Lytro makes $399/499 light-field camera available to early adopters

It doesn’t look at all like a camera. It doesn’t shoot pictures like a camera. It’s something very different in the photographic world. It’s the Lytro light-field camera and it captures not pixels but rays. The captured image can be retroactively focused because this camera records the light field of an entire scene, unlike every conventional camera on the market that uses a focused lens to capture an image with a focus plane and a specific depth of field.

The Lytro camera doesn’t look like a camera; It looks like a high-tech flashlight. There’s the business end of an f2.0 8x zoom lens on one end of the device and there’s a 128×128-pixel, touch-sensitive control screen on the other end. The touch screen responds to gesture the way smartphone users would expect. Beyond that, there’s an “instant on” switch and an “instant shutter” button. The only other control is a zoom control for the lens.

Here’s what the Lytro Light field Camera looks like:

And here’s a cross section of the camera:

The $399 version of the camera has 8Gbytes of internal Flash and shoots 350 images. The $499 version has 16Gbytes of internal Flash and shoots 750 images. Although the camera captures “11 million light rays” with each image, the resulting viewable images have much less resolution. “At least HD” resolution is the current description.

The camera’s Flash memory is internal and must be downloaded via the camera’s USB port to a PC. Similarly, the internal battery is not replaceable and charges from the USB port. These characteristics carry more than a whiff of Apple-influenced design.

The Lytro camera’s images are inherently 3D. Image processing to produce 2D images currently occurs in a PC after images are downloaded and Lytro will also offer a sharing capability for Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and emails through its own Web site. Presumably, there’s quite a bit of processing needed to take the light-field image down to a 2D representation. If this form of photography becomes popular, multicore image-processing SoCs may well be needed.

See the previous EDA360 blog post on the Lytro camera: “Lytro’s new camera will let you adjust focus point of an image long after taking the shot

Also, you’ll find an interview with the camera’s creator here on

About sleibson2

EDA360 Evangelist and Marketing Director at Cadence Design Systems (blog at
This entry was posted in EDA360, SoC Realization, System Realization and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Lytro makes $399/499 light-field camera available to early adopters

  1. George Storm says:

    This could be significant in certain applications.

    I think we have to accept a reduction in sensitivity that could be dramatic – depending both on the 3D sensing process and on the number of “independent” layers we wish to capture.

    Sensing at multiple depths gives two options:

    In one option we select the section of the image that is in focus (and discard the majority of the light from other planes); in the other (implied by the description – but I seriously doubt that this is implemented) we can also use data from other planes and deconvolve ray patterns from the blurred data – but clearly this part of the process will at best be extremely noisy (at worst, the data would be so ambiguous as to add little if anything to the image-plane data – I haven’t done the sums).

    A next step (that would largely overcome this problem) would be to have a sensor where the absorbtion could self-adjust according to the resolution in the light-field. (Probably not in my lifetime…)

  2. George Storm says:


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