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 DPReview.com.