Shoot Now, Focus Later – Lytro is Working on Multi-Focus Cameras


Lytro wants to change the way we take photos by introducing the concept of ‘living-pictures’. A ‘living-picture’ is a picture that the viewer can change the focus of it (check out the sample images on Lytro’s site). Lytro uses a technology based on (4D) light-field photography, which capture not only the amount of light at each pixel, but also how much light arrives along each ray. In order to capture the additional data, it uses more pixels, which means lower picture resolution. The innovation behind Lytho technology is in the ability to capture the ‘living-pictures’ in a single shot on a similar form-factor camera. Another advantage of the technology is the ability to shoot a 3D images from a single lens using a single shot. Lytro CEO Ren Ng said that he expects to see the first Lytho camera in the market by the end of the year, but no additional details are available at this point.

Posted in: Camera Gear, News
{ 22 comments… add one }
  • andix June 30, 2011, 10:18 am

    there was a very ellaborate scam called “the invisible camera” ( they stepped forward and said it was a joke -a good one at that.
    given the “generalities” offered in the website, as well as the Flash movies they claim are photos taken with said camera, I’ll call this a hoax until I receive proof (a prototype) of its existence.
    I can go into further details about the “demo” images offered, as I am a professional photog for about 15 years now…. suffice to say that they look like images shot at extremely narrow apertures (f.22 for instance) with a really big DOF and blur masks used in the Flash animation to create the illusion of selective focus.
    some of the images do not offer the promised ability to change focus at will. at least the demonstrations are Flash tricks.

  • RainyDayInterns June 30, 2011, 12:45 pm

    The LightField technology is well known and came out of the work of Marc Levoy and Pat Hanrahan at Stanford in 1996. There has been plenty of papers published on the subject.

    Here is a link to their paper on the subject:

    A little Googling goes a long way…just say’in.

  • GODMODE June 30, 2011, 1:01 pm

    Mighty neat trick. No hoax here – and even if it was, it can be a reality with simple software, and a very steady hand. 😉

  • andix June 30, 2011, 1:24 pm

    googled that the day Gizm0d0 bit the bullet on publishing the news. just sift through the “papers” – they won’t make much sense. maybe it’s as practical as the quantum theory, which nobody argues that would be false; what I’m saying here is that a) the images shown are simple photos multilayered and manipulated in a Flash interface and b) the issues of putting “many many lenses” on a sensor are so dense and complicated that today’s technology would get several headaches and then more trying to accomplish.
    I am not one to debate just to be right but it so happens that I am an image professional, producing images and teaching photography. I would be the first to benefit from an adjustable and editable focus. can anyone please come up with some REAL arguments in proving that this technology DOES actually exist, other than “it’s on Google therefore it must be real?”
    also, FYI in 1996 commercially available digital cameras were storing images on floppy disks and RAW photo was merely a concept, let alone the software used to assemble thousands of micro-images in a flawless product like LITRO claims to do.
    PLEASE prove me wrong and send me a camera that focuses wherever I want – I’ll give you 50% of my imaging business revenue after I get it working.

  • RainyDayInterns June 30, 2011, 1:41 pm

    Well…here is the Stanford link to Ren Ng (CEO of LITRO) and his work in the field:

    As for you being an imaging professional, that’s awesome. Some of us here have actually managed a digital imaging camera team at Kodak. But hey…you are a pro.

  • RainyDayInterns June 30, 2011, 1:44 pm

    Slides from the 1996 Siggraph talk on LightField rendering:

  • RainyDayInterns June 30, 2011, 1:45 pm

    “…PLEASE prove me wrong and send me a camera that focuses wherever I want – I’ll give you 50% of my imaging business revenue after I get it working….”


  • andix June 30, 2011, 2:41 pm

    ok, I bow to you. still googled arguments and no scientific proof, so you must be right. therefore you’re right and I’m wrong. I will let you go back to reviewing Porsches and Vespas now, and won’t bother you with facts anymore. my apologies.

  • RainyDayInterns June 30, 2011, 3:48 pm

    Not sure how much more “proof” we can provide that this is not a hoax…

    We posted the link to Ren Ng’s work at Stanford. In the link there is his paper describing in detail how the tech works:

    There seems to be quite a detail description of the sensor array, the camera used, and the algorithm used in processing the data.

    As that was based on Ng’s Ph.D thesis and it is a link on a reputable university site, we took it at face value. Apparently, you are skeptical…which is fine. We’ll know at the end of the year if a commercial unit will be available, but the technology is clearly not imaginary. We would also take you up on your 50% offer at that time.

    BTW…we accept your apology.

  • JT June 30, 2011, 10:42 pm

    Look at the first video on this Engadget page about Adobe’s work in the field. They show how it works:

    The biggest issue I’ve read about this is that with a 10 megapixel image sensor you’d only get a 0.7 megapixel image. Thom Hogan has a few posts on this:

    Search for “Lytro in Numbers” to read about the image resolution issue and “A New Way of Imaging?” to read about the issues they’ll face trying to make and sell their own camera.

  • RainyDayInterns July 1, 2011, 2:34 pm

    Awesome find…via Googling no doubt 🙂

    Thom Hogan’s write-up was pretty interesting! His comment about the current limitations of the sensor is valid, but this is only a temporary technical barrier.

    The scaling of the sensors is entirely feasible and a 10x or 100x increase in resolution is not beyond the realm of possibility.

    Where we may see this tech adopted first may not be in consumer camera, but in security applications. Imagine being able to get better clarity from a security footage by clicking on the desired portion of the frame? This fantasy feature seen in many TV CSI-type shows may finally be a reality 🙂

  • RainyDayInterns October 19, 2011, 4:19 pm

    Hey Andix,

    Here is another link…this time from the Lytro launch event covered by Giz:

    Feel free to send us a check anytime.

  • andix October 19, 2011, 6:29 pm

    no. you didn’t send me a camera and I haven’t started making money with it just about yet. that was the initial part of the deal. read again. 🙂

  • RainyDayInterns October 19, 2011, 6:33 pm

    Well…at least now you know the camera is real and not some Flash trick on their website.

    Stanford…kind of a reputable place after all.

  • andix October 19, 2011, 6:39 pm

    could be. please open in Safari and check out the Activity window. you’ll find a SWF player among other things. 🙂 I don’t see how else other than through Flash or HTML5 would anyone be able to present such an interactive photo gallery.

  • RainyDayInterns October 19, 2011, 6:49 pm

    No one is arguing that the photo gallery may be Flash-based, but the point is the tech was not FAKED using Flash.

    The whole argument was around whether this was a hoax or whether the tech was real. We kept saying that it was, you kept insisting otherwise.

  • JT October 19, 2011, 7:15 pm

    Look at the first video in the link I posted, they zoom in and show what the raw image looks like. The way I understand it, they essentially take lots of partial images of scene and can recombine them to get the image the viewer wants. Sure they need software to do this trick, but you also need software to view any regular image or video. It’s interactive nature would require some kind of software.

  • DCromley October 29, 2011, 3:50 pm

    What file format does the camera use? *.jpg won’t be useful.

  • RainyDayInterns April 22, 2014, 9:38 am
  • andix April 22, 2014, 9:48 am

    Oh no. It’s in the real world now, I’m all too aware of that. (Took you three years to hold a grudge, lol. I’d have moved on if I were you.)

    I’d like to rephrase the whole thing though:

    a) it’s as useful as an umbrella for a fish
    b) where are the masses using it?
    c) the very same result can be accomplished shooting at f22 in high ISO and constructing a “bokeh” mask in Flash.

  • RainyDayInterns April 22, 2014, 9:52 am

    Ha…we forget NOTHING!

    We do agree with your assessment, but that a whole different discussion 🙂

  • andix November 7, 2014, 1:30 pm

    I don’t forget either and it’s fun to keep this internet match warm.
    Anyway it looks like Lytro just realized, “hey nobody wants our stuff so if someone can find any use for it, it’s up for grabs.”


    It was rather short lived I’d say. (I have yet to see a Lytro hanging by someone’s neck or wrist out in the wild. Ditto for galleries on the www.)

Leave a Comment