On the shelf: Lytro: Foolproof, or made for idiots? | AspenTimes.com

On the shelf: Lytro: Foolproof, or made for idiots?

Ryan Slabaugh
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

In case you missed it a few months ago, a Silicon Valley startup called Lytro revolutionized the photography industry. It got very little press, but the concept they developed has me champing to try it.

Here is the premise: The technology, which is very software-dependent, allows the camera to take pictures instantly, without focusing first. (The technology was invented decades ago but required a roomful of cameras to execute. The real advancement was how Lytro converted that into hundreds of microlenses contained within a small, handheld device.)

Science aside, let’s say you take the picture. Once the image is captured, it can be downloaded to a computer, where the user is given the option to choose where to focus the image. Lytro calls this the “living pictures” system and with this development has finally taken out the last piece of thinking needed before snapping the shutter.

And herein lies the rub. The Lytro, in its first generation, comes with no controls, other than a touch-screen way to lighten the exposure: Other than that, settings are all automatic, meaning if you’re a control freak and love all those gadgets on your SLR, this camera will probably frustrate you.

At this point, with a $399 price tag, I’m not sure buying it makes sense. Until they allow for more editing, camera control and video within the unit, it would not be worth that kind of money to me. In the next couple years, though, watch out. While the true photo revolution might follow, along with it, the word “focus” might go the way of the darkroom.

For most people, the Lytro should add to the enjoyment of photography. And to the artist who poo-poos all this advancement, don’t worry: The human eye is still the first tool we own to notice a good photograph opportunity, and the Lytro isn’t thinking for us … yet.


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