Eight Questions About Lytro's Light-Field Camera

If you slept through most of last week, you missed some big camera news. Lytro's light-field camera announcement was the most significant photography-related event of the past week--and if the company's "shoot now, focus later" technology works as seamlessly and easily as advertised, the camera could end up on a list of the most significant photography-related developments of all time.

Of all time!

Light-field and plenoptic cameras have existed behind the closed doors of research laboratories for years, but Lytro's first-generation camera will be the first pocketable, mainstream device capable of post-shot refocusing. The camera's price, size, and release date are unknown at this time, however; and as we discussed in a recent PCWorld podcast, several important details about the camera and its underlying technology could make it or break it in terms of mass appeal.

You can find a FAQ about the technology and sample images taken with a preproduction camera on Lytro's site, but the company is staying mum about most of the details until the camera is closer to release. Under the condition of anonymity, a Lytro spokesperson supplied a bit more information via email...not a whole lot more information, but it's a start.

PCWorld: How much will the first-generation camera cost?

Lytro: The cost of the camera will be competitive with traditional consumer cameras.

PCW: Roughly how big will the camera be? Point-and-shoot size, or larger?

Lytro: The camera will be small enough to fit in a pocket.

PCW: Will it use a proprietary image format?

Lytro: Yes, although you can save the files as a JPEG, at which point they will lose the interactive capability.

PCW: For the technology to work, the camera must collect a lot of data per image. How big will the file sizes be? Bigger than a RAW-format image?

Lytro: The file sizes will be comparable to regular picture formats. Slightly larger, but not by an order of magnitude.

PCW: Will the focus-after-shooting technology work for just still images, or video as well?

Lytro: Video is entirely possible within the light field. It is on our long-term roadmap, but video capture will not be available in our first product.

PCW: How much distance does there need to be between focus depths in a scene in order for the camera to recognize them as different focus points?

Lytro: We aren't prepared to get into detail about the camera's specs at this time.

PCW: Regarding the camera's 3D imaging capabilities, does the camera save .MPO format images? Or do you need to connect the camera to a 3D TV and/or use special software to view the images in 3D?

Lytro: The camera creates a unique file format that is compatible with any 3D device (laptop, TV, etc.) with 3D glasses. That said, you can easily switch between 2D and 3D pictures on these devices, unlike other media optimized for 3D.

PCW: Can you talk about the mobile apps and the desktop-side software needed to view and refocus the images?

Lytro: Lytro living images include the Lytro light field engine wherever they are viewed--whether on a PC, mobile, or on the Web. Lytro is tapping into modern Web technologies like Flash and HTML5 to let people share and interact with living pictures without needing to download any additional software.

Video: Lytro Camera Lets You Focus After You Shoot

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