Lytro Camera Gets Innovations Focus

By Greg Tarr On Nov 16 2011 - 6:01am

NEW YORK – Among the more revolutionary new products receiving Innovations Award consideration at the Consumer Electronics Association’s recent International CES 2012 Press Preview was a digital camera that allows adjusting focus after the picture is taken.

The camera, called a light ield camera ($399 suggested retail for the entry model), was developed by Silicon Valley startup Lytro to let users snap images quickly on the fly and then go back and set the focus on a specific area of the picture in editing, using special software tailored to the camera’s unique optical system.

Lytro uses a microlens array that fits in front of the camera’s sensor. Light hits each patch of the sensor from multiple directions when taking the shot. The camera then records this directional information, and from the image file converts it into a discernable subject.

In comparison, conventional digital cameras capture in-focus images using light that hits the sensor from one direction.

The light field camera makes a 3D map of whatever it photographs. The photographer then uses the map file to select which aspect of the picture to bring into focus within the depth of field range and which area to blur.

In addition, Lytro has said it expects future software upgrades to enable cameras using its technology to create 3D images with a single capture.

For 3D photographs, light field cameras can tell the difference between the image captured by the left side and the right side of the sensor, to offer a subtle stereo image effect.

The Lytro camera looks like an elongated box, measuring 4.4 inches long and 1.6 inches square. Its F2 lens is positioned at one end and an LCD touchscreen display is positioned on the other end.

Power and shutter buttons are located along the sides, as is a USB port, and there is a touch-sensitive strip that controls the 8x zoom function.

Lytro offers three models of the camera, including separate electric blue- and graphite-colored versions containing 8GB of built-in memory each, and a third “red hot” ($499) model offering 16GB of memory.

The cameras are slated to ship to retailers in the first quarter of 2012, but consumers can purchase one now directly through the Lytro website.

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