Lytro unveiled the world’s first consumer light field camera. The camera captures all the light in a scene, which means you do not ever again need to ‘focus’ an image, and you can even refocus images after they are taken.
The very first light fields were captured at Stanford University over 15 years ago. Advanced light field research back then required a roomful of cameras tethered to a supercomputer. Lytro is pocket-sized and looks more like a flashlight, or a really fancy thermos, depending on how wild you let your imagination run. One thing it does not look like, is a camera. But then it does need to.
The camera features all of two buttons, the power button and the shutter. It has a glass touchscreen that lets pictures be viewed and refocused directly on the camera. The lens is a 8X optical zoom, f/2 aperture affair, and the aperture is constant across the zoom range.
The Lytro lets people instantly capture a scene just as they see it by recording a fundamentally richer set of data with a light field engine. These cameras feature a light field sensor that collects the color, intensity, and direction of light flowing into the camera, capturing a scene in four dimensions. The metadata set is an integral part of pictures taken with the Lytro; so you can refocus and manipulate your images just like you would with a regular image taken by a regular camera. And oh, captured as a full light field, all pictures taken with the Lytro are inherently 3D, and enable viewers to shift the perspective of the scene.
Quick list of specs:
A 8x optical zoom lens, which features a constant f/2 aperture.
Weighs less than eight ounces.
Light field sensors capturing 11 million light rays of data (or 11 megarays), including the direction of each ray. The light field engine then processes the data into a picture that is displayed in HD quality.
The cameras turn on instantly and has an instant shutter. With no need to auto-focus, the Lytro has no shutter delays.
By using all of the available light in a scene, the Lytro can take pictures in low- light environments without the use of a flash.
The Lytro is available in 8GB and 16GB models, storing 350 and 750 pictures respectively.
Pricing & Availability: The Lytro camera is available in two models: 8GB ($399, 350 pictures) and 16GB ($499, 750 pictures). There will however be no instant gratifications, the cameras start shipping in early 2012, unless you had reserved a camera for yourself earlier. Currently Lytro ships only in the United States.
The company: Light field science was the subject of Lytro CEO and Founder Dr. Ren Ng’s Ph.D. dissertation in computer science at Stanford. Ng was on his way to become a professor, when he decided to be an entrepreneur instead, and Lytro was founded in 2006. The company has raised approximately $50 million to date from Andreessen Horowitz, GreylockPartners, NEA, and K9 Ventures along with individual investors. Greylock Partners seeded Lytro and Andreessen Horowitz led the most recent Series C round, which raised $37.6 million for Lytro’s push into consumer markets this year. NEA led the Series B round in 2010. Advisors to the company include two Nobel laureates, Stanford physics professor Douglas Osheroff and physicist Arno Penzias, as well as Intuit cofounder Scott Cook, Dolby Labs Chairman Peter Gotcher, VMware cofounder Diane Greene and Sling Media cofounder Blake Krikorian.
You can find Ng’s doctoral dissertation on light field science here.