You may have noticed some ads as of late for a new kind of camera from a company named Lytro. This camera introduces a totally new type of digital camera sensor (light field sensor). This sensor not only captures the color and intensity of the light coming through the lens, but the direction of the light rays. It is based on technology developed at Stanford University some 15+ years ago using super computers. What good is that, you may ask?
- You can now change the focus of an image after it has been captured. Later you will be able to change the depth of field (today the DoF is similar to that of an f2 apeture)
- No shutter lag to allow for autofocus. Capture the exact moment in time you intended. This will be great for sports, street, and other quick action photography.
- The ability to switch between 2D and 3D images seamlessly. The file format is compatible with today’s 3D.
While this first instantiation of this technology in a commercial form is limited in its effective megapixels (maybe around 1.0 megapixel equivalent) you know that will increase quickly over time. For now the camera is intended for web images and small prints.
The blog image is just one example from the public Lytro gallery. Click on each flower and watch the focus change. Look at more examples here: Lytro Image Examples.
Looking to the future, I can see combining this technology with HDR photography. Think of all the control the photographer will have after image capture. Add multiple cameras at different angles and you can capture even more and change perspective, angle, focus, etc. after the fact.
When photography moved from film to digital, that was only the beginning. Photography is going to evolve at an ever increasing rate into a whole new visual art form. Enjoy the ride.