Lytro begins shipping Light Field Camera—just an expensive toy?

Lytro begins shipping Light Field Camera—just an expensive toy?

Summary: Lytro aims to redefine digital photography with its Light Field Camera, which lets you focus images after you snap your shots.

TOPICS: Hardware

Lytro Light Field Camera image courtesy of Lytro

Lytro Light Field Camera image courtesy of Lytro

I'm still waiting to be proved wrong about the Lytro Light Field Camera that is generating so much buzz for a third time—first in June 2011, when Silicon Valley start-up Lytro announced development of an innovative light-field camera, and again in October when the actual product was revealed, and now that the camera has begun shipping.  Don't get me wrong. I'm totally excited by the idea of the camera—both the feel-good Lytro backstory and the potentially revolutionary technology. I mean, what's not to like about a cutting-edge imaging technology that captures the entire light field of a scene, recording color, light intensity, and vector direction of every ray of light so that you can focus and refocus on different parts of a photo after the shot has already been taken? Just take a look at the photos in this gallery to get a taste of why everyone from Walt Mossberg to my father-in-law is sitting up and taking notice.

My skepticism lies in the fact that at four or five hundred bucks a pop, the current incarnation still feels too much like an expensive gee-whiz toy (like you'd buy from Hammacher Schlemmer). I don't see the real utility of the current camera especially in comparison to the high-end point-and-shoots, interchangeable lens compacts, or even dSLRs you can buy for the money. Sure it's fun to click back and forth between foreground and background subjects in an image and watch as they magically come into focus. But after a while, that gets a bit old, and the limitations of printing and even sharing the images—you need a (Mac-only) desktop app to process and then have to upload to before sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc.—in the current incarnation of the camera start to set in.

So I'm waiting for Lytro 2.0 before I start hooting and hollering. But, hey, I'd be happy to be proved wrong.


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Topic: Hardware

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  • great idea, poor execution

    From the specs:

    Light Field Resolution - 11 Megarays: the number of light rays captured by the light field sensor.

    What does that even mean? Also, Mac OS only? Can you focus at a certain point and save it as a normal jpg?

    Internal non-replaceable battery?? fail.
    No upgradable storage slot?? fail.

    Who designed these things? Apple?
    • poor egonomics

      Shape: fail
  • Just a toy

    I looked at the pictures they have on thier website, is it just me or do the pictures make your eyes hurt? Also, the pictures are no where near the quality of pictures taked with a good (Canon 7D for example) camera.
    You are right, gets old fast.
    Muskie Mike
  • Removed

  • A first step

    Step back in time and remember the first digital cameras and how horrible the image was from those. Shoot, I have a digital photo of my wife and I back in 1976. It was shot with some sort of digital camera then printed on green bar (remember that?) paper using ASCII characters. Anyway, this is more like a proof of concept. The first camera will be the equivalent of the Apple Newton. In time this technology will be available in more capable cameras and maybe someday in all digital cameras, cell phones, magic glasses, etc.
  • Focus bracketing

    For still subjects you can use focus bracketing: several shots focused at different distances, and a program like PicoLay to combine the sharpest layers into a single picture or a moving 3D GIF.
    CHDK, and add-in to Canon Powershot cameras, allows even inexpensive cameras to shoot those bracketed layers automatically.
    Granted, the Lytro camera takes all the scene in a single exposure. Bracketing with my Canon doesn't allow for moving scenes that would change between exposures.
    It's an interesting gimmick. It might be useful for something.
  • Definitely a "NO" for me this time around.

    Not just the cost but the fact that you have to bow to the Almighty Fruit to process images from it? No Thanks!