Lytro Schmytro

The Lytro camera is probably the most interesting advance in photographic technology this year. An array of microlenses allows the sensor to capture information about the exact direction from which light is coming, and that allows software to focus every part of the scene regardless of it’s distance from the camera. To highlight this advance, the company’s first camera produced interactive online images which could be refocused by clicking anywhere in the scene (see some here). We have all looked at photos with out-of-focus parts, and it is a novel experience to be able to click on or touch the fuzzy places and have the crisp focus shift as if a focusing ring was being turned. But it has also been maddening to know that the captured data would allow the entire photo to be in focus all at the same time, yet this was not an option for any Lytro photo. It was a clever marketing approach, because modern digital cameras with tiny sensors have very good depth of field, and many of the photos we take now already have everything in focus. Allowing the viewer to “focus the photo after it was taken” highlighted how new this technology was.

There are six focus levels in this image.
Click anywhere to adjust the focus.

Two weeks ago Lytro released new software that allows any Lytro photo to be viewed with all parts in focus. This was surely the plan all along, and I guess now that they have milked the public relations benefits of the refocusing gimmick they can move on to new gimmicks. The new software also allows the viewer to change the point of view of the photo ever so slightly, and to apply Instagram-like filters to the images. This upgrade arrived just in time, because last week the Chaos Collective released a clever process that allows those of us without $400 Lytro cameras to take photos which can be refocused by clicking on them. The photos above and below were taken with my trusty Nikon D40. The trick is to take a three second video while you pull focus through the scene. This site will then generate a focus map and code which displays the video frame that is in focus at the place the viewer clicks. The image is divided up into a 20 x 20 grid for mapping mouse clicks and that is a bit coarse for the scenes I captured. So you have to click around a bit to find the exact spot to get some areas to focus.

There are five focus levels in this image.
Click anywhere to adjust the focus.

My D40 does not take video, so I just took a series of photos focused a different distances and put them in Premiere to make a video. I could have used a video camera or Powershot, but they have smaller sensors and greater depth of field, so the effect might not have been so dramatic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.