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Light Field Camera – capture, then focus

Ren Ng, CEO of Lytro, yesterday announced the launch of a brand new type of camera. The type that lets you take any old picture, and then worry about the focus and framing. You could seamlessly switch between the two focus points in the image below.

Regular cameras don’t have this facility. Aside from some photoshop magic, you’re stuck with the picture that you took. The light information recorded at the moment when you pressed the shutter button. Click.

The Lytro camera doesn’t capture light information in the same way. Instead it records something called ‘light field’ information. This is a technique used in scientific photography.The sensor in a Lytro camera can capture all the light information in a scene – the amount of light travelling in every direction, through any point in space. The special light field sensor to capture colour, intensity and vector direction information for all the light rays. Powerful software and sophisticated algorithms then allow you to manipulate this data – effectively refocusing and reframing the image.

This does seem like it might be too good to be true, but maybe that’s the genius. Looking at an existing technique from such a different view point that it will seem unbelievable, might be the key to a great technological breakthrough.