New camera technologies: Light field photos

When was the last time you carried around a 2nd device for taking pictures? No need! Phones now come equipped with megapixel cameras. It’s all these advances in camera phone technology, point and shoot cameras just aren’t as important as they used to be. Nokia has been the world’s largest digital camera manufacturer for many years, as the sales of its camera-equipped mobile phones have exceeded those of any conventional camera manufacturer. I am not sure if this is true anymore because Nokia is not the biggest mobile phone manufacturer anymore.

There needs to be a good reason for carrying around a 2nd device for taking pictures. So digital cameras need to become continuously better than their mobile phone counterparts. There are a few easy ways to make a digital camera better: make the sensor bigger, improve the quality of the lens, speed up the processor. DSLRs have gone this route for a long time. DSLRs are able to produce considerably better pictures than mobile phones so cell phone cameras will not completely replace DSLRs any time soon.


Those improvements I listed are incremental improvements on a basic technology that hasn’t changed much in a long time. There are some new more radical technology changes coming. Here is one that is the looks most intersting.

Lytro has build an amazing new kind of camera. Lytro review: You’ve never seen a camera like this before article tells that Lytro built the self-titled Lytro camera, a digital camera that neither looks nor operates like any camera you’ve ever seen: it measures megarays instead of megapixels, captures light fields instead of light, and lets you focus your pictures after you’ve taken them. Lytro team has worked hard to bring this technology to life and manufacture the world’s first light field camera for consumers. There’s absolutely no doubt that the camera represents a huge technological achievement.

Lytro offers something never before seen in the world of photography: adjustable focus that you can adjust afterwards. Check Lytro gallery for some demos on how you can focus to different part of the picture when you view them. I would say pretty amazing. Lytro Light Field Camera: Snap Happy Or Photo Gimmick? and First week review and first 1,000 images with Lytro — the camera that lets you refocus after you shoot articles gives you some reviews of Lytro camera.

You might be interested in how this Lytro lightfield camera works. Lytro: Science Inside and The Science Inside Living Pictures articles describe he basics. If you are interested in hard science and equations used, read Lytro CEO’s dissertation DIGITAL LIGHTFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY. View also Inside the Lytro camera, and the start-up’s 3D future video.

The Size of Lytro’s Sensor Compared with Other Common Formats tells that the sensor inside Lytro camera is roughly 6.5×4.5mm (slightly larger than the iPhone sensor and slightly smaller than the one in most point-and-shoot cameras) so I am pretty sure it has it’s limitations. And I am pretty sure there are also other limitations on the technology also. First week review and first 1,000 images with Lytro article tells that is not a camera for many people because low light sensitivity sucks on the Lytro, sharpness and printability sucks, color saturation and quality isn’t up to par with even cell phone cameras and processing images takes time and means picking focus point. So Lytro just doesn’t make images that are hyper sharp, even when compared with cameras on cell phones. Still with limitations writer Robert Scoble says he really loves his Lytro: “t’s just a well designed product that will bring me great joy, even with its limitations.” So most propably you will not be be ditching your DSLR for a Lytro, but there could be some place for light field camera as well (remember for some time you get “no way” when showing the refocusability of the images).

Lytro’s product seems to have activated some interesting DIY camera projects that you might want to check out. First start with this Light field photography and microscopy lecture video. It gives you good basics on the topic.

DIY: Build a Light-Field Device at home video claims that now you can build a little bit different light field camera at home! This video describes how to convert your camera into a light field camera using a printed cosine mask (transparency). Total cost is claimed less than $10. The captured photo with the mask on top of CCD will be a “light field” photo which can be used for refocusing after the photo has been taken. Looks easy but I don’t yet buy the idea because this video lacks the description of the post-processing needed for focusing the picture.

Fortunately the video description text has two links to more information: Dappled Photography: Mask Enhanced Cameras for Heterodyned Light Fields and Coded Aperture Refocusing and Lytro vs Mask Based Light Field Camera.

Lytro vs Mask Based Light Field Camera article tells that you can convert your medium format digital/film camera into a 4D light field camera. A Light Field camera captures the variations in the rays falling on the sensor. A traditional 2D camera (your favorite point & shoot or SLR camera) outputs a 2D image, a grid of integer values specifying the intensity at each pixel. The intensity value of the pixel is equal to the sum of all the rays falling onto the pixel. However, we would like to capture the variation among the rays falling onto a sensor pixel. By capturing the ray-space, we can obtain all the light information in geometric ray optics inside the camera.

There are several ways to capture the light field. One way is to put a lenslet array in front of the sensor such that the main lens is focused on the lenslet array and the lenslet array is focused on the sensor. This is the approach used by Lytro, which is offereing the first commerical light field camera. Now the cone of rays from a focused scene point falls on the lenslet which diverts the rays to different pixels on the sensor. One can thus capture the angular variation among rays. However, spatial resolution is lost since the sensor pixels are now used to sample the angular variations.

Lytro vs Mask Based Light Field Camera article describes another design that is based on non-refractive elements such as masks. In this design, a pinhole array mask (transparency) is place in front of the sensor. Each pinhole samples the angular variation by forming the image of the aperture on the sensor. The article writers printed a pinhole array mask of the same size as 36mm by 48mm Dalsa CCD imaging sensor (5344 by 4008 pixels) the and simply dropped it on top of the sensor protective glass. The design used was square pinhole opening of 25 microns width printed at 5080 DPI at local printing company (A4 sized transparency holding 20 masks can be printed for less than $100).

Sound easy. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using masks for light field capture? This loss of resolution is inherent whether we use masks or lenslets if we want to capture a light field. But by using masks, we could avoid the loss of spatial resolution in certain cases (when agular dimension is not needed). Low cost and ease of use are also benefits for mask approach. The biggest disadvantage of using masks is the loss of light since masks are attenuators. If we use a pinhole array mask, then only 5 percent of light goes through, rest is blocked.


Dappled Photography: Mask Enhanced Cameras for Heterodyned Light Fields and Coded Aperture Refocusing article gives some views to the post-processing needed for refocusing the picture. The writers used a patterned attenuating mask to encode the light field entering the camera. Depending on where you put the mask, you can effect desired frequency domain modulation of the light field. If we put the mask near the lens aperture, we can achieve full resolution digital refocussing. If you put the mask near the sensor, we can recover a 4D light field without any additional lenslet array. In the end of the article there is an animation showing views obtained from light field.

The results seems to be far from the ready solution from Lytro, but interesting reading I must say. Some of the reading material reminds me of some material I saw many years ago in optics course I took years ago…


  1. C. Choi says:

    Dear Sir:
    We have developed a slat to give ‘natural’ 3D images to fit in cameras, etc. This is the first ever. It even gives about 50% more clarity to any current pixels, as well as give more clarity when taken in a dark environments. Think also of the CCTVs.
    Early last year, an American airforce drone has killed 13 Pakistani soldiers at the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. But if the drone was fitted with this new idea, most probably the tragedy may have been avoided.
    If this is fitted to a medical equipment, it would detect even smaller diseases of cancers, etc.
    If the movie cameras are fitted with this new piece, you will view a natural 3D cinemas. Of course, without the glasses.
    Therefore, the current 3D is already an outdated development.
    Where would this new idea would fit your in new camera?
    C. Choi
    Mobile +82-11-869-1325 (011-869-1325)
    Phone +82-70-8807-4212 (070-8807-4212)

    April 20, 2012

  2. New camera technologies: vision « Tomi Engdahl’s ePanorama blog says:

    [...] camera technologies: vision I earlier write about new camera technologies concentrating on light field photography. There are many other new camera technologies that deserve to be [...]

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    100 Tips from a Professional Photographer

    Here’s a list of tips, advice, rules and just things to know about photography from Eric Kim, a street photographer who also holds photography workshop classes.

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  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lytro CEO Ren Ng to Step Aside, Become Executive Chairman

    Lytro CEO Ren Ng said Friday that he is stepping aside as CEO of the light-field photography company, in order to spend more time on the vision for the company and less on its day-to-day operations.

    Unlike a lot of companies in Silicon Valley, Ng notes that Lytro has opted to handle all aspects of its business, including hardware, software, distribution and support.

    Although Lytro is still working through the growing pains of manufacturing and shipping its first product, the company has grown rapidly, raising roughly $50 million in funding, and expanding to 80 employees.

    Lytro hasn’t said how many cameras it has sold since beginning shipments earlier this year.

    “We’re not disclosing numbers externally but sales have been very good, and continue to exceed our current supply,” Ng said.

    Ng did say the company has increased manufacturing capacity

    For the time being, the company plans to continue selling the device directly, and is primarily focused on improving its software for the current camera more than actively developing the next generation of hardware.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Camera Cell phones are not turned the decline in sales of traditional cameras. Electronics wholesalers of SLR sales will continue to grow. Instead pocket cameras consumption is stagnating.

    Mobile phone manufacturers have launched with enhanced camera-equipped mobile phones. Peak is presented in the spring of Nokia PureView-808 model, which is as much as 41 mega-pixel camera.
    PureView costs the same as the average SLR cameras.

    Low-end mobile phones have cameras that are much lower in quality. These are insufficient for quality and value-conscious high-tech consumers.

    If the images are printed or taken in challenging lighting conditions, the traditional SLR cameras or pocket cameras give you better pictures than average mobile phone camera.


  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Gigapixel camera from Duke University and partners shows unprecedented detail

    A gigapixel prototype camera that images with unprecedented detail has been developed by a team of professors and scientists at Duke University, the University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), the University of California – San Diego, and Distant Focus Corporation (Champaign, IL). By synchronizing 98 tiny cameras in a single device, the camera–called AWARE2–has a resolution five times better than 20/20 human vision over a 120 degree horizontal field.

    The researchers believe that within five years, as the electronic components of the cameras become miniaturized and more efficient, the next generation of gigapixel cameras should be available to the general public.

    “The development of high-performance and low-cost microcamera optics and components has been the main challenge in our efforts to develop gigapixel cameras,” Brady said.

    “Our current approach, instead of making increasingly complex optics, is to come up with a massively parallel array of electronic elements,” Gehm said. “A shared objective lens gathers light and routes it to the microcameras that surround it, just like a network computer hands out pieces to the individual work stations. Each gets a different view and works on their little piece of the problem. We arrange for some overlap, so we don’t miss anything.”

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Digital techniques render real-time response in holography

    Digital imaging and display technology opens new possibilities for holography. Digital holographic microscopes can display 3D images of living cells in real-time on computers, and digital holographic telepresence is emerging on the technological horizon.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Camera manufacturers super-zoom category is currently one of the key battlegrounds. Demand for compact cameras rotting or the slopes downhill, as more and more merely a smartphone camera, as long as the zoom is not important.

    Super-zoom cameras attractive to consumers and are good for pros as the second camera.

    Canon’s new compact camera PowerShot SX50 HS compact camera zoomien beats the world record. Optical zoom factor is terrible 50 Previously record-holder was the Nikon Coolpix P510, which in January reached 42x readings.


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  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lytro’s Light-Field Camera Gets Manual Settings

    When Lytro released its namesake digital camera last spring, it wasn’t immediately clear what sort of person would want to buy it. On one hand, it was a genuine technological breakthrough: As the first consumer light-field camera, it captured the direction of light in a scene as well as color and intensity, letting you snap photos which could be refocused after the fact. It packed that breakthrough into a super-simple pocket-sized aluminum rectangular box which was a radical departure from any other point-and-shoot model ever made.

    But for all the innovative wow factor of the Lytro’s refocusable photos, they could only be viewed using the company’s own software, web site and a web viewer which can be embedded in Facebook, blog posts and elsewhere. The camera wasn’t at all good at taking garden-variety snapshots, and its grainy, undersized touchscreen was a major design flaw. And with a starting price of $399, it was no impulse purchase.

    Today, Lytro is announcing a new version of its camera’s software–shipping on new units and available as an upgrade for existing owners–which caters to serious Lytro shutterbugs by giving them new manual controls. The company briefed me on the new features and loaned me a camera with the updated software.

    The manual controls are pretty straightforward stuff. They let you set the shutter speed (from 1/250 of a second to 8 seconds) and ISO (from 80 to 3200).

    In short, the manual settings make the Lytro a bit more powerful in the conventional-camera sense, without impinging on the things that make it unique.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Camera Technique Captures New View Of Space And Time

    What if you could compress a video clip into a single image? That’s what Jay Mark Johnson, an artist and visual effects director, has accomplished through the use of a special camera technique. He calls the images “photographic timelines,” and his collected works offer quite a shift to conventional perception.

    Pictures ordinarily taken with a regular still camera make the exposure time short but the field of view large. For his images, Johnson does the opposite: a narrow field of view is captured over a large period of time. To do this, he uses a technique involving an $85,000 slit camera designed to produce panoramas, in which a motor turns the camera as it takes high precision vertical images and stitches the images together.

    A modified technique involved blocking the rotation of the motor, which allowed the resulting slices to be strung together in progression. A single composite image then is a sliver of space captured over an extended period of time.

    “The effect is like stepping ‘through the looking glass’ with Alice,”

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lytro to get Perspective Shift and Living Filters for more focus-shifting fun (video)

    Lytro has just announced a software update that expands upon the multidimensional elements of the little light-field point-and-shoot. The Lytro Desktop software will get two new features, dubbed Perspective Shift and Living Filters, both of which expand upon the device’s focus-shifting capabilities. Perspective Shift lets you change the photo’s center of perspective, while Living Filters are interactive image effects that range from cool to kooky.

    Essentially a fine-tuned version of the parallax-based 3D effect we saw in Hong Kong, Perspective Shift lets you change the POV of the shot after it’s taken, thus allowing the entirety of the photo to be in focus — a benefit in and of itself.

  14. Bryan Mehrhoff says:

    DSLRS these days are so great because they have high megapixel counts. -

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  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    DSLR trick lets you change focus after taking the picture

    This was inspired by the Lytro camera which uses an array of lenses to take multiple pictures at once. Each of those images has a slightly different depth of focus. The technique used here doesn’t require that you buy one of those $400+ cameras. But it’s not a cheap hack unless you already own a camera that can shoot video and has manual focus.

    The technique used by the [Chaos Collective] is to move the camera’s manual focus setting from the nearest to the furthest target while capturing a video. That file can then be processed using their browser-based tool which turns it into an embedded HTML5 image.

    Camera HACK:
    DOF-Changeable Photos with an SLR

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Smart phones with cameras, a new feature: take a photograph, focus later

    Electronics manufacturer Toshiba is developing a new type of image sensor, which allows the fine tuning of the image to a certain point after taking the picture. Reported on The Verge.

    The development of the cells in the operation is the same type as the Lytro camera


  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Even as cameras in mobile devices have improved in resolution and performance, they have been stymied by the form-factor limitations that are inherent in the devices themselves. However, the increase in available computational power offers a solution: that is, to process the images from the camera in novel ways to match the capabilities of dedicated cameras, and also exceed those capabilities by performing new ways of image capture that cannot be accomplished with traditional cameras


  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Light fields and computational photography

    The light field, first described in Arun Gershun’s classic 1936 paper of the same name, is defined as radiance as a function of position and direction in regions of space free of occluders. In free space, the light field is a 4D function – scalar or vector depending on the exact definition employed. Light fields were introduced into computer graphics in 1996 by Marc Levoy and Pat Hanrahan. Their proposed application was image-based-rendering – computing new views of a scene from pre-existing views without the need for scene geometry.

    Since 1996, research on light fields has followed a number of lines.

    boundary between light fields, photography, and high-performance imaging, an area we sometimes call computational photography.

    However, computational photography has grown to become broader than light fields, and our research also touches on other aspects of light fields, such as interactive animation of light fields and computing shape from light fields.

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Flatbed scanner eliminates the perils of macro photography

    If you have ever played around with macro photography, you’ll know how hard it is to get a focused image of something that isn’t two-dimensional. For virtually every 3D object, you’ll have to deal with the depth of field – the small region where things are actually in focus. [David] came up with a neat homebrew solution for making sure everything in his macro photos is in focus using a discarded flatbed scanner and a Raspberry Pi.

    Flatbed scanner eliminates the perils of macro photography
    January 20, 2013 By Brian Benchoff 11 Comments


    If you have ever played around with macro photography, you’ll know how hard it is to get a focused image of something that isn’t two-dimensional. For virtually every 3D object, you’ll have to deal with the depth of field – the small region where things are actually in focus. [David] came up with a neat homebrew solution for making sure everything in his macro photos is in focus using a discarded flatbed scanner and a Raspberry Pi.

    [David]‘s technique relies on focus stacking. Basically, [David] takes dozens of images of the same object, moving the camera closer by a fraction of an inch before snapping each frame. These pictures are stitched together with CombineZ, a piece of software used for extending the depth of field in images.

  20. Tomi says:

    Nokia reportedly investing in Lytro-style array camera startup

    Nokia is eyeing an investment in Pelican Imaging, a California startup working on array camera technology for smartphones, according to Bloomberg. Array cameras offer similar benefits to Lytro’s light field technique, allowing photographers to adjust an image’s focus after it has been captured, but use a single self-contained module with multiple optics.

    “It’s very complicated to do this algorithmically and Pelican is one of the companies that has mastered this technology,” said Bo Ilsoe of Nokia Growth Partners, who added that the venture capital group has been watching Pelican since its founding in 2008.

  21. Tomi says:

    Pelican Imaging has developed an innovative new array camera for mobile devices, providing depth at every pixel.

  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lytro’s CEO acknowledges layoffs but promises ‘breakthroughs’ in 2014

    Camera startup Lytro laid off an unknown number of workers earlier this year, The Chronicle has learned, but the company’s new CEO is promising a series of “breakthrough” products in 2014.

    The Mountain View company made a splash nearly two years ago with its light field camera

    But industry sources say the inaugural camera isn’t selling well so far. Few of the distinctive devices, shaped like kaleidoscopes with corners, can be spotted in the wild, even around the famously gadget crazed Bay Area.

    One of the key challenges Lytro faces is that their base model costs $400, a high tab in a market where most people simply take pictures on their phones or might buy a $200 point and shoot, said Brian Blau, research director for consumer technology at Gartner.

    As interesting as the technology is, the average consumer doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about whether they’d prefer the foreground or background in focus. Meanwhile, the product suffers on the high end, because it doesn’t include features that serious hobbyists and pros need like interchangeable lenses and exposure controls.

    “For a typical small company with a lot of hype, the product maybe didn’t quite meet expectations,” Blau said. “People think the product is interesting, but it might not meet their needs in terms of what a camera is today.”

    “We have a packed product roadmap for next year, we’ll introduce multiple what I think are just breakthrough products. I’m super excited and the world will be as well.”

    He declined to color in that roadmap much, but said the long-term vision is to become “the new software and hardware stack for everything with a lens and sensor. That’s still cameras, video cameras, medical and industrial imaging, smartphones, the entire imaging ecosystem.”

  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nokia Refocus turns your Lumia into a Lytro-like camera

    Nokia may have had a bunch of hardware on display at its Abu Dhabi event today, but some of the company’s most impressive work is linked with its camera improvements. While the Lumia 1020 introduced a 41-megapixel camera and a new Pro Cam app, Nokia is detailing a new addition to its app line-up today: Nokia Refocus. It’s a separate app that works with all of Nokia’s PureView Windows Phones to allow owners to refocus parts of an image.

    The most obvious comparison is to Lytro’s camera hardware that lets you focus your pictures after you’ve taken them. Nokia isn’t using any unique hardware to achieve that, instead its using a software app that can create similar results. It’s probably not going to be as good as a real Lytro camera, but it might just be second best.

    As Nokia Refocus is a separate app, you’ll need to launch it from the Windows Phone Start Screen. It starts up into a camera mode that simply directs you to tap and take a picture. What it actually does is it analyses the scene and then takes between two and eight photos to allow you to refocus afterwards. It’s actually rather impressive.

    The real beauty of the apps is that Nokia allows you to upload the images and share them to Facebook and other social networks. Friends can then interact with the photos and refocus freely. If the whole software refocusing and sharing sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Focus Twist for iOS is pretty much identical to this, allowing iPhone users to refocus after a shot and share their results. Obviously the backing from Nokia on its Lumia Windows Phone handsets means the usage could be more widespread, but not until Nokia builds it into its new Camera app.

  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lytro Adds 3-D Viewing Capability to Its Living Images, Apple Online Store as Distributor

    Lytro is unlocking another feature for images taken with its light-field cameras, enabling all photos ever taken with the devices to be displayed in 3-D.

    “It took us some work to get to the point where we thought it was fully consumer-ready,” CEO Jason Rosenthal said in an interview. “The work was in making it easily usable and consumer-friendly — which has been one of the challenges for 3-D in general.”

    The 3-D features will work with 3-D displays, or on standard displays while wearing those old-school red-and-blue glasses.

  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lytro Raises $40 Million to Keep Its Dream of Changing Photography in Focus

    Camera startup Lytro is announcing $40 million in new funding that it said will help it move faster and reach its broader goals of reshaping photography.

    CEO Jason Rosenthal told AllThingsD that Lytro will use the money to help fund a new generation of Lytro hardware. Thus far the company has released just the single model of its light-field camera which debuted two years ago, though it has added a number of new features via software updates. Last week, for example, the company announced the ability to view 3-D images from any picture taken with a Lytro camera.

    “With the first generation of Lytro, there were just a lot of things to be figured out and understood and done,”

    Rosenthal said the company wants to move in reasonably short order into professional photography, motion picture cameras and making its existing consumer products thinner, cheaper and lighter.

    “We definitely won’t get to them all in 18 months, but we will get to more than one,” he said.

  26. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Apple patents Lytro-like refocusable camera suitable for iPhone

    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday awarded Apple a patent for a camera system that uses a microlens adaptor to enable refocusing of an image after the initial shot is taken, much like the Lytro light-field camera.

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  38. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lytro Branches Out from Photography, Offers Unprecedented Access to Their Tech for $20K

    The folks at Lytro have always believed that light field technology is the future, and not just for photography and storytelling. They believe that anything with a lens and a sensor can benefit from the technology, and with today’s announcement of the Lytro Platform, they’re opening up their proprietary tech to anybody who wants to partner up with them and expand light field into new markets.

    The goal of the Lytro Platform is to “bring the transformational power of the light field to an entirely new set of imaging applications for the first time,” and the first step is the release of the Lytro Development Kit (LDK).

    The LDK, hardware illustrated above, costs $20K and “provides imaging researchers with the highest degree of control of Lytro’s advanced light field capture devices and processing engine.” In English, that means unprecedented access to Lytro’s hardware and software so that researchers in all fields can begin experimenting with the light field.

  39. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Stephen Pulvirent / Bloomberg Business:
    Lytro debuts its Immerge video camera for virtual reality filmmaking, available in 2016 for between $250K and $500K

    This UFO-Shaped Mega-Camera Might Be the Future of Virtual Reality
    The Lytro Immerge is a next-generation VR camera rig for professionals that will start at $250,000.

    Virtual reality entertainment is slowly approaching the mainstream. And it’s doing so in what looks like a UFO.

    Lytro first burst on the scene in 2012 pushing a small $150 camera that let you refocus pictures after you took them. Advancing that idea a step, Lytro then released the Illum in 2014, a more robust take on the original Lytro with a zoom lens, bigger sensor, and more advanced features. The core of these cameras is something called light field image sensing. To risk oversimplifying a bit, this basically means the image sensor is capturing the color, intensity, and direction of light beams (most camera sensors omit direction), letting it create 3D representations of whatever it’s receiving.

    The new Immerge rig is built on the same idea but is a far cry from the original consumer Lytro cameras.

    The body is made of a spherical array of high-definition video cameras fitted into rings, then mounted on a three-legged base. It’s meant to simulate a human head, but one that’s looking in all possible directions at once. This means it sees 360 degrees around the center, as well as above and below the unit, still capturing color, intensity, and depth. Lytro calls the new capture method a “light field volume.”

    I haven’t seen any footage taken with the Immerge, but Lytro suggests that the difference between this experience and what’s currently being shot with other 3D VR rigs is dramatic.

    There are some major caveats with the Immerge. The tripod you see here is only part of the actual camera rig. Coming out from between the legs will be a bundle of cables not seen in these renderings. That will have to be plugged into a proprietary server unit that can store an hour of footage before it needs to offload the data to a more permanent storage solution. From there, editors can work with the footage in whatever application they’re accustomed to using (Lytro opted for plug-ins instead of creating its own proprietary editor) and publish in formats that will work with any commercially VR headset, including Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR.

    All this means the Immerge is much better suited to shooting in studio or urban settings, since power sources aren’t readily available for a setup like this in the middle of the desert (or anywhere to hide the server from the camera, for that matter).

    Lytro says they should have working prototypes ready for user testing in early 2016, with final units ready soon after that.

  40. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Jason Rosenthal / Backchannel:
    Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal on why the company exited the consumer business to focus on providing Light Field powered solutions for virtual reality companies

    War Stories: Why I Lit Up Lytro

    Scrapping the strategy may be the hardest choice a CEO ever has to make

    A little over a year ago at Lytro, it became clear to me that we needed to drastically change the direction of our company. We’d already built two generations of consumer Light Field cameras and were deep into development on our third and fourth generation models. But I was increasingly filled with doubt about our product strategy and direction. Were consumer cameras really our biggest and best opportunity? If not, what should we be focused on instead? Could we pivot dramatically with so much invested in our current direction?

    While traditional photography captures the brightness and color of light, a Light Field in addition captures the angle and direction of every ray of light, essentially creating a 3D model of the entire scene. This additional data unlocks a host of previously impossible capabilities ranging from the ability to create photo realistic immersive 3D worlds, to new ways of integrating computer graphics with live action, to ultimately software eating cameras as we know them. Lytro was founded by the incredible Dr. Ren Ng, now our Chairman and a professor at UC Berkeley, and was based on the pioneering work he did at Stanford for his PhD.

    The incredibly hard part, as it turned out, was figuring out which application and market to apply our technology to first.

    If you believe what you read in the tech press, the streets are going to be stained with Unicorn blood; but from my perspective we’ve seen this all before. For anyone who chooses to spend their career building technology startups, we will see it all again. In my experience, building a technology startup has always been hard.

    We began to hear regularly from prospective customers that they weren’t interested in our cloud services. In their minds we were on a certain path to bankruptcy. But it wasn’t all bad news: they were very interested in buying the software we had developed to automate the operations of our own data centers, called Opsware.

    Many of these learnings and experiences resonated as I thought about the right next step at Lytro in late January 2015. I realized that we simply were not on a path to build a winning product.

    While consumer Light Field cameras offered a number of true technological breakthroughs such as interactive 3D pictures, radical lens specs, and the ability to focus a picture after the fact we had a number of disadvantages as well including 4X larger file sizes and lower resolution in comparison to other similarly priced cameras. The cold hard fact was that we were competing in an established industry where the product requirements had been firmly cemented in the minds of consumers by much larger more established companies. This issue was compounded by the fact that the consumer camera market was declining by almost 35% per year driven by the surge in smartphone photography and changing consumer tastes.

    The bulk of the team began experimenting with different approaches to real world Virtual Reality which culminated with our announcement of Lytro Immerge in November. We’re still in the early days with Lytro Immerge but the product-market-fit of Light Field technology and VR has exceeded even our highest expectations.

    Unlock Immersive Storytelling with Complete Creative Control

    Break away from the creative limitations of existing tools designed for flat video frames. Lytro Immerge is built from the ground up to seamlessly blend live action and computer graphics (CG) using Light Field data. With configurable capture and playback solutions, it supports a range of new immersive storytelling needs.

  41. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lucas Matney / TechCrunch:
    Lytro’s Cinema 755-megapixel light field camera offers 40K resolution at 300 FPS, could make green screens obsolete; rental packages start at $125K — Lytro’s 755 megapixel Cinema light field camera is going to kill the green screen — Lytro is taking its rich, volumetric 3D camera capture technology into the world of TV and film.

    Lytro’s 755 megapixel Cinema light field camera is going to kill the green screen

    Lytro is taking its rich, volumetric 3D camera capture technology into the world of TV and film.

    The company’s light field solution is a truly beautiful technology that may eventually be in every camera we snap a shot or video with. The tech essentially uses data on all of the available light in a photo to separate objects by depth and store them in a three-dimensional grid. In the future this technology will allow the simple creation of VR-ready navigable 3D spaces, but right now it’s enabling filmmakers the ability to achieve a level of detail and flexibility in gathering shots and making post-production edits that wasn’t previously possible.

    Today, the company introduced Lytro Cinema, which is the company’s effort to woo those in the television and film industries with cool camera technology that makes their jobs easier.

    The Lytro Cinema camera gathers a truly staggering amount of information on the world around it. The 755 RAW megapixel 40K resolution, 300 FPS camera takes in as much as 400 gigabytes per second of data.

    Lytro Cinema

    The first professional Light Field solution for cinema, providing unparalleled creative freedom and flexibility on set and in post-production.

    Lytro Cinema captures all the rays of light within a scene, providing a rich amount of Light Field data. Every pixel has color properties, directional properties, and its exact placement in space.

    Lytro Cinema is defying the traditional physics of on set capture by virtualizing creative camera decisions. Infinite creative choices can be generated in post-production including unprecedented control over focus, perspective, aperture and shutter angle – recreating impossible shots.


    With Light Field cinematography, creative camera controls transform into flexible post-production processes, liberating shots from restrictive on-set decisions.

    Focus the camera near or far, control the size of the aperture, and create a shot as if that exact decision was made on set.

    Depth Screen

    With depth screen, it’s as if there is a green screen for every object in the scene. But it’s not limited to any one object. It’s anywhere in space.

    Composite foregrounds and backgrounds using depth information and reduce the demand for cumbersome and expensive green screens on set.


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