Is the Lytro camera a breakthrough or parlor trick?

Lytro‘s camera is profiled in December’s issue of The Atlantic by Rob Walker in, “The Revolution in Photography.”

Go direct to Lytro’s Picture Gallery and be amazed in playing with focus and zoom.

Walker writes:

The camera’s attention-grabbing feature is a kind of after-the-fact autofocus: with a click, any blurry portion in a picture can be snapped into sharpness—another step in the march of idiot-proof photography.

And the company founder claims the first cameras will be $399-$499, hardly a fortune for serious photographers and within reach for the casual.

The Rapid Traveler is no photography expert, he only started taking pictures of his trips due to maternal remonstration, and the results he achieves, when good, are due more to the target than the operator. So his interest is naturally to fix poor shots taken in a hurry. But at what point is too much flexibility to manipulate a bad thing? Or does it just come closer to the way we perceive the world with our eyes rather than through the limits of a lens?

Readers, what do you think? Breakthrough or parlor trick? Planning to be in line to buy one?

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  • I read about this several months ago. The bigger problem with hasty shots, I think is that people move the camera while the shutter is still open. This creates a different kind of blur than an out-of-focus lens. As far as I can tell, the Lytro’s tech is sound. We know that light travels in a straight line unless bent by a lens. Normal cameras (and the eye) focus that light so it is sharp on the film/sensor/retina. This makes sens for film because the image can’t be fundamentally changed later. But a digital camera is just recording points of light. If you know the physics behind how the lens is bending the light, you can rearrange those points of light to how they would have looked if they had been bent differently. I’m really excited to get a chance to play with one of these.

  • Thats a slick camera, but I wonder if it will be photoshop friendly or if they’ll offer different file format conversion in their software. Needless to say, it could be the perfect little camera to have as a compliment to a DSLR when traveling.

  • Richard

    1. by definition, the only people who need idiot-proof photographic tools are, well, idiots.

    2. its main virtue is infinite depth of field. there are millions of cellphones with this already. yawn.

    3. the quality of a photograph is very rarely limited by the equipment itself; e.g., a porsche doesn’t make you a racecar driver.

    4. yet another format for digital rot. yeay… 🙁

  • andrew

    I have been following this on C/Net since it was announced back in October.

    It looks pretty interesting, but I don’t think it will turn a poor photographer into a great one, but it will let people choose the subject of their photos after they are taken.