January 12, 2012

Lytro Light Field Camera

NOTE: to see a demo check out the image below -

Here you go ladies and gents. This is the first Lytro Light Field Camera. I got my hands on one yesterday and all I can say is that if you can open your mind, and think in new ways, you’ll see that there is amazing potential in this device. We’re a few years away from the technology reaching a point where most heavy duty enthusiasts will think of this as a “pro” camera but to ignore it until then might be a mistake. And for those who worry about the photographer being replaced by the light field’s ability to focus in post – forget it. The photographer will need to be more skilled than ever to get the best images.

Seriously – unless you’ve touched one of these cameras or at least seen a live demo of the results, forget everything that you think you know about it. I had to. I was off base until I actually touched it. And if your questions are: “How is the low-light performance?” or “What is the file size/resolution?” then you are missing the point. The first generation Lytro is more about introducing the technology than it is delivering professional-quality images. So the first thing to know is that generation one is a consumer camera. It’s not aimed at the serious enthusiast or professional market. That doesn’t mean that those markets won’t want one. But it’s not the target.

The company is smart about the way it’s launching the camera. It’s almost a proof of concept launch in many ways. There are capabilities that won’t initially be unlocked. This will give people time to get used to the basics. As the tech matures, the images will be able to do more and more things without you as the photographer having to do much of anything.

The camera is a low-resolution device. It will make nice 5×7″ prints. The real showplace for the camera’s images is online. Lytro wants you to have an interactive experience. They essentially want to throw out all the rules and start over. I am excited by that decision.

I’ve said for years that there’s no reason for digital cameras to look like film cameras. Lytro agrees. And the traditional print is possible from this camera, but what’s mind blowing is when you upload the pictures to let’s say Facebook, they become interactive. You may see the shot default at a focus point where you want emphasis, but the users who see the image on Facebook can change that in real time. You actually reveal parts of the image one at a time. It changes everything and like I said, it hurts my brain – but in a good way.

The camera requires you to think very differently about images. Making sure that something is OUT OF FOCUS is the goal of using a light field camera. It’s as counterintuitive as can be. If there’s nothing out of focus, the post-processing software can’t do it’s job. To that end, the camera ships with a fixed aperture of f/2. Something will usually be out of focus. It has a digital zoom that you simply roll your fingers across the top of the camera to operate. There are only two buttons. It’s all very intuitive. It makes much less sense to read about than to use.

What’s NOT intuitive is thinking about images in a whole new way. Those of you who have experimented with or experienced 3D video or photography will have an easier time of adopting this technology. You have to think more about near and far than you would think about plane of focus.

I don’t have enough experience with the camera to do a review or even show you samples, but I should have that next month – before the camera ships, which is sometime in March if all goes well. What’s exciting about this is that it will just be the beginning. For people who are just looking for a short-term answer to their photographic needs, they will probably keep looking. For those who understand that the future of imagery is limitless, this camera will excite those people beyond belief.

Whether or not the market will adapt and adopt the new ways of thinking this camera will require, remains to be seen. The market will decide whether or not it makes sense. But either way, it’s inspiring.

I’ll leave you with this. I saw with my own eyes an example of a time-lapse shot with this camera where not only did time elapse, but so did focus. Let that swirl around in your brain for a while and tell me it doesn’t hurt.

More coming soon.

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Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. [...] to pre-order the Lytro model but I thought I’d leave it to the first adopters. Scott Bourne has published a first look and it’s worth a read. Share [...]

  2. [...]  http://photofocus.com/2012/01/12/lytro-light-field-camera/ [...]

  3. [...] that has is a gentleman called Scott Bourne and he discusses this over on his excellent website here. They really do look interesting and one of the questions i have is will it change street [...]

  4. [...] Scott Bourne on the Lytro – After reading this, I would love to get my hands on a Lytro light field camera to shock my photographic system. [...]

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