Wednesday, June 29, 2011

He's Trying to Focus

"What, all of us?"

I know, I know....a bad punchline to a bad joke but maybe a good way to introduce the Lytro Picture Revolution that is designed to help those who fail to focus an autofocus camera on the correct subject. This camera (still unseen) has received a lot of press this past week.

Mostly from the geek press rather than the photography press.

But still, a lot of press.

We've all done it as some time. That tremendous picture that would have captured that one moment in life when everything and everyone that matters was there and looking their best.....

.......and the camera focused on the house behind the group.

Image ruined.

Throw it away.

Even Photoshop or Lightroom (or even Aperture) can't help.

Well, the Lytro technology aims to help. Unfortunaetly, it doesn't work retroactively on pictures that you've already taken and likely requires that you buy a new camera. The camera may also give up something in resolution as a compromise.

But if you're willing to accomodate all of those requirements and limitations then the promise of unlimited focusing may be achevaiable. Lytro describes their process as capturing the entire light field that fully defines how a scene appears. The light field is the amount of light traveling in every direction through every point in space; it’s all the light rays in a scene.

Lytro have developed a light field sensor to capture this information. The sensor captures the color, intensity and vector direction of the rays of light. They report that most of the work is done by the processing capability rather than hardware. I wonder if this means that existing sensors may be able to use this technology with just a software upgrade.

And the benefits?

They allow both the picture taker and the viewer to focus pictures after they’re snapped, shift their perspective of the scene, and even switch seamlessly between 2D and 3D views. With these amazing capabilities, pictures become immersive, interactive visual stories that were never before possible – they become living pictures.


As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so here's a gallery of images that you can play with that shows off the technology.

I'm reminded very much of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Blade Runner, where Harisson Ford (Dekker) takes 2D photographs and explores the 3D world from which the images were taken. That might be a little beyond what Lytro promises but it's certainly a significant step towards seeing the subject of android dreams.

Here's hoping that this isn't vaporware and we see the capability becoming real.

And here's hoping even more that the rumors that this will be incorporated into future iPhones to also be true.

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