Light field photography

Lytro changed photography some years ago when it introduced light field photography technology. At that time Lytro introduced pocket digital camera that has adjustable focus that you can adjust afterwards. First lit looked like just a gimmick, but it seems that the idea has got wider interest that just this one product: several smart phone manufacturers are playing with re-focus after shooting options (they use different technology to get similar looking results).

The first Lytro camera was a small pocket camera, a product range that has increasingly gone unfashionable when practically all smart phones have at least semi-decent digital cameras in them. Lytro changed photography. Now can it get anyone to care? article tells that now Lytro is trying a comeback on the digital camera markets with a new Illum camera that has a DSLR shape, better image quality and improved re-focus options.

Lytro’s ultimate, simplest goal is to turn the physical parts of the camera — the lens, the aperture, the shutter — into software so it would take nothing more than a cheap lens and a sensor to build a light-field camera. Interesting to see that comes out of this development.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lytro’s new light-field camera looks like an actual camera, costs $1,599

    Lytro’s new light-field camera looks like an actual camera, costs $1,599

    If Lytro’s first camera offered us a sneak peek at the promise of light field photography, the company’s second-generation product swings those doors wide open. A far cry from the toy-like appearance of its predecessor, the $1,599 Lytro Illum looks and feels like a genuine full-fledged camera meant for a more professional crowd. The innovation doesn’t stop at just looks either, as the Illum is a much more serious effort at light field photography, with cutting-edge optics, a larger sensor and a whole lot of computational power that might make the Illum the most technologically advanced camera to land in consumer hands.

    When Lytro first introduced its light field camera two years ago, it shook up not just the world of photography, but of technology in general. Bundled inside a tiny rectangular block was a groundbreaking image sensor that could capture millions of rays of light along with their color, intensity and direction — a task that previously required hundreds of cameras and a supercomputer. That hardware, combined with some complex software, meant that you could not only get a 3D image from a single shot, but also had the ability to refocus a photograph after you take it. It’s this latter trick that is arguably the Lytro camera’s most identifying characteristic, and the one that put it on the technological map.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lytro Illum review: this is the camera of the future
    It’s almost time to forget everything you ever knew about photography

    Ten minutes into using the Lytro Illum, I’m throwing out everything I’ve ever learned about photography. Taking great photos with this camera has a different set of rules, a different guiding principle. Forget the rule of thirds; shoot for depth. Frame from below, because it makes everything look more dramatic. And most of all, stop half-pressing the damn shutter and expecting something to happen. Focusing doesn’t matter anymore.

    The Illum is Lytro’s second product, but its first real camera. This is what Lytro executives say they’ve been building for seven years. The last one was made to prove light-field photography is real science. This one is a statement that the next phase in photography is already here. The Illum has a remarkable lens, a big, hefty body, and lots of manual controls. It shoots photos that you can refocus later. That you can look at from a number of different perspectives, or view in 3D. Photos that start to answer Lytro’s fundamental question: what becomes possible when we don’t have to print pictures anymore?

    All the light-field technology, particularly the “microlens array” that captures light and direction, sits inside the Illum’s massive lens. It extends from 30-250mm, and shoots everything at f/2 but later offers the ability to stop down as far as f/16. It’s one of the most versatile lenses I have ever used, equalled only by the Sony RX10 and a small handful of others

    Except it never really feels like everything’s working properly. If I captured too many shots too quickly, the camera would freeze or crash spectacularly.

    The Illum’s autofocus is basically nonexistent, meaning you’re stuck manually focusing for every shot. There’s no image stabilization, so if you’re zoomed in you either need a tripod or the world’s steadiest hands.

    It feels like every time you push the Illum, try to explore its capabilities, it just breaks down. And if there’s one way to immediately alienate the customer who’s most likely to part with $1,500 for this camera, it’s to build a product that can’t hack it under pressure.

    When it works, the Illum is capable of producing really remarkable pictures. (It still doesn’t shoot video, though Lytro says that’s not far away.)

    Unfortunately, shooting is only half the battle. The other half is the Lytro Desktop software, which is currently somewhere between flawed and unusable.

    there are two problems with Lytro Desktop. One: you need huge power to run it with any kind of success. Each 53MB light-field picture takes about 30 seconds to import and 5 seconds to open, and stutters endlessly while it’s being edited

    in its current form, Lytro Desktop is kind of broken. Eventually, I’m told, there will be mobile apps

  3. 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.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Sony Patent Shows Off Its Take on a Light Field Camera, Solves the Low-Res Problem

    The light field photography market may soon get a little more crowded and competitive according to an exciting Sony patent that promises to not simply copy, but improve upon the technology made famous by Lytro.

    Detailed in United States Patent Application US20140071244, Sony’s first foray into the realm of light field photography doesn’t just replicated the technology in other light field cameras, it solves one of the largest pitfalls of the technology — the inherit low-resolution of light field cameras.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    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.

  7. 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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