Shoot First, Focus Later?

Lytro light field camera photo

shoot first, focus later.

I was just checking out an interesting new technology rumored to be on its way to consumers later this summer. It’s called a light field camera, and it’s a fundamentally different way of taking photographs. It lets you shoot first and focus later. It also lets you shoot in 3-D!

Traditional photography records all the light coming from a specific direction at a specific point in space.  This is accomplished by the lens focusing directional, incoming rays of light onto the sensor or film.  A light field, on the other hand, is the light traveling in all directions.  It includes all the light rays in a scene.

For example, think of a scene lit with a single light bulb illuminating a table with a red apple on it.  Light travels from the bulb to the apple.  The apple absorbs all the spectrum of light except for the red which gets bounced off the apple.  This light, however, bounces in many different directions, which is why we can see the apple from many different angles if we moved around the scene.  A traditional camera would record the light bouncing off the apple from a specific angle.  If you were to move the camera around the scene, taking pictures from every possible angle, you could theoretically capture the entire light field.

Lytro is a new company that claims to have created the first light field camera.  Clearly, the new camera captures only a partial light field, as it would be impossible to capture an entire light field from a scene.  They haven’t released a lot of information yet about their product, and there is no specific release date or pricing information.  Also, there are no pictures of what the new camera looks like, though it allegedly is small enough to fit in your pocket.  Their web site does have a gallery of photos taken with the new camera, and it allows you to play with the photos, adjusting the focal point on the fly.

I’m curious how the lenses will work.  It seemed to me at least from the photos available in Lytro’s gallery, that the process can only duplicate a moderately narrow depth of field, typical of what is found on most consumer point-and-shoot cameras.  I’m also not sure how zoom and field-of-view will work.  I’ll be quite interested to see this tech in action once the cameras are available.

Lytro light field camera photo

shoot first, focus later.

Photo By Lytro / Richard Koci Hernandez

2 Responses to “Shoot First, Focus Later?”

  1. Chris Bordeleau Says:

    I read about these a couple of years ago… when the technology was still in the lab… very cool… I am curious what it is going to cost… and what one will have to give up in order to use it…

  2. Shoot first, focus later! Are "focus free" cameras in your future? | planet5D - HDSLR community Says:

    […] tweet from joshNegrin who pointed to gizmodo – it was also sent in by Ken who sent us his article on the camera] A bit about the technologyScience Inside Lytro – Light Field DefinedThe above image is associated […]

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