A new company has taken 15 year of photographic research and compressed it into a 4-and-a-half-inch long rectangle.
The result is what Lytro is calling a light field camera that takes living pictures-images that can be refocused not through the camera, but on the computer after it was taken. Normal cameras take in light, add it all up and put it on a flat, static image to produce a photograph. But Lytro's light field sensor records the intensity, color and direction of light rays.
The concept is a little difficult to explain, but take a look at Lytro's online picture gallery to see the results. Though some areas of a photo may look blurry, all one has to do is click on a part of the photo and it will come into focus.
A spider in the foreground appeared fuzzy against the background of fallen red leaves. But after clicking on the center of the photo, crisp details emerged along with the spider's web suddenly appearing.
This kind of technology is nothing new. The concept has been around for about 15 years now. However, to create the effect researchers needed a roomful of camera tied to a supercomputer. It has taken that room full of camera and turned it into an array of micro-lens.
Much of the traditional cameras' internal workings are handled by the camera's software, which travels with each photo. The digital files are .ifp (light field picture files) allowing the click-to-focus interface. The photos can even be viewed in 3D.
The tiny camera is 1.6 by 1.6 by 4.41-inches of ultra-light anodized aluminum. It has a 1.46-inch touch screen at one end and the only buttons are a zoom slider and a shutter button on top. It measures resolution not in pixels, but in rays. This camera has a resolution of 11 megarays, which means it can capture up to 11 million light rays. It also has an 8 times zoom and an f/2 aperture lens.
Lytro.com has started taking preorders on the product, but they will not ship until sometime in 2012. They come in 8GB electric blue or graphite versions or a 16GB red model. The 8GB will hold about 350 pictures with the bigger version holding 750. The camera will come with a free desktop application for the PC and Mac. The 8GB model will cost $400 and the red version will cost $500.