Camera start-up Lytro promises to revolutionise photography

Lytro is working on 'light field' cameras that capture the color, intensity and direction of individual light rays

With a new kind of camera, Lytro wants to remove the headaches of focus from digital photography.

Lytro, a start-up based in the Silicon Valley, hopes to revolutionise the camera industry by bringing "light field" cameras to the market this year. This type of photography captures the color, intensity and direction of individual light rays, allowing the user to refocus the picture even after it has been taken.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Lytro's founder and chief executive, Ran Ng, likened the technology to a multitrack audio recording, in which each instrument is recorded separately and mixed later.

A blog post on Lytro demonstrates the concept with an interactive photo. Clicking anywhere on the picture changes the point of focus, causing other parts of the scene to blur into the background. A picture gallery shows more examples.

Lytro also claims that its cameras work in low lighting without flash, and can produce 3D photos with a single lens.

"We have something special here," Ng wrote. "Our mission is to change photography forever, making conventional cameras a thing of the past."

It's a lofty goal, especially at a time when smartphones are already jeopardizing conventional digital cameras. But if Lytro's first cameras really are better and more convenient, they may pose a threat to high-end digital cameras and DSLRs. That will depend largely on pricing and portability; we'll see what Lytro comes up with later this year.

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Jared Newman

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