Start up creates a 'no-focus' point and shoot camera

Jun 22, 2011 by Katie Gatto weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you have ever used a "Point and Shoot" style of camera in the last few years then you know that that term is a misnomer because unless you are using a disposable camera you are going to be waiting for that camera to auto-focus and that focus can take up to 45 seconds to find its focus and allow you to take a picture. It is annoying to say the least if the action that you wanted a picture of can't be stopped like a posed photo. Since that focus can mean that you may miss a winning goal or a really cute moment it can be more than just annoying.

One start up, based in the Silicon Valley, is looking to change all of that. The company is named Lytro and it is based on the work of Dr. Ren Ng whose dissertation on light-field technology was published five years ago to accolades by his Alma Matter Stanford University.

Dr. Ng has recently received $50 million in funding in order to create his company, which is about to launch a that is free of the factor, by getting all of the information about the surroundings that is possible. "Shoot now, focus later," Dr. Ng said today in a blog post describing this .

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The machine takes a photo by getting as much of the information about the field of light in the general area as possible. This will allow users to adjust the focus as many times as they want after the photo has been taken. It will also allow users to alter a level, and depending on your setup may even allow users to create images that are three-dimensional.

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Lytro is having the cameras made itself and did not disclose the planned price.

Explore further: Reflected smartphone transmissions enable gesture control

More information: Picture gallery: www.lytro.com/picture_gallery#

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User comments : 13

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SemiNerd
not rated yet Jun 22, 2011
WOW. I want one. Unless they cost a zillion dollars of course.
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (1) Jun 22, 2011
Kind of like the morning after pill.
Temple
5 / 5 (2) Jun 22, 2011
This technology is truly exciting!

Being able to 'fix' the focus after the fact is just the tip of the ice-berg. Imagine being able to do real tilt-shift focusing without a special lens. Who knows what kind of artistic magic can be had with focus painting, etc.

I'm excited to get my hands on this.

Though I do hope that they license the technology to other camera makers. Others have a great deal of experience making cameras and have learned an awful lot. I'd hate to see such revolutionary technology come at the expense of taking a few steps backward when it comes to camera manufacturing.
George_Rodart
not rated yet Jun 22, 2011
This is extraordinarily clever science which may have other applications besides consumer photography (Follow the links and read his thesis pdf.} Unfortunately it will probably be a commercial bust. Given the complexity of the solution it's doubtful they could market a camera for under $200.
There are no real aesthetic gains here that a professional photographer, with a good rig couldn't duplicate with the exception of photographic tricks.
The main problem in digital cameras is not focus or resolution but lack of tonal range and excessive noise in low light situations.
yOnsa
5 / 5 (2) Jun 22, 2011
i'd like to see this adapted to follow the focus of ones eyes while watching video.
Nik_2213
not rated yet Jun 22, 2011
Does this mean that you could later 'take slices' through an image and assemble them into layers like a 'pop-up' card ??
It would be very useful... And fun !!
macsglen
not rated yet Jun 23, 2011
I'd love to see this done . . . the digital camera I have often can't make up its mind where to focus, especially in close-up shots, and it wastes time when it's trying to focus.

Of course, expect the need for some dedicated software to manipulate the focal properties, but -- wow!
MarkyMark
not rated yet Jun 23, 2011
A much needed improvement indeed. I hope that one day soon its affordable.
Yevgen
4 / 5 (1) Jun 23, 2011
Since article does not explain how it works,
here is actual dessertation behind it:
http//www.lytro.com/renng-thesis.pdf
gmurphy
not rated yet Jun 23, 2011
The 2nd video on this page is quite good, the one with the coloured pencils. This could have substantial potential in robotics too as complex auto-focusing cameras could be replaced with a relatively simple physical lens with the capacity to saccade as quickly or even faster than the human eye,
fmfbrestel
not rated yet Jun 26, 2011
Let the race begin to see who puts this in a phone first.
Temple
not rated yet Jun 26, 2011
Let the race begin to see who puts this in a phone first.


It may be quite a while before this technology makes its way into a phone.

With the smaller lenses and tiny apertures in mobile devices, the depth of focus is relatively huge. Much more of the image is effectively 'sharp' than it would be with a larger lens with a larger aperture. As a result, the benefits of this technology would be lessened quite a bit.

Add a lessened apparent affect to an increased cost in miniaturizing this technology, and it may be hard to justify the expense of this technology in a mobile device.
rwinners
not rated yet Jun 28, 2011
Actually, the value of high quality lenses is that they allow the positioning of the focal point and the depth of sharpness on either side of that point.
I seriously doubt that this can be done digitally.