Revolutionary camera eliminates the need to focus (part 2)
Click on any part of the image to get it in focus. Try the spider first!
Pictures like the one in part one will challenge the most experienced photographer and while highly sophisticated equipment, and even software to stack pictures taken with different focuses, and some “tricks” and lots and lots of practice will certainly help achieve the desired goal, this will be a painful and time-consuming process with a relatively low degree of success.
No more. We have light fields now.
Light fields take away the need to focus, because they retain the directional information of the light rays hitting the sensor of the camera. Anyone familiar with ray tracing will understand the concept.
In a way, light fields are comparable to ray-traces, but instead of using a mathematical model from which the pictures are calculated, they use reality to create an instant 3D ray-trace model. The advantages are fantastic. There is no need to focus when a picture is taken. Once a picture is taken, clicking on any point in the image shown will create a new image with that point in focus. In other words, instead of focusing before taking the picture, we focus once the picture has been taken.
This technology is still in its infancy and a little rough around the edges. A Lytro image is not about to replace a well-made picture by a $12,000+ camera or even a $1,500 one, but it is ready to dramatically improve the average quality of pictures taken by people who don’t really understand how photography works, and it is ready to increase the probability that (somewhat) challenging pictures, such as the above will actually be usable without having to put insects in the fridge to sedate them, for example.
The original of these two pictures can be seen above this article. When you first look at the picture, you will see red leaves and flowers that are in focus and on top of that, a spider that is hopelessly blurred (out of focus). However, left-clicking on the spider will reverse that situation. Now, the leaves and flowers are out of focus and the spider will be nicely in focus. As an added bonus, the spider’s web is now visible as well.
The importance of this cannot be overstated. There is no need for heavy and sophisticated equipment and endless trying. Simply take a picture and when you come home, you just click on the spider to focus on it. In other words, after the picture has been taken, you simply decide what you want to look at, click on it, and voilà, it is in focus.
The cameras Lytro introduces today have an 8x zoom lens with a very wide aperture. This makes it possible to take pictures in low light conditions, since wide apertures let in more light. But better still, since there is no need to focus, the (almost) impossible task of focusing in low light conditions is no longer a problem since it has been eliminated.
The cameras are somewhat pricier than typical consumer grade cameras. The 8 gigabyte (GB) model has enough capacity for 350 pictures and costs around $400.00, while the 16 GB model can store around 750 pictures and costs about $500.00.
If 350 pictures for 8 GB (approximately 25 MB for a single picture) sounds like not very much, you are correct. However, we must keep in mind that we can freely focus on these pictures, meaning that one picture actually represents a whole stack of pictures.
Will I buy this camera? I can hardly wait. This camera looks like the answer to some of my dearest wishes. But, reality has taught me that being an early adopter is usually both very expensive and rather painful because early devices tend not to deliver on their promises or to suffer from teething problems. I think I’ll wait until I can actually walk in a store and see it first hand.
Even assuming that the cameras truly deliver what is promised, 8x zoom is somewhat low for my needs. I’d rather have a 15x or a 20x zoom in combination with a higher resolution. While video is not my main concern, I think I would like that very much as well. Unfortunately, video is likely to consume so much memory, that we may have to wait for petabyte hard disks before that becomes a realistic option.
Will the Lytro catch on or will it sink into oblivion before it can mature? Only time will tell. I for one, am hoping it will become successful.
Click on this link to go to the online photo gallery of the company. It is highly recommended.