I got put on to this one by an article in the Economist a couple of months ago (which I only just got around to reading).
The Lytro camera is arguably the biggest rethink of camera technology in centuries. The underlying concept seems to be straightforward, if Very Very Clever. Most of the expense of a good camera is all those moving parts, and much of the difficulty of using one is getting all the moving parts to do exactly the right thing at the right time. The Lytro turns that logic on its head. Since storage and computing power are increasingly ridiculously cheap, why not leverage them? So the camera does without moving lenses, instead capturing the entire "light field" coming in -- basically oversampling the data enormously. Then, when you have time and leisure, you figure out what you want.
Or in other words: shoot the picture first, then focus later.
The website is crazy cool, and does a nice job of illustrating the point. The picture gallary, in particular, is better than a thousand words -- it shows a bunch of pictures, and lets you interactively click on them to refocus on specific objects.
Add to that the fact that, with no lenses to focus, and much less complex electronics, the thing claims to have no shutter lag -- you click, it records the light field, you move on more or less instantly. Between that, the ability to worry about focus later, and the lack of flash (it has an f/2 lens, so claims to deal with low-light well), this thing may be the *perfect* SCA court-photography camera. I gather that the main drawback is that the maximum resolution is pretty low at this point, so you can't really make 8x10s with it. But it's likely plenty good enough for web photos, and that's the vast majority of what I shoot.
It's not quite out yet, and it's not cheap -- but for brand new tech the price is pretty reasonable ($500 for the best version). I confess a real temptation to buy one of these gadgets, despite knowing that in three years it's going to be way better. Even the first versions sound like a remarkably useful advance, that matches my photography needs rather well...
Justin du Coeur
- Cool gadget of the day: the Lytro camera