The Lytro is here, and my company has one! I’ve been playing around with it for the last few days, and I must admit it’s an interesting toy.
In case you’ve been living under a photography rock, the Lytro is a whole new concept in taking pictures. Instead of capturing a 2-D plane of light, the Lytro captures “the light field” (I think combining a light field, a black hole, and a popsicle stick is how you make a lightsaber, so this is pretty advanced stuff!). This allows it to capture 3D images, the end result of which is that you can choose your focus point after snapping the picture rather than before.
It’s easier to just show you. Click on the photo below to play with the focus.
There, you see what I mean? Isn’t that cool?
The stylings of the Lytro, its interface, and even the box it’s packed in are very reminiscent of Apple (steal from the best!). The unique shape of the camera is key to making people see it as something truly new. If it looked like any other point-and-shoot, I don’t think this would get nearly as much attention. Unfortunately, that shape is a bit awkward both for shooting and for carrying around.
The camera’s interface is quite simple, offering just a few buttons and a touch screen. Sadly, the screen is much too small, meaning you have to download the images to your computer before you can enjoy them. Zoom is controlled by rubbing your finger along a ridge on top of the device. Unfortunately, the zoom control is located right where I naturally want to put my finger, resulting in a lot of accidental zooms.
So, what do you do with the Lytro? I see three options:
- Take normal pictures, knowing that you can be sloppy and fix the focus later. The workflow would be to shoot, focus, then save to JPG and do whatever you normally do with JPGs.
- Take creative depth-of-field pictures, and share them like I’ve done above. You have to be creative because it’s difficult to put something of interest in both the foreground and background.
- Convert the images to full 3-D. Yes, this is possible, though I don’t have the glasses or 3-D display to confirm this.
The biggest limiting factor right now is the image quality. Like early digital cameras, the resolution and clarity just aren’t there yet. Click Luckie’s butt to see a full-res JPG export. It’s 1080×1080 (the equivalent of only a 4”x4” print), and you can see that the image is very noisy.
That being said, the Lytro is a fun toy and another creative tool for people to play with. The technology has a lot of potential, and I’m sure we’ll see this advance quickly.
Though professional photographers may despise it (“Oh great, let’s take even more skill out of shooting!”), the light field camera is the (still somewhat distant) future of photography.