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Lytro camera adds perspective shift, interactive filters

Lytro--the innovative, tube-shaped, shoot-now-focus-later camera--has pumped up its feature set yet again.

The camera's developers have added a "Perspective Shift" feature, which allows a photographer to change the perspective of a shot after capturing it with Lytro, as well as a new set of interactive "Living Filters."

With Perspective Shift, a picture shot by Lytro can be transformed into a living image that can be manipulated in any direction--left, right, up, or down--by a viewer of the pic. What's more, the effect will work on Twitter and Facebook without any special software. The effect can even be applied to any Lytro photo taken before the introduction of the new feature.

Several examples of Perspective Shift photos have been posted to the Lytro website and the effect is underwhelming. Dragging a cursor over the photo has very little effect on it. Some of Sony's Cyber-shot cameras have had a similar feature, called Sweep Multi-Angle, for a few years.

Lytro has also added nine Living Filters to its software. The filters--which include Film Noir, Crayon, and Carnival--are interactive.

In other words, when you attach a filter to a Lytro photo, you can apply it selectively to an image. Click on a foreground object, for example, and the filter will be applied to the background. Click on the background in a photo and the filter will be applied to the foreground object. Living Filters can also be applied to any Lytro photo taken before the introduction of the new feature via Lytro's desktop software.

Other recent enhancements

These latest additions to Lytro, which will be pushed to the camera's software as a free upgrade December 4, follow on the heels of the introduction of manual controls via a free Lytro firmware update--shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, a neutral density filter, and auto exposure lock--for the unit.

When the Lytro was introduced in October 2011, its software only ran on Macintosh computers; last summer it added support for Microsoft Windows.

That move was followed in the fall by an announcement that Lytro would be expanding its distribution channels to large bricks and mortar chains Target and Best Buy, and to online mega-retailer Amazon. At the same time it announced plans for expansion into international markets in Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Lytro uses "light field" technology to perform its focusing magic. The tech allows the camera to capture much more information about a scene than is grabbed by a conventional digital camera. While those conventional cameras create photos from the sum total of light rays striking each point in an image, Lytro captures the color, intensity, and direction of all the rays of light flowing into the camera.

As revolutionary as Lytro is, it's considered by photographers and industry observers to be a niche product with limited appeal to the general photo-shooting public.

Lytro is sold in a variety of colors. A 16GB model costs $499 and an 8GB version, $399.

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