Innovation Watch

Lytro Light Field Camera

Lytro Light Field Camera & Software

Lytro has produced the first consumer-ready imaging product that takes advantage of light field imaging technology.  This camera produces what their marketing materials refer to as “living pictures,” photos that allow the user to refocus the image or subtly change the perspective after the image has been captured. 

The Lytro’s smooth, rectangular form factor is atypical of contemporary digital cameras.  There are no raised buttons, rotating dials, or other controls clearly visible on the surface of the product; instead, a simple, smooth depression in the rubberized grip serves as the shutter, while zoom is controlled by a touch sensor that runs the width of the grip directly above a rather small LCD screen.  The screen is also touch-sensitive, which allows the user to access additional camera controls.

The true capabilities of the camera are enabled through the rendering software, which gives users the ability to dramatically change the focus and subtly shift the perspective of a captured image.  These images can then be rendered as non-adjustable JPEGs, sent as living pictures to others who have the freely-available rendering software, or uploaded to the Lytro.com online image viewer for embedding and adjusting within a website.

The ability of the camera to readjust the focus of a picture after the image has been captured may be a compelling feature for those engaged in the delivery of telehealth services that require digital imaging.  For practitioners receiving clinical images from remote sites, they may be familiar with the problem of unfocused images captured by inexperienced photographers.  These living pictures could alleviate some of those issues by allowing a specialist to refocus the image themselves, after the image has been captured and sent for consultation.  In addition to allowing refocusing, the software also provides an “Extended Focus” option that renders the entire image in focus.

It is important to note that the camera only captures images that measure 1080x1080 pixels, for a final image that is slightly over 1.1 megapixels.  Additionally, the dynamic range—the ability of the camera to capture details within both bright and dark areas of a subject in a single image—is rather limited, and produces photographs with  pronounced shadows and areas of significant “blow out” in the highlights.  A more extensive clinical study is needed to determine if the images have sufficient color accuracy to aid in diagnosis of dermatological conditions.

Images uploaded to the Lytro site cannot be blocked from public viewing, though they can be removed from the browsable gallery.  This means that images cannot be completely locked down from public view.  Uploading images to the Lytro website also requires accepting their Terms of Use, which specifies that others are granted license to use, print, create derivative works, or openly share your photos.  There are multiple options for sending images to either the Lytro site or to Facebook.  The desktop software allows this sharing, as does the Lytro web application and a relatively new mobile software application.

Lytro is actively working on additional products, and it will be exciting to see what future models of this technology are capable of.  Additional companies are involved in the production of light field cameras, with some manufacturers producing models intended for microscopy, industrial applications, and smart phone cameras.  2014 should see the release of several new products aimed at both consumer and industrial markets.

Product Specifications:

  • Size & Weight: 1.61 x 1.61 x 4.41 inches, 7.55 oz
  • Lens: Constant f/2 aperture with 8x optical zoom
  • Light Field Sensor:  4.6 x 4.6 mm, 100 pixels per microlens
  • Display: 1.52 inch(diagonal) back-lit LCD
  • Output: 1080 x 1080 pixels, file type .lfp (can be exported as .jpeg)
  • Controls: Power & shutter button, zoom slider, touchscreen
  • Exposure Controls: Full Auto, Full Manual, Shutter Priority, ISO Priority, Exposure Lock, 4-Stop ND Filter
  • Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Connectors: Micro USB

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