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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Future of Photography?

Just before the holiday break, my friend Kyle told me about a new concept in cameras: the Lytro light field camera. Up until now, cameras have always focussed to a particular depth of field, but the Lytro uses new technology to capture "the entire light field, which is all the light traveling in every direction in every point in space," according to the company's website. In practical terms, this means, so the claim goes, that you can quickly whip out the camera, take a shot without the traditional delay to focus, and focus afterward - on any point in the frame. You can view some examples here; click on the portion of the image you want in focus.

I do wonder if there's a way to put the entire frame in focus, and how one goes about selecting their favourite version of each image - i.e., can you manipulate the photo and then save your preferred version as an ordinary .jpg? The website doesn't say. So far it seems as though the Lytro file format is meant for online sharing rather than archiving in your personal collection.

I've yet to see one of these cameras in action, and because of the questions above I'm certainly not going to buy one sight unseen, but I'd sure love a chance to play with one. At first glance, this looks like an important development.


JodyM said...

That is just so cool.

"Jeffely Among Us" said...

I think good old fashioned photography will still be around for a while. Maybe buy Rick Deckard's camera rig in 2019, that's not far away.

Wikipedia has an entry on the Lytro, and plenoptic photography has been around for a while. It's only now that we have decent processing speed available to the home user that makes light field photography commercially viable.

Even so, the Lytro is only capable of photos in a 1080x1080 pixel resolution. That means a photograph of 1 3/4 inches square at 600 dpi print resolution, the very bottom of laserprint resolution. Yay, a multidemensional postage stamp. The photos on the website are as big as they are going to get, because they are at screen resolution. Everything looks good in screen resolution! Not so much when coverted to a lossy .jpg.

Then there's the issue of lenses: telephoto, wide angle, et. al. The Lytro is a self-contained box. You can take the pictures you see, but you won't get the pictures you don't see, the ones you can achieve through playing with f-stops, apertures, and the Ansell Adams-style of laborious light metering. The pictures that elevate photography to an art rather than the result of a lucky button press.

I also don't see anything that shows photography in low light, which you'd figure a plenoptic camera would be able to handle. I would dearly love a camera that accepted light the same way the human eye does.

Maybe in the future we'll see Deckard's photos, but for now, I don't see the Lytro replacing anybody's Leica.

Interesting find, though, Earl.

CuJoYYC said...

It's the first commercially available camera of it's type (though not available outside of the US at launch). These things take time to develop (pun intended) but the issue about print resolution versus screen resolution is moot. I suspect the vision is to view these images almost exclusively in the digital realm.

"Jeffely Among Us (a)" said...

If I were to choose a toy camera for millionaires to play with, my choice would be the Gigapixl (that's the spelling). I think the current Gigapixl can take images up to 4 billion pixels, which is four times better than the first Gigapixl, 500 times larger than what my own camera can do, and what? at least 400,000 times better than the performance of the Lytro. The Gigapixl, to my mind, has more than enough power to focus resolution upon any blurry issues rendered by Lytro use, pun intended.

Not that I can afford either one, there's the true moot point.