Photo courtesy of Lytro

An Inside Look at the Lytro Light Field Camera

by Michelle Schusterman Oct 19, 2011
Point, shoot, click, transfer, share…focus.

THE WORD “REVOLUTIONARY” gets thrown around a lot in Gadget Land. Sometimes it’s true (aka iPhone), sometimes it’s just marketing jargon. If their light field camera is what these specs say it is, then I think Lytro is dead-on in claiming they’re bringing about a “picture revolution.”

A representative from Lytro was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about the light field camera. The pictures below are “living pictures;” click on an area to focus, and double click to zoom.

1. Let’s talk about the inside first. A light field camera captures all of the light in a scene, something which used to require a ton of cameras tethered to a supercomputer. What’s going on inside a Lytro camera that allows it to capture so much more light than a regular camera?

The Lytro light field camera has two major components internally that help capture and process light field data – the light field sensor and the light field engine.

The light field sensor collects the color, intensity and direction of every light ray flowing into the camera, capturing the scene in four dimensions. The light field engine processes this data and allows users to refocus directly on the camera. The light field engine travels with the picture wherever it is shared, so anyone can interact with a Lytro living picture on any device, including web browsers, mobile phones, and tablets.

2. Now the outside – this thing is funky looking, in a really cool way! What inspired the design?

Form follows function – the unique design is driven by the camera’s 8x optical zoom lens, which features a constant f/2 aperture. The anodized aluminum body is designed to be lightweight and sturdy, allowing users to take the Lytro light field camera anywhere to capture the important moments in their lives.

Photo courtesy of Lytra

3. These cameras pack a ton of amazing technology in what looks like an easy-to-use package. Other than the touch screen, are there any controls on the body for things like zoom?

The camera features two buttons – one power button, and one shutter button. There is also a sliding zoom on the body of the camera.

4. So we’ve got instant shutter and no time wasted on focusing, along with an instant power on – in other words, the picture-taking process is quick. How about the software needed to develop these “living pictures” – is it as simple to use as the camera itself?

The software for the camera exists in the actual camera – when you plug your Lytro light field camera into your Mac, the software comes off the camera with the photos, making them easy to manipulate and share.

5. So we can share “living pictures” online and via social media. Can you and your friends actually adjust the focus of these shots on mobile phones and tablets as well as on computers?

Yes – pictures taken by the Lytro light field camera can be interacted with on web browsers, tablet computers, mobile phones, etc. The light field engine travels with every picture to allow interactivity for every user.

6. How long is the battery life, and how do you charge and upload pics to your computer?

The camera features a long-life rechargeable lithium ion battery. You can connect via a micro-USB port to upload to your computer and charge.

7. The Lytro light field camera is compatible with Macs only right now; any word on when a Windows application will be available?

The Windows application is under development and will be available in 2012.

Lytro cameras range from $399 (8G) to $499 (16G). For now, shipping is US only.

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