Lytro: Photography’s giant leap forward

Lytro: Photography’s giant leap forward

By Susan Smith

STANFORD UNIVERSITY, USA. A still camera technology that generates an image that can be refocused by photographers after the photo has been taken.

Lytro lets you take pictures like never before. Unlike a conventional camera that captures a single plane of light, the Lytro camera captures the entire light field, which is all the light traveling in every direction in every point in space. By instantly capturing complete light field data, the Lytro camera provides capabilities not found in a regular camera.

Since Lytro captures the color, intensity, and direction of all the light, photographers can experience the first major light field capability – focusing after the fact. Focus and re-focus, anywhere in the picture. Photographers can refocus their pictures at anytime. Focusing after the fact, means no auto-focus motor; no auto-focus motor means no shutter delay. Photographers can capture the moment they meant to capture, not the one a shutter-delayed camera captured instead.

Lytro’s approach springs from Stanford University research into what are often called light-field cameras, which capture much more information to create an image than conventional digital cameras. While scientists have discussed the underlying concept for a century, most previous experiments have required as many as a hundred cameras and heavy-duty computing power. In 2006, Lytro CEO Ren Ng wrote a doctoral dissertation at Stanford about ways to dramatically reduce the size and cost of the technology. While Ng has been secretive about the specifics of the technology, Ng’s venture, founded in 2006, has attracted $50 million in funding from venture-capital firms. that include Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, New Enterprise Associates and K9 Ventures.

“I think that there is broad agreement that light field will be the future,” says Winston Hendrickson, vice president of products for software maker Adobe Systems Inc., which has developed prototype light field cameras for research purposes.

Invention Lytro light field camera technology
Organization Stanford University, USA
Researcher Ren Ng
Field(s) photography, imaging, computer science, electronics
Further Information Fast Company, Wall Street Journal, Lytro website, Academic Paper
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