Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lytro offers light-field camera - A new approach to photography?

Post submitted by Summer Johnson - 

    With every new technology, the world of communication changes. Photography has changed dramatically in the last ten years with innovative technology introduced to the masses like digital cameras and photo altering software. Photography will change again in 2012 with the introduction of the first light-field camera, the Lytro Camera.
    Stanford University captured the first light fields 15 years ago by using an advanced supercomputer with multiple cameras attached to it. They have finally condensed the technology into a portable camera that will be produced for the masses in 2012. The Lytro Camera is special because it captures an entire light field whereas normal cameras only catch a single light plane. A light field is “all the light traveling in every direction in every point in space.” ( The Lytro camera catches these light fields with a Light Field Sensor and a Light Field Engine 1.0. The Light Field Sensor captures 11 million light rays in a single picture. The Light Field Engine 1.0, created by algorithms, mimics the original supercomputer Stanford used in its research labs, and replaces many small camera parts in traditional cameras with powerful software that records the color, intensity and vector direction of the light rays.
    These two pieces of technology will allow users to focus there photos “after-the-fact” on their camera screens or on their computers later. Because this camera focuses photos later, it eliminates the need for an auto-focus motor most cameras have. The auto-focus motor usually causes delays in the shutter speed, which can cause the “perfect moment” to slip away in a thousandth of a second. The elimination of shutter lag can also improve the quality of photos in low light setting. Lytro Inc. also claims that capturing light fields instead of planes will allow users to switch between 2D and 3D views.
    This new technology will change the way photographers are viewed forever. Before the Lytro camera, when cameras were first developed, it took several hours to get one exposure of a photo that eventually faded off the page. New technology led to a permanent photo that still took multiple hours to create. (Think of all the old black and white photos of people not smiling and staring at the camera. They couldn’t hold their smiles for the time it took to create an exposure.) Long story short, technology led to cameras that required consideration to lighting, shutter speeds, aperture and focus. These key elements are what photographers spent so many years learning and perfecting to produce a “good picture”. When the public has access to a camera that does it all for them, it lessens the need for professional photographers. Society will no longer need the knowledge or experience from the professional photographers; they will have at their finger tips with a single-button light-field camera and their computer. 
    The technology will revolutionize picture taking. Imagine an iconic photo, Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother, for example. What if Lange had accidentally had her camera out of focus just a little bit? The focal length was just a little short. It would not matter if she had a Lytro camera. She would have just snapped the picture and gone about her merry way. There would have been no consideration, no skill and no passion behind the photo--just another snap shot.  Or what about the photo of Jack Ruby shooting JFK’s alleged shooter Lee Harvey Oswald in the alleyway? What if the photographer had his camera focused on the bricks of the alley instead of Ruby shooting Oswald? The Lytro camera could fix that without any the knowledge and skill required to take such a picture at such an unexpected event.
    The Lytro camera is a disgrace to professional photographers, all their years of knowledge, skill, training and experience they use each time they create beautiful and shocking images remembered by all, forever. It celebrates amateur photography by sprucing it up with some powerful software, and disregarding the passion the real photographer expresses when behind the camera. The Lytro Camera debuts in early 2012 in three vibrant colors starting at $399, and the software is included.

Source - Lytro unveils radical new camera designcNet News

Ed. - The Lytro is a new means of capturing images as a 3-D field rather than a focused plane.  It allows the photographer the ability to also extract 2-D focus planes (i.e. normal photography) from the 3-D image.  And it still requires a photographer's eye to frame and select what points of time to capture a picture.  I see it more as extending a photographer's toolbox rather than being dismissive of professional photographers.  For a more significant impact of technology on photojournalism, check this earlier post. -BJBates
I left the title off of first version - now added.

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