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A Silicon Valley start-up has vowed to redefine the meaning of "point-and-shoot" with a camera technology that allows users to take photos with no regard to image focus. According to Lytro Inc. founder and CEO Ren Ng, the company's upcoming Lytro cameras are equipped with an array of highly sensitive sensors that leverages light-field technology to capture the so-called "missing dimensions" of a picture.
Full disclaimer: we're no photography buffs. With that in the open, the concept behind Lytro's technology seems straightforward enough. The company's camera records all the data it can about the field of light it's exposed to, including the color, intensity and direction of individual light rays. The result is a highly adjustable digital image that, among other things, allows you to refocus shots after they're taken.
Speaking with the Wall Street Journal, Ng compared light-field technology to present-day audio recording. Instead of recording multiple musicians simultaneously, modern multitrack studios record them separately so the volume and other effects can be tweaked independently. Whereas your digital camera records the total sum of a scene's light rays, a light-field picture "can tell a story in a new way" Ng says.
We've embedded a light-field image above for you to play with (more here). You can click anywhere on the picture to shift the focus of the shot (double click to zoom). Although the refocusing aspect of Lytro's technology seems to be garnering all the hype, the company's camera can also capture images in very low-light conditions without a flash, and you can also create 3D images that don't require special glasses.
Lytro expects to launch its first camera toward the end of this year, but it hasn't shared any pricing details, saying only that the device will be "reasonably priced" for consumers. Assuming it's priced within the grasp of the average shopper, many believe Lytro's innovative offering will obviate existing digital cameras. Looking beyond still imagery, Ng eventually hopes to bring light-field technology to the video industry.
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