Lytro camera lets the viewer choose the focus

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Silicon Valley start-up Lytro has launched a revolutionary camera that could make blurry pictures a thing of the past.

 The Lytro camera allows the user to choose a point of focus after the picture's been taken, simply by clicking on the relevant part of the image. A side-effect of removing the need to focus is that pictures can be taken instantly. When pictures are posted online, the viewer can do the same thing.

 It was developed by Ren Ng, a former student at Stanford University, whose PhD thesis on the concept was rated the best doctoral dissertation in computer science in 2006 by the Association for Computing Machinery.

"I loved photography then as I do now, but I was frustrated and puzzled by the apparent limitations of cameras. For example, I remember trying to take photos of Mei-Ahn, the five-year-old daughter of a close friend, but because she was so full of life, it was nearly impossible to capture the fleeting moments of her smile or perfectly focus the light in her eyes," says Ng.

 "That experience inspired me to start the research that became my dissertation on light field photography, which had capabilities beyond what I could have ever hoped for."

 Light field cameras capture far more information than the ordinary kind, recording the color, intensity and direction of all the light rays from a scene individually through what's known as a light field sensor.

 Software then allows the viewer to change the point of focus so that, for example, people can look at a friend's photos on Facebook or Flickr and focus in on any element they choose.

 However, previous prototypes have required hundreds of cameras and some pretty hefty computing power. And while there's no word on pricing yet, the Lytro camera is aimed at the consumer market.

 Click on the image below to have a play.