Lytro Light Field Camera

With its forthcoming Lytro Light Field Camera ($399-$499), Lytro may very well have reinvented the camera. The device strips away complexities that have previously been taken for granted, housing a unique sensor and zoom lens system inside a very Apple-inspired, cleanly designed package. Without a doubt, the biggest innovation is how it captures pictures themselves: it records the entire light field rather than just a static image. Consequently, you never have to worry about focusing while shooting; once the light field has been captured, you can open the digital file and change the focus point to whatever you prefer at a given moment. In the near future, Lytro claims that you’ll be able to view the captured image as a 3-D hologram from different angles. It’s pretty impressive stuff.

We like that Lytro stripped away the whole “camera body” from the camera. Instead, the first design is a simple aluminum rectangle with a lens at one end, and a touch screen at the other. There’s no flash because there’s no need for one—the lens is fast f/2 at all zoom levels, ranging from 35mm-280mm equivalent—and the only buttons are those for power, the shutter, and the 8x optical zoom. At this point, the software that’s included to actually process the pictures only works with Macs—a Windows version is in development, but you’re not too worried about that now, are you? Three colors are available: the graphite and blue versions both have 8GB capacities and hold about 350 pictures, while the red version doubles the capacity for about 750 shots. They’re all available for preorder and will ship early next year. Worth noting: Lytro has deliberately left the camera’s resolution ambiguous, promising only that it will be “high definition;” the math suggests that each light field file will be around 20MB, which is a lot of detail to capture, regardless.

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