case is different. The current Lytro has a ring of 11 smaller lenses that are positioned just behind the main lens and each of these lenses has a photo sensor of its own providing data for 11 different focuses or "Light Fields." Instead of having a shutter the lens is always open, this means that the light sensors are always receiving data when the camera is on and only store it when you press the image capture button. The time it would have taken to operate the mechanical shutter is removed entirely and the whole process of shooting takes but a split-second.

With the addition of the 11 extra lenses one also achieves another effect: post-capture focus. This revolutionary new feature actually allows you to, through the software provided with the camera; refocus an indefinite number of times. You can choose any part of the image to focus on, background, foreground, middle ground, really any part of the camera is fair game. This is made possible by the special Light Field Engine that Lytro engineered to capture this data. It compiles and combines the data from the 11 lenses into one file so that any focus can be achieved. Another extraordinary benefit of this new type of image processing is there is little need to spend lengthy time composing a shot. Gone are the days when you had to set your camera up, ensure proper lighting and focus and then take your shot, with this new technology one can simply shoot a picture, or several, and wait till later to adjust the final composition. This means that the kind of moments that were previously lost to the ravages of time can be captured in an instant and kept forever in a "living" format.

This is just the beginning of a revolution, a light imaging revolution which has infinite possibilities. Society might be using these for law enforcement, sporting events, landscapes, you name it. This technology will change the face of photography the world over, and while there may still be those who believe in the old ways, it is my opinion that this technology will overtake all other cameras in the popular and even the professional markets.

Written by Brad Steward, AV Support Technician

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Lytro pictures are interactive - Follow this link to try it out!

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Brad Steward, AV Support Technician and author of this article.