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January 24, 2012

Lytro: photography revolution?

Lytro, the light at the end of the tunnel for photography fans? But what is Lytro and why has this new camera technology got photographers and tech fanatics alike salivating?

This new and retro looking camera found instant fame as it swept up a few awards at CES 2012. The creators walked away with the ‘Last Gadget Standing Super Session’ competition and the ‘2012 Innovation Award’ in the digital imaging category. So naturally we wanted to check out what all the noise was about.

‘In other 2012 International CES news, Lytro won the Last Gadget Standing SuperSession competition, beating nine other finalists, including the Playstation Vita, Autom Robot, Cotton Candy, WIMM, Origami, Svivl, Basis Body Band, Lenovo Yoga and Samsung Note.’       TechPowerUp

Lytro is a camera that takes photos using the new light field picture (LFP) format. Traditional cameras capture a single plane of light, whereas the Lytro captures the entire field of light surrounding a subject or object.

But what is this ‘light field’ I talk of?

‘The light field is a core concept in imaging science, representing fundamentally more powerful data than in regular photographs. The light field fully defines how a scene appears.’


‘It is the amount of light travelling in every direction through every point in space. Conventional cameras cannot record the light field.’  Lytro

Lytro have created a new kind of sensor built inside the camera walls called a ‘light field sensor’. This captures the ‘colour, intensity and vector direction of the rays of light’. The technology is unique to these cameras.

I found it pretty interesting that users of the camera can focus different points of a picture after it has been taken; a lot of the example photos that I found displayed a distinctive depth of field. The Lytro basically lets you switch between 3D and 2D! When sharing an image taken by a Lytro camera, the light field engine accompanies the photo, so that anyone who receives the photo can continue to refocus the image without having to download any software – handy for family and friends who may not have the camera etc.

Here is Brian Tong from CNET to tell you all about the camera. He illustrates how exactly you can change the focus points in an image:


If you want to learn more about the LFP format then here is a chat with Lytro’s CTO Kurt Akeley. He is a little better than I am at explaining the science behind the camera, but he also explains what Lytro wanted to achieve by releasing this new product.

Would you like to see smart phones harnessing this technology in the future? Let us know below or at @Nokia_Connects