Dark magic camera that let’s you choose what is in focus AFTER taking the photo

I am not clever enough to cope with this concept. A stills camera that captures all the light information available then you decide what is in focus etc afterwards…Optically I simply don’t understand and it’s not April the 1st is it? It’s called a ‘Plenoptic” camera and you read about the tech here in a document published 6 years ago by Stanford Univerisity. Now someone is actually making one for sale.

This is the concept courtesy of Yahoo News who can put it more succinctly than me!

“The secret behind the Lytro camera is a new type of sensor that gathers much more information about the light coming into the camera than the sensors found on all other types of digital cameras. Rather than record a finite amount of information about the light in a photograph, as is the case with other camera sensors, the Lytro sensor records the entire “light field,” which is made up of “all the light rays in a scene,” according to the Lytro website. This includes the color, intensity and direction of the rays of light. Other cameras simply record all the light as a single amount of light.

With this vast amount of data, the focus of a photo can be fully adjusted to match a photographer’s desires, using a computer, in the same way one might use Photoshop to adjusts hue, brightness or contrast on a regular photograph. This means never having to worry about whether auto-focus centered on the right part of a picture, and it makes capturing fast-motion much easier.”

and this is an example:

You can read more about the Lytro camera on their site. It is being said it will come out before the end of the year…we shall see!

Of course some may argue that it takes all the skill out of taking photographs and they could be quite justified in saying that…then again haven’t DSLRs already done that? Remember only being able to take 36 photos per film and really having to know what you were doing before pressing that shutter button otherwise it costs you money? Now we rattle off photos until we get what we want…a lot of skill has been lost due to that and I really see what is the way tech will go more in the future. Taking most of the skill out of things and letting you decide or fix in post…Scary stuff! That’s progress for you!!

Try for yourself below!!

See more examples here that let you manipulate the focus.


  1. Here’s my two cents:

    I remember when everyone cooked on a stove or in an oven, then the microwave came along and made “warming/thawing” meals easier. One could argue that culinary skills have declined since its introduction, but talk to any kid in college and they love their microwave. Talk to a chef and they’ll scoff at the suggestion of using one.

    If this camera winds up doing what it’s advertising, then it’ll be great for people who love to take pics but don’t know much about cameras. No longer will their vacation, soccer, baseball, ballet, recital, Niagra Falls, etc., pictures be ruined because whomever they gave the camera to didn’t focus on them, but instead, on something in the background.

    For pros, unless DSLR’s and such apply this technology, I don’t see it making a difference. I played around with some of the pics on the Lytro site and I noticed two things immediately: 1) objects in the middle-to-background were not as sharp as the objects in the immediate foreground. 2) there was a lot of noise in the low-level light pics.

    Considering those pics are on the official site, the IQ on them left a lot to be desired (personally speaking of course), but if the technology can be improved upon, if it’s something that can be used by pros, then I’m all for it. After all, even though I do the majority of my cooking on my stove, I still use my microwave when necessary. 😉

    1. Amen, brother! As a photographer and cinematographer I’m not worried about this at all. In fact, I think it is a mistake that more choice makes taking great photographs easier. I actually find that my best photographs are taken, for example, with a prime lens in part because I wasn’t able to frame it just they way I would have chosen to otherwise. And ever take 100 photos of the same thing, only to realize it was the first that was the best?

    2. Yeah, but it’s going to make scenes like those in ‘Blade Runner’. in which Dekker zooms and pans around a photo, possible.

      I can see the security guys going nuts for this, if they don’t already have it.

  2. Hmm interesting, well again, someone can buy a hammer but that doesn’t make them a carpenter. I think that people starting out photographing with camera’s like this will never make photo’s like people who started on film. Cause it forces you to think before you shoot.

  3. People come up with the ‘takes the skill out it’ argument at every step forward in (imaging) technology. Autofocus, digital, RAW, etc etc. The process may change, but you still need a skilled artist to create images that move you.

    Even once we have some uber-RAW quantum-unlimited-resolution-parallel-universes-10-dimensional camera (which obviously won’t arrive anytime soon), the data it produces won’t become meaningful until someone crafts an image out of it.

    1. I totally agree. It’s frustrating when people say “technology makes it so anyone can do it” with cameras, editing, etc etc… The more people getting into it, the higher quality work we’ll eventually see coming out the other side. I think everyone on the planet should have the ability to take awesome photos, it’d make the world a better place.

  4. In 3D rendering everything is rendered in focus. like shooting F/32. Then there is a distance pass which looks like an alpha channel in B&W where black is closest and white farthest. Then in Photoshop or a com positing program, a plug-in can calculate the amount of blur you want and where the focus point will be. You can even simulate, key frame, very successfully a rack focus on the already rendered picture. So, taking the deep depth of field shot is nothing special, just that they have most likely like with a 3D camera rig been able to process the parallax that created the 3D effect into this gray scale depth pass.

    Remember also, a 3D is usually deep focus any way to achieve the effect. So I bet you could use the Panasonic 3D lens on a still, and somehow process the two stereo images into the same thing. a Deep focus image (non stereo, and a depth pass.

  5. I love this idea! It’s amazing how technology is advancing so fast! I agree, it does take the ‘skill’ out of the process, but I guess all forms of technology (and progress) do in just about every area of our lives!

    It’s very exciting 😀

  6. This is actually straight forward if you have played with
    the data from a stereo rig. Say you have some reasonably
    normal lenses and just take the left and right eye
    images and just average the images together.

    Only a few things in the resulting picture will be in focus,
    everything else will have two ghosts. This is basically what
    a shallow depth of field is for a larger aperture. The downside
    is that the bokeh sucks (two sharp ghosts).

    If you want something else in the field to be in focus, slip
    the right eye until the things you want in focus are
    line up correctly. Then average the shifted right eye and
    the left together. Huzzah, you have refocused the image
    after the fact. With two cameras, you get two “ghosts” for
    the bokeh. If you do this trick with a grid of 64 cameras
    (8×8), the bokeh is a lot smoother. But you have to be
    smart about how you shift each sub-image since each one
    will need a slightly different bias.

    This is what the light field cameras do. They have an array
    of sub-cameras that are spaced on a grid and they warp the
    subimages so that the depths you want are in focus and the
    rest of the depths are blurred by bokeh.

  7. I feel like that takes out the true artist from the equation! I real photographer looks at the subject matter and sees it as they then shoot it, with the outcome looking fairly close. Give or take, there can be random surprises. Just feels like a cheat…

    1. I feel that it gives the true artist an advantage. It makes pro-tech “artists” sh*t their pants because it’s not about producing sharp or pretty images anymore. They actually have to take meaningful pictures that tell stories or worry more about composition for example. Now people can experiment to their hearts’ content and not fear being a technical failure. Art/Media is about communicating a story, idea, and expressing feelings; and if technology helps make it easier, why not?

      “Photography is like sex. If there is no feeling, even the technique wouldn’t help.”

  8. From what I have read, it is not faked with software, but there is actually a special ‘microlens aray’ and a special sensor in the camera.
    IMHO, this is the future for all cameras and I hope they patented it properly.

  9. could we not just pause for a moment and get the best out of all we have right now…I fell a bit overwhelmed by the recent technology leaps. I feel we should focus more on content, message & skills..with all the silence and concentration monks used to have centuries ago.

    then again, interesting times we’re living in 🙂

  10. I know people who still can’t print documents from msword, send emails, drive a car etc., without some sort of f***up. Point being – even if this camera ends up in the marketplace it still requires – it will still not be something many people will be able to do.

    Besides as a photographer one is not selling a product but rather a service – so i’m not too worried about it. Case in point, I’ve recommended MANY people get a t2i for home use – great image quality, full HD…but its still crappy photos of their idiot cats or bratty kids or HD video of the same. 🙁

  11. I read about this concept a year ago or so (I think Adobe were trying something out…hazy memory, I was at IBC…) and then again today on the net. I feel my own blog entry coming up about this in the coming weeks.

    If it really does become a reality I think it will be a very interesting development not just technically but in terms of what it does to the philosophy of capturing a photographic image. With RAW, huge resolutions and HDR I already find myself questioning the nature of truth and perception in imagery so often that the addition of selective focus in post might just melt my brain a little.

    Then again, I like to concentrate on the positives with all these tools. I think there’s definitely a place for this within both consumer and professional markets.

    It’s still bonkers, though. But in a good way.

  12. Okay people. Deep breath here. This falls under the “I saw it on the Internet, therefore it must be true.” You have all just been Rick Rolled.

    There is a reason that Zeiss, Canon, Leica and others make fine lenses and charge a small (and large) fortune for them. Rays of light are bounded by something called the laws of physics. And the last time I checked those laws are still in effect.

    Just because Yahoo News posts something doesn’t mean it’s actually true. For that matter, it may even be MORE likely to be untrue. The website for this amazing new product was put up yesterday. There is nothing there…

    Come on people, did no one study physics when they learned photography? Remember circles of confusion? (Man is that ironic).

    This is just the pinnacle (I hope and pray) in the equipment fetish that seems to be running rampant lately. Newbies what to learn great photography by finding out what gear to buy, “what lens do I need to buy to be a great filmmaker? Oh, and I don’t have much money to spend…” Guess what, you can make a crappy film with a $178,000 set of LEICA Summiluxes (luxi?). Oh, and filmmaking IS expensive. Just ask Philip.

    The purpose of Philips’s blog here is to give us all insight into how he uses various, “more affordable gear.” He’s not reviewing Master Primes or Leica Cine lenses. The spirit of 5dM2 revolution brings great films closer to everyone, but you can’t give up good lighting, composition, scripting, directing or interesting actors.

    There is so much noise out there in the Internet “blogosphere”. I wish young potential filmmakers would stop looking for a magic bullet (unless we’re talking software) and start learning the skill behind great filmmaking. It’s about creating a world that your viewer can immerse themselves in for a few minutes, or hours and hopefully enjoy the story that you are seeking to tell. It’s not about some amazing piece of technology that will do all the work for you. If you come with a great story, it doesn’t matter what you use to shoot it.

    What would be the point in using such a piece of equipment be anyway? To give the producer more power in deciding the creative vision of the film? Really?

    30 Years ago 3D Fluorescent memory was going to replace the floppy disc. And then it was going replace the hard disc. I supposed now it’s going to replace flash memory. Who knows if they will ever get 3D Fluorescent memory out to the market. The point is, if you keep waiting to the magic technology to be invented, you’ll never get it. Literally.

    In the early days of film cameramen used wooden cameras with hand-ground lenses, that they were cranking by hand. And you know what? They made great films.

    End of rant.

    1. agree to the point with the story,

      but first, take the red pill! we all know something about physics, but if we only would be restricted to all the things, that i could explain… well, you get my point.

      isn´t thinking outside of the box the daily job of an artist and a scientist?

      you can´t buy it tomorrow and this blog is just about informations. some people care, what is possible in the future. and everything is just about possibilities.

      this is interresting to me, because i think about, what i could do with this, if it will be possible for film. think of action sequenzes or complex movements – think about documentaries and so on. i mean, it´s easy to take 500 pictures and chosse the best one, but its hard to take 25 perfect pictures a second! i don´t care about the feelings of the cameraman, if he just want´s to be a “real pro”. it´s about the benefit for the movie. if i can look out for the best actors performance, instead of looking for the best performance with useable focus. or if i could shoot the thing like i want it and not the 3rd way, because it would risk my budget, if the first way fails on technical things.

      it would push the limits. look at animated movies and there impossible cameramovements.

      yes! in the end, it´s the craft of the artist. if you don´t have anything, you need a master to shoot a movie, but if you have everything you need a god.

  13. I see this as a massive tool for sports photography especially. This i see being used for slight changes in focus cuz we all have been there where we take a perfectly composed shot and boom the subject is a few inches off focus and it isnt perfect but with this now you just do the little sligth tweaks to the focus and your set. This is amazing i dont see it for racking from foreground to background but inch fixes in focus will make everyones work better.

  14. In photography can be handy but ok, I can live without. in motion tho, that would be a game changer. And motion is just a series of pictures after all.

  15. As a pro photographer, yes, this technology will make my job easier — but it won’t make me think less about my images. Instead, it will give me more confidence that the critical moments I shoot will be in focus exactly where I want it, rather than my equipment missing the mark.

    Instead of limiting my creativity, the options it provides of expanded depth of field, and altering the characteristics of the field of focus will expand my creativity. It will provide creative options that I’ve only dreamt about till now.

    In the end, the image is the important thing, and a great artist can leverage the tools available to him to make a powerful image he couldn’t make otherwise.

    Sure, a novice will use it to make better pictures than they would otherwise as well, but that doesn’t make it meaningless for pros.

    I think pros often worry too much about technology allowing other people access to their “skills”. If your skills are only technical and your vision can’t supersede your technical skills, then maybe you deserve to be shown up???

    Just my $0.02 🙂

  16. Considering most people use autofocus in some way when shooting photo’s I don’t think this is going to change anything for most, except for the viewer who can now not only look at the story the photographer is trying to tell but come up with one themselves.

    Now what i hope is we get this in 70mm full frame sensors RAW video so we can trim the focus in post 🙂

  17. That’s amazing. I love technology. We are living in the future. 🙂

    I believe we get paid for being creative individual, not having the capacity to afford professional equipment.

    A good friend of mine in the business for 20 years said to me that the DSLR’s would put us out of business. My answer to him was that cameras have been available to the consumer for decades and professionals are still making money.

    If it makes my job easier, I am all for it because at the end of the day I am telling a story and the reason I make a good living doing it is because I can tell a story better than the consumer and it’s not because I have expensive equipment that produces a pretty picture.

    Even with DSLR’s flooding the market you still see video that’s not very appealing. As a professional I get paid to get the shot that I visualize in my head and if there are tools out there that make it easier to get that shot then it can only make the client happier. And who is not for that? 🙂

  18. Doubt if it’s possible, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone could invent software that would recreate this effect for video footage that has plenty of detail & depth of field … it would give my EX1 a whole new lease of life.

    I know tilt shift in MBL does this to some degree but in a very limited & not so useful way.

  19. When does the 360 degree 3d 10k version come out at 2000 frames a second? My quantum processor is waiting across a billion universes to render my badly written short…

  20. Some of the people complaining on here about how this camera is only for people who don’t know what they’re doing are forgetting something very basic. This is in fact a lot more revolutionary then simply being able to re-focus afterwards. Up until this point… be it film or digital, we’ve only been able to capture one plane of light that comes through the lens. This camera changes all that. It capture light rays that come into the camera at all angles. Which means u’re actually getting a few angles of the same scene and so much more. No more worrying if ure over or under exposed. If u’re in focus or used the right lens (in fact lenses won’t even be needed with this technology in the future) it won’t matter if there isnt enough light for u to capture a wide DOF shot or a very narrow one. U can control DOF size and all that because up until this point we used to only capture a flat image representing of a scene. With this technology, things like real 3D holographic images will be possible… or even if u just want to take simple 3D photos u can show on a 3D tv… it will in fact capture not a flat image of a scene but the all the actual light in a scene (or most of it… in future version it will) that bounces around in the particular setting. So it’s even more data than a RAW image we get on DSLR’s right now… it’s true RAW data of the scene. It will be a great new tool for photographers. Will it automatically make u take great photos? NO. But if u got an eye for what makes a great looking image it will help u a lot. Cuz u can walk around and JUST worry about what moment to capture. Then later decide how u show it, frame , what format: flat, 3D, holographic image etc.

  21. Fun toy.
    Just like I thought DSLR video was a toy. Now it’s all over the place. New tech is great. I don’t think it’s destroying the art just adding to the possibilities.
    Even when all there was were film cameras that shot 35mm….there was still a lot of sucky photos.

    ALSO….a plea to my fellow bloom fanatics. A dslr video I shot is in a contest at tubecontest.com (great site for commercial contests where you can win some cash) http://imon.tc/3504i
    Please vote for me… nonefilm’s the simple question. I need camera accessories!
    That 160$ camera crane ain’t gunna buy itself. thanks ppl.

  22. Maybe it’s a double-sensor. With two pictures took at the same time, but slightly different in focus, plus some algorithm, we can produce a field of light-vectors, and that’s all we for an all-in-focus pic, I think.

  23. 1. This is not a hoax. There’s a working research prototype sitting on the 3rd floor of the Stanford Computer Science building. I’ve touched it.

    2. The IQ is currently not at the level of the mainstream Canon/Nikon/Leica SLRs, but remember when digital cameras first came out? Yeah, that’s right. No one who cared about IQ would even think about using one seriously. But technology gets better. The limiting factor in IQ in plenoptic cameras is producing smaller microlenses to create a more granular light field. This is akin to making smaller sensor cells in digitals with the same sensitivity. Eventually, we’ll get there as the technology matures.

    3. Technology *enables* art. It just creates more possibilities, but it’s still up to the artist to use the technology to interpret the world. Photographers shouldn’t feel threatened by this anymore than they should by the appearance of digital.

    –Recent Stanford CS grad.

  24. For anyone fretting that soon this tech will apply to movies and “all the skill will be taken away” – first off there is really no point complaining cause eventually it will be applied to movies but:

    a – It will be quite awhile I would guess. If I understand how this tech works correctly, the camera basically has to store the light coming in from many very slightly different angles, meaning a LOT more data. The t2i has problems overheating doing 24fps with the data from one lens, multiply that many times and I imagine it will be awhile before it is feasible at even pro-level prices in HD motion. Then there is the question of storage space. No consumer in the world is going to have the free hard drive space to store something that is massively larger than the uncompressed or prores files we have today.

    b – The specs I have read for this initial model have it being both very low megapixel and very expensive. If the tech takes off, presumably it could improve quickly but again, that is for stills – for video you still have the issues in point A above.

  25. Looks like succesive X images taken for all Xmm rackFocus … then putting all this in a seq. flash… with “labels” for depth…

    just an opinion from a media programmer 😉

  26. does this mean that we can one day use super wide apertures and large sensors and maintain a deep depth of field? If so, this seems to me to be the most useful application of this technology for the pro end of the market!

  27. If this is real, it’s incredible, and focus pullers will sleep better at night one day (either that or they’ll be out of a job completely). In terms photography, it just means you can capture a decisive moment without spending the first split second worrying about the focus, which means you’re more likely to capture something special, whatever that is. If this is real, I can only see it as a plus. How could it not be?

  28. The artistic stuff on the camera side was taken out a long time ago. This just helps perfect it. What goes in front of the camera is much more important now. Head to Flicker or Facebook or anything else right now and randomly look at what people are doing to see the current state of things. This is something to be aware of on the professional side simply because the photo industry is clearly dying. While it’s possible to get work the service is becoming less and less necessary, which is why I’m pushing entirely on the video side- it’s suffering the same fate, but not nearly as badly.

  29. I don’t see how this is lowering the skill needed to make a good photograph.
    There’s always been the chance anyone with a camera could get lucky and snap a great shot.
    It might make it easier with technology like this, same way digital made it easier, but a good photographer shouldn’t have to rely on chance, and if I’m a client I really want a photographer who can guarantee he can get the shot instead of a guy snapping away hoping to get lucky.

    And when it comes to film , if you say it makes you think before you shoot I’d be very worried since that’s the mindset I’d hope any serious photographer would adopt no matter what type of camera he’s using.

    Anyways, I’m going to put this out there, if a certain technology gives me an edge over my competition , I will use it regardless of what other photographers think.

  30. I totally agree. It’s frustrating when people say “technology makes it so anyone can do it” with cameras, editing, etc etc….net/ The more people getting into it, the higher quality work we’ll eventually see coming out the other side. I think everyone on the planet should have the ability to take awesome photos, it’d make the world a better place.

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