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Gear & Apps

f/16 Sharpness At f/1? It’s Now Possible With Lytro

By Kishore Sawh on December 10th 2014

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With each new iteration of their hardware and software, Lytro is becoming more and more compelling. Perhaps that’s because when they release an update, it’s less of a baby step as it is an Olympic long jump. The Lytro Illum arrived at just about the right time for an Internet age, but has still failed to see major early adoption. However, as each day passes, minds of photographers seem to change from dismissal to curiosity, and with the latest release of their desktop photo editing software, curiosity is bound to get the better of many.

One of the major advantages and selling points of Lytro has been the capability of the light field cameras to capture a scene and allow points of interest to be focused on, after the fact. The new software update really allows for that ability to be exploited with its new feature ‘Focus Spread.’ Using the laws of physics and a dash of witchcraft, the update allows for choosing just where focus starts and stops in an image.

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The advantages and applications of this should be immediately recognizeable for the most part. Now you are able to have more than one ‘subject’ in a frame and have them both be in focus, and everything right before and just after be out of focus. Yes, you may say this is possible without the use of a light field camera, and you’d be right – focus stacking using multiple images blended with Photoshop is an option, but it’s a damn sight more time consuming and effort intensive. With Lytro? It’s as easy as using a slider.

[REWIND: Lytro Illum | Is This The Camera For The Internet?]

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What’s also so brilliant about this is that it allows you to have maximum sharpness even with a minimum f number defocused area – say f/16, but keeping the defocused area of f/1. It’s highly impressive, and as Lytro develops, it seems to be gunning to have us all re-think the need for multiple lenses in photography, and the direction the industry as a whole. What use would you get from this? Is Lytro still ahead of its time, or are catching up now?You can get Lytro Dekstop 4.1 from their site.

Sources: PetaPixel, Lytro

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Dave Haynie

    This finally makes lightfield a bit interesting. Ok, sure, recording light vectors and doing cool math tricks with them is intellectually interesting. But up until now, Lytro was pretty much selling this as a crutch for people who don’t know how to shoot. And ok, that’s 98% of photographers… but 90% of those guys aren’t going to use this unless you put it in a smartphone, anyway.

    This is finally showing some interesting properties for creative use — not adjusting a shot to what I would have shot in the first place, but taking a shot I couldn’t have caught very easily, or not at all, with a conventional camera. They’ll need to improve the image quality to go along with that — I think they’ve been selling the idea of an “interactive” photo not just to set their toys apart, but to interest people targeting the internet, not print.

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  2. Greg Silver

    As cameras become easier to take great pictures, there slowly becomes the loss of the challenge and art to take great pictures. It’s a fine balance.

    I’m weary of the day when a camera will take ALL focus points, ALL exposures, ALL shutter speeds so that the end user just has to play with a single image. I still enjoy the challenge of taking photos.

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    • adam sanford

      Greg, I think 99% of people here would agree with you. I certainly do.

      I wonder, though, in 5-10 years time, if the JPG + RAW option on our cameras might be replaced with JPG + Lightfield RAW. One format for quick on-camera rendered files (for the ‘classic photographers’ like us) and the equivalent of a ‘3D’ RAW file with all the RAW sliders you use today, but a few selective DOF sliders added to the party.

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  3. adam sanford

    If mirrorless is the mid-term future of photography, surely this tech is the long-term future.

    But it has a very long way to go. The tech is in its infancy right now and is struggling to speak to current photographers on their terms — things like aperture, resolution, etc. are all an ‘it depends’ answer or black-box secret that can’t be answered.

    Further, the company’s mad love of not looking like a camera wins huge out-of-the-box innovation / industrial design points, but our hands still need to grip *something*. Lytro would be wise to license all this tech out and let camera manufacturers incorporate it into intelligently designed bodies.

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