I remember reading about light field photography in 2008 and being blown away by it. In a nutshell a light field camera would allow you to take a picture without focusing or setting aperture, all you have to worry about is what is in-frame. Only after a photo is taken can the decision be made as to what and how much of the image you want to be in focus. It also means there would be no shutter lag while the camera obtains focus lock because it does not have to focus! It works by not only recording colour and intensity of light hitting the sensor but also angle of the light, this somehow allows the camera to know what distance the light has come from. Lytro also say the new technology is also well suited to low light. The science is explained far better on the Lytro web site here.
If they deliver what they are promising it could change photography in a huge way. Lytro have been secretly beavering away working on a product, they launched their website, Twitter and Facebook page today after the launch party in San Francisco last night (22 June). At the moment there are no details of an actual camera but what they do say is it will be small enough to get into your pocket and will be priced in the same bracket as other compact digital cameras. At the time I first heard of the technology I thought that if that ever makes it into a product it would be in the form of something like a high end Hasselblad medium format digital camera that would cost a 5 figure sum so I am pleasantly surprised their first product will be a consumer product.
I will be following Lytor with great interest over the next few months to see what they come out with. I am dying to know how large the files it produces are and what the software is like that is used to process the images. If you want to know more check out Lytro’s website and if you really want the lowdown its worth reading though their FAQ.