/// Meet the Stealthy Start-Up That Aims to Sharpen Focus of Entire Camera Industry
Lytro.com / Richard Koci Hernandez A Mountain View start-up is promising that its camera, due later this year, will bring the biggest change to photography since the transition from film to digital. Ordinarily, I’m turned off by such hyperbole, but after having seen a demo from Lytro , that statement seems downright reasonable. The breakthrough is a different type of sensor that captures what are known as light fields, basically all the light that is moving in all directions in the view of the camera. That offers several advantages over traditional photography, the most revolutionary of which is that photos no longer need to be focused before they are taken. That means that capturing that perfect shot of your fast-moving pet or squirming child could soon get a whole lot easier. Instead of having to manually focus or wait for autofocus to kick in and hopefully center on the right thing, pictures can be taken immediately and in rapid succession. Once the picture is on a computer or phone, the focus can be adjusted to center on any object in the image, also allowing for cool artsy shots where one shifts between a blurry foreground and sharp background and vice versa. “A really well composed light field picture can tell a story in a new way,” says Ren Ng, the company’s founder and chief executive (pictured above with an early prototype light field camera. Lytro’s camera works by positioning an array of tiny lenses between the main lens and the image sensor, with the microlenses measuring both the total amount of light coming in, as well as its direction. The technology also allows photos to be taken in very low-light conditions without a flash as well as for some eye-popping three-dimensional images to be taken with just a single lens. To view photos in full 3-D, users still need some sort of 3-D display, such as a 3-D phone, PC or television. However, even without such a display, a certain amount of 3-D is visible. [ See post to watch video ] Once images are captured, they can be posted to Facebook and shared via any modern Web browser, including mobile devices such as the iPhone.