Lytro Camera A Threat To Photographers?

Original post entitled: In Depth Of Fields

A new camera is about to change how we think about photography. Or is it ? This camera, called Lytro, records the light field instead of a beam of light. Let me try to explain:

Our current camera records light in one point regardless of its distance and crashes all the information in one location. The Lytro, however, records light from all directions and can take into consideration how far the light is based on its intensity. It than records and stores this information so it can be retrieved at will later on.

The result. A camera that does not need to focus. By capturing all the information of a visual scene at once, including the distances, it creates a file that contains all the focus points. Thus leaving the focus decision to the viewers. Example ( click on the image) :

The result is an interactive image demanding viewer participation. No longer does the photographer control the narrative of his image, it becomes the prerogative of the consumer.

The good news is that there is no need for focusing anymore. Everything in the image is in focus when needed. Thus no waiting for cameras to find the focus point. The second advantage is that because the sensor is so much more sensitive, images in very low light are not so difficult to capture anymore.

However, because there is always a However in new technology, this puts the burden of point of view on the viewer. Well, it’s not really a burden. The photographer no longer controls where he wants the viewers eyes to concentrate on. Since photography or at least great photography is all about point of view, this could not be such a welcomed tool.

It also kills depth of field. Well, it redefines how we experience depth of field. From a fixed position, we can now navigate through it, revealing what used to be blurry elements. Again, we are messing with point of view and objective perspective. A photographer uses fixed depth of field to convey a message. By allowing it to change, the message is partly, or greatly lost.

Finally, this technology is only available online. Obviously, it cannot be printed. It is not explained how an image taken by one of these cameras would look in a book, or a magazine . The assumption would be that one would need to select a point of focus and fix it in order to use the image for print, thus loosing all the novelty aspect.

“Proof is in the pudding”, as said the queen of spades, so there is no telling what the result will be until one of these cameras are put in the hands of very creative people. It will be interesting to see the results when the camera becomes available but we do not see this going much further as other cool technologies like tilt-shift photography or lens Babies.

You can read some more and reserve your camera here

About the author

This business has too many Surveyors and not enough Bohemians”  Roger Therond, legendary photo man, once said to a good friend of mine, Eliane Laffont. This blog is about restoring the balance and letting the Bohemians talk.

Paul Melcher has been named one of the “50 most influential individuals in American photography” by American Photo. He is currently senior vice president of the PictureGroup. He writes the Thoughts of a Bohemian blog

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

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