We had an amazing play date at ZURB yesterday. The kind folks at Lytro stopped by our offices to demo the world's first light field camera. We a great time shooting images and playing around with Lytro camera, which will be in stores in early 2012. We learned a lot about the inner workings of the camera and about future features on the Lytro roadmap. Here are some highlights.
Adjusting Focus After Taking Pictures
If you've heard anything about the Lytro camera it's probably the fact that it lets you refocus on a specific part of and image after you've snap the picture. The camera itself has no focus lenses; instead of capturing a photo it captures the complete light field. The light field fully defines how a scene appears. It is the amount of light traveling in every direction through every point in space. The light rays are captures as is and are later used to display and focus on almost anything in the picture.
There is an 8X optical zoom on the camera that lets you zoom in as you take pictures; that's the only control you see besides the button you push to take pictures.
It is technically possible to take 3D pictures with the Lytro since you're capturing all traveling light in a given scene. Kristen, a Product Manager for Online Experience at Lytro, talked to us about this a bit, and said that the 3D technology would even be backwards compatible with Lytro photos taken before 3D is available.
HTML5 vs Flash Player
When we first saw the embedded Lytro pictures, it was clear that Lytro uses Flash to display them. It's common knowledge that Adobe is dropping Flash support for mobile, so we asked Kristen if there were any plans to offer support for another technology in the future, the answer we got back was:
Yes, we are also working on a HTML5 player for the images on the desktop, we'll offer that as an option in the future.
Future Features: Brightness Adjustment, Instagram Like Color Effects, Crop
When we asked Kristen about some features they're planning to release in the future, the few that came up mostly had to do with altering images after they are captured:
- Adjustable brightness is a future feature the Lytro team is working on; many of the photos we took seemed a bit dark. Currently there is no way to change brightness after you take the picture. In the future you will be able to choose which parts of the picture to make brighter, similar to how you currently choose which part of the picture is in focus.
- 'Instagram' like effects on Lytro images are also in the works. Again, the user will be able to choose which parts of the picture to add the effect to.
- Crop is another feature they plan to add to their software, though you'll only be able to crop to a square image.
Pricing and Storage
The base model costs $399 and holds 350 images, while the red model holds 700 images and costs $499. The camera will be available to the public in the early 2012, according to Kristen.
How the Lytro Idea Was Born
As we talked with Kristen, she mentioned a couple details about how the idea for the camera came about, and it's a pretty cool story. The very first light fields were captured at Stanford University over 15 years ago. Ren Ng, the CEO at Lytro, had been working on the technology for years at Stanford before a light bulb went off in his head and he knew he wanted to build a camera for consumers that used the technology.
It was a fun day at ZURB. We took tons of silly pictures, joked around, talked a lot about the positioning and future of Lytro and had a great time hanging out with Kristen. A big thank you from the entire ZURB team to Kristen and Lytro for the opportunity to have a play date with the world's first light field camera.