Shoot First, Focus Later with Lytro

Lytro is a new camera that lets you take a picture and then worry about focusing the shot later. The technology sounds too good to be true, but seriously fascinating. Perhaps more interesting is that Lytro has decided to forgo licencing their technology to build and sell a camera of their own.

All Things D has a bit about the new tech:

The breakthrough is a different type of sensor that captures what are known as light fields — basically, all the light that is moving in all directions in the view of the camera. That offers several advantages over traditional photography, the most revolutionary of which is that photos no longer need to be focused before they are taken.

This means capturing that perfect shot of your fast-moving pet or squirming child could soon get a whole lot easier. Instead of having to manually focus or wait for autofocus to kick in and hopefully center on the right thing, pictures can be taken immediately and in rapid succession. Once the picture is on a computer or phone, the focus can be adjusted to center on any object in the image, also allowing for cool artsy shots where one shifts between a blurry foreground and sharp background and vice versa.

“A really well-composed light-field picture can tell a story in a new way,” says Ren Ng, the company’s founder and chief executive (pictured above with an early prototype light-field camera).

Lytro’s camera works by positioning an array of tiny lenses between the main lens and the image sensor, with the microlenses measuring both the total amount of light coming in as well as its direction.

The technology also allows photos to be taken in very low-light conditions without a flash, as well as for some eye-popping three-dimensional images to be taken with just a single lens.

Try it by clicking anywhere in the sample photos above to focus on a different element of the picture. This could be huge for the point-and-shoot market.

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