Start-up camera maker Lytro promises that before the end of the year you will be taking pictures without worrying about pesky details such as focus, lighting, shutter speed and exposure. The company is pioneering a new kind of consumer camera that Lytro says can capture every ray of light within a camera's field of view. The technique is called "light field capture" which records various aspects of a light ray such as color, intensity, and direction. Regular cameras, Lytro says, merely record all the light rays without discerning the subtleties.
The result is that you can easily snap images and adjust them for focus and other attributes after the fact on your PC, according to Lytro. You can do things like switch the photo's point of focus from the foreground to the background, change the image's perspective and even switch the photo from a 2D to a 3D image.
Lytro is already giving us a taste of what's to come based on the photo gallery on its website. To get an idea of how a Lytro-snapped image can be adjusted click on the sample shot below to change the image's point of focus.
If that got you excited about Lytro's potential, here's a look at 5 of the coolest promises Lytro is making about its new cameras.
If you played with the image above, then you saw how an image taken with a Lytro camera will supposedly let you change the focus from a foreground object to a background one or vice versa. But based on the images in Lytro's photo gallery, it appears the technology limits how many different points of focus you can choose by setting up clickable regions on your photo. It's also not clear if Lytro can clean up an image that is fundamentally blurry (a bad photography technique that I have mastered).
No Shutter Lag
Lytro says you can turn on its camera and be ready to take a picture in less than one second. Promised instant-on functionality would mean you'd never have to wait for the camera to turn on and open the shutter before getting your shot. Lytro says its cameras substitute "software for many of the internal parts of regular cameras," but it's not clear which physical camera components have been left out.
Low Light Sensitivity
Because the camera can record the entire light field in its range of view, Lytro says its cameras can take a better picture in low-light situations without the use of a flash. That's an interesting claim, but I wouldn't take that one to the bank until a third-party reviews the camera. Looking at the photo gallery, the outdoor shots look pretty good, but the many of the indoor shots appear less sharp.
However, these are online photos and they likely have a reduced resolution to improve page load times. So it's hard to know how the online images would compare to full resolution Lytro shots sitting on your hard drive.
2D or 3D
Lytro says its cameras can create 3D images with a single lens. Presumably, because it captures the entire light field, the image includes enough information so that focused objects can easily pop out of the background. Instant 3D would be an interesting feature, but there's no word on what the resolution of these photos will be. So it's not clear how impressive a Lytro 3D image would look when displayed on your big screen 3D HDTV.
Lytro says its cameras are portable, but it's not clear if the device will be slim enough to just slip into your pocket or if it will require a bag. The first camera the company is launching will be of the point-and-shoot variety, according to The Wall Street Journal .
Lytro plans to release its first camera before the end of the year, but the company isn't talking yet about camera pricing or specific dates for availability. If you're interested, you can sign up for the company's mailing list for more information. While you're there make sure you play with the photo gallery to see Lytro's technology in action.