Lytro reinvented the camera so that it can evolve faster.
- May/June 2012
- By Tom Simonite
This March brought the first major update to camera design since the dawn of cheap digital photography: a camera that lets you adjust the focus of an image after you've taken the picture. It is being sold for $399 and up by Lytro, a startup based in Silicon Valley that plans to use its technology to offer much more than the refocusing trick—options like making 3-D images at home.
All consumer cameras create images using a flat plate—whether chemical film or a digital sensor—to record the position, color, and intensity of the light that comes through a lens. Lytro's camera does all that, but it also records the angle at which rays of light arrive (see graphic). The resulting files aren't images but mini-databases capturing the three-dimensional pattern of light, called a light field, at a particular moment. Software can mine that database to produce many different possible photos and visual effects from one press of the shutter.
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