The secret behind the Lytro camera is a new type of sensor that gathers much more information about the light coming into the camera than the sensors found on all other types of digital cameras. Rather than record a finite amount of information about the light in a photograph, as is the case with other camera sensors, the Lytro sensor records the entire “light field,” which is made up of “all the light rays in a scene,” according to the Lytro website. This includes the color, intensity and direction of the rays of light. Other cameras simply record all the light as a single amount of light.
With this vast amount of data, the focus of a photo can be fully adjusted to match a photographer’s desires, using a computer, in the same way one might use Photoshop to adjusts hue, brightness or contrast on a regular photograph. This means never having to worry about whether auto-focus centered on the right part of a picture, and it makes capturing fast-motion much easier.
The Lytro sensor’s sensitivity to light also makes it possible to take photos in very low-light conditions without the need of a flash. It also makes it possible to take 3D-like photographs with only a single lens, and without the need for glasses to see the immersive effects.
Of course getting into the camera-making business isn’t a cheap endeavor. Not surprisingly (considering the truly astounding capabilities of the Lytro technology), the company has so far managed to raise $50 million from a variety of investors.
“Lytro’s breakthrough technology will make conventional digital cameras obsolete,” says Lytro investor and well-known venture capitalist Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz, which has invested in Lytro. “It has to be seen to be believed.”
According to Lytro founder and chief executive, the first Lytro camera “will be a competitively priced consumer product that fits in your pocket,” and will be available for purchase by the end of this year. To reserve a camera now, simply visit Lytro.com and enter your email address.
To try out Lytro’s focus-shifting capabilities, just click where you want to focus on the image below: