A Start-Up’s Camera Lets You Take Shots First and Focus Later
With an innovative camera due out later this year from a company called Lytro, photographers will have one less excuse for having missed that perfect shot.
The company’s technology allows a picture’s focus to be adjusted after it is taken. While viewing a picture taken with a Lytro camera on a computer screen, you can, for example, click to bring people in the foreground into sharp relief, or switch the focus to the mountains behind them.
The Lytro camera captures far more light data, from many angles, than is possible with a conventional camera. It accomplishes that with a special sensor called a microlens array, which puts the equivalent of many lenses into a small space. “That is the heart of the breakthrough,” said Pat Hanrahan, a Stanford professor, who was Mr. Ng’s thesis adviser but is not involved in Lytro.
But the wealth of raw light data comes to life only with sophisticated software that lets a viewer switch points of focus. This allows still photographs to be explored as never before. “They become interactive, living pictures,” Mr. Ng said. He thinks a popular use may be families and friends roaming through different perspectives on pictures of, say, vacations and parties posted on Facebook (Lytro will have a Facebook app).
For a photographer, whether amateur or professional, the Lytro technology means that the headaches of focusing a shot go away. Richard Koci Hernandez, a photojournalist, said that when he tried out a prototype earlier this year, he immediately recognized the potential impact.
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