I wrote a bit on the Lytro “light field” camera back in July. The first version of their nifty new camera technology is now available for purchase! Here is a neat article from ArsTechnica which describes a bit about how this technology works.
At the moment, you’ll need a Macintosh computer to work with it, but they are working on a windows version of the software too. I was very surprised at the price point too, starting at $399. That’s actually affordable for mere mortals.
The big feature Lytro touts is the lack of focusing needed when taking a picture. The camera actually only has a shutter button and an optical zoom control. You focus later, touching the part of the image which you want to be sharp. They are also talking about having the ability to lose depth of field entirely and make everything in focus, regardless of distance. That would be great for your average casual photo-snapper. For the more serious “artsy” photographer, depth of field is a great tool. I’m hoping that you’ll be able to adjust the depth of field, as sometimes you want it very narrow to get a particular effect, and sometimes you want to widen it a bit without necessarily losing it entirely.
The odd thing to me is that it seems like this is all they talk about with this product. On the beta discussion list it was mentioned that the camera is inherently 3D and they showed a couple of examples of pictures rendered in a couple of different 3D systems. I’d have thought this was a pretty key feature to crow about.
Also, the camera has no flash as they claim it does fine in low light situations. I’m skeptical of course, but if true, that would be very nice.
They say that future versions of these cameras will be available with interchangeable lenses and other more “pro” features. Personally, I think it’s a good move to hit the mass market hard first, and try to get a foothold and establish a standard for “light field” images and processing software. It will be interesting to see where this goes in a few years.