Will the Lytro Camera Change Photography?

Last week the Lytro Camera was announced. This camera introduces a revolutionary sensor technology that gives photographers the ability capture the “light field” in a scene and focus after the fact. This, of course, is in the place of the current sensor technology which only allows you to capture the scene based on the focus point you determined at the click of the shutter. I have to say, I’m divided on this camera and its technology.

Wait. Backup. Light field? Did I just wake up in some crazy sci-fi photography world? Perhaps. Is this really that different from our current digital cameras? Perhaps. The science behind this camera is absolutely unique. However, it still captures light but it just processes it differently in-camera. The software that is currently in our DSLRs and point and shoot cameras captures light and processes it in a specific way. The software and sensor built into the Lytro camera uses a much more complicated algorithm when capturing a scene. According to the website, it records and processes more information about a scene allowing you to adjust your focus point after the fact since all details in the scene are present in the image file. In essence, its all about the camera’s internal software.

I’ve been thinking about this camera all weekend. On one hand, I am fascinated by the opportunity to change the focus point of an image after the fact. How many images have you taken where the focus was off by just a hair, effecting the overall image? Oh the agony of the missed shot! It seems like it would be a fantastic tool for point and shoot cameras. I also really like the idea that you have greater control in the processing portion of an image, but I’m a little bit of a control freak when it comes to my images.

On the other hand, I’m skeptical about this technology on a professional level. Not because I think it can’t exist or that it’s not groundbreaking technology, because clearly it is. No, I’m worried about the quality of photography and photographers in general. I strongly believe that the most effective images are those that are thought out, intentional, even visualized before being captured. The photographer is still the most important element in any photograph. The skills and intent are much more important than the equipment. In all my years of working at RMSP, I’ve seen amazing equipment that results in not such amazing images, and borderline junk cameras that produce incredible, awe-inspiring images. The difference between the two? The person behind the lens.

I suppose I fear the lazy photographer. A photographer who captures image after image without the consideration of technique. They are waiting only for the happy accidents and not relying on knowledge or intention.

While I do believe that this technology will eventually produce images that win awards and inspire viewers, I think it will only do so in the hands of a skilled photographer whose vision included the use of this technology and its focus control.

All that said, I’m curious to see where this chapter in photography takes us. If you haven’t seen the image gallery and played with the focus in the “living pictures” as they call them, you absolutely should.

3 thoughts on “Will the Lytro Camera Change Photography?

Albert Bronson

A lot of technology is announced but is never put into production or widely adopted. I suggest a wait-and-see approach here. I doubt if this is the end of photography as we know it (didn’t someone say that about digital?).

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Page Orb Pedde

Albert, I completely agree, I don’t think this is the end of photography as we know it. Photography is constantly evolving. While techniques and tools may fall by the wayside, the art itself continues. I have complete faith in this. So yes, all we can do is wait and see what happens next.

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I’ve read a couple of articles from different sources on this and find the technology interesting. End of professional photography as we know it? Doubtful. How many casual photographers really know how to use Photoshop? Shoot at high F-stops to get wide DOF and use the Blur/Brush tool in PS to get the same effect of selective focal areas.

Besides, right now the intent is to apply this to what are essentially point-and-shoot cameras. Sounds like the products of our DSLR’s are safe for now.

What I expect to see will be really cool effects on the CSI-like TV shows and movies as writers start incorporating this into the story-line as a way to pull out unseen parts of an image to solve a crime. You know, the way they enlarge and resolve to high-definition images taken in the dark….

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