I have had the pleasure this past week of working with a new camera. This is not just any new camera, but a tool which allows one to rethink how we go about photography. The number of times we have all heard "you should have focused on that thing" or "you forgot to focus!" is frustrating. "It’s a great shot....but it's out of focus".
Those days are now behind us. Think back to the Kodak Brownie. The magic produced by this iconic little box with a small aperture and a wide angle lens created lasting memories, massive duplication of the technology and vast amounts of money for Kodak and other camera manufacturers worldwide. All you had to do was load the film and push the shutter button. In later years, you only needed to push the button-the cameras were preloaded with film. How things change.
Now this new-kid-on-the-block is very much like the Brownie, and nothing like the Brownie. It has a lens and information receiver (the chip), and you can just push the button and take the photograph. But, that is the end of the similarities. The camera is the Lytro Illum. With the Lytro, you focus on something that you want to have in focus – the same as most cameras today. The Lytro operates on "light field" technology. It's chip, which is described in Megarays rather than Megapixels has a Microlens array which gathers light from many different angles. The best analogy I have heard about how it works is the comparison between recording a band in a single track, or in multiple tracks, giving the ability to adjust the final product in myriad ways to get a specific effect.
There is a button on the back of the camera which sets focus to the hyperfocal point. How crazy is that! Manual and auto focus are also available. The camera's claim to fame is the ability to shift focus after taking the photo. The amount of information gathered by the light field technology allows the photographer to decide after the fact, either in the camera or after uploading to a computer, what the near and far points of focus will be in.
When I heard about the camera, I immediately thought about the possibility of enriching the experience of ROM’s online visitors with a novel approach to mobile interactivity: letting the online visitor refocus some images of the ROM’s galleries and collections. Here are just some of the gallery images I shot with the Lytro Illum. You do not need any special software to view them. You can click on a spot with your cursor, or touch your screen in different places to change the focus in the images. Have fun!
To learn a bit more about this truly amazing technology which I believe will continue to grow with digital imaging, check out the Lytro Illum Camera.