May 18
LYTRO — CAMERA OF THE FUTURE by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, May 18, 2012

It used to be that a photographic camera is very expensive and difficult to use. The film, as medium, is not that affordable and the camera settings would need an expertise of a professional photographer. There’s also the great need for the flash bulb.

But eventually, business caught up with the masses as Kodak introduced the instamatic camera. Together with a non-disposable flash that used ordinary batteries, the 36-shot roll of film became a best seller.

Since progress never stops, technology came up with the digital camera. The transition from analog to digital has wrought damage to the business of film suppliers. But the consumers are happy for so many reasons.

First in list is the elimination of the costly film. Second is the ease of retrieving and seeing the photograph, not to mention the facility to edit (the word “photoshopped” has already found its way into the dictionary).

The mass production of digital cameras brings the price to the level of the masses, particularly to the Filipino masses. There’s also the small and powerful but inexpensive memory card.

But technology wouldn’t stop or perhaps technology has no intention to stop advancing. The resolution of digital photographs are getting better with the high megapixels. And free softwares abound for enhancement purposes.

Another point to consider is the video function that is being packaged in digital cameras, giving the videocam a run for its money. The digital SLR (single lens reflex) cameras have high definition videos that makes it an equal to the movie cameras.

From the standard digital cameras, picture-taking has gone to the cell phones. Started by Apple’s iphone, cell phone cameras have become popular. There are also laptops that has a facility to capture images.

For the imaginative, micro cameras fitted in eyeglasses can be bought in digital stores. And there’s also the pen camera. Both cameras have the video function but with low resolution to save on memory.

And now, here comes the Lytro that is undoubtedly the camera of the future. Lightweight at slightly less than half a pound, the Lytro camera has a footprint as small as a stick of butter that makes it pocketsize.


The Lytro camera, as small as a stick of butter and less than half a pound in weight

The lens is at one end and the touch screen monitor at the other end. Like an ordinary digital camera, the Lytro has 8X optical zoom capability. For uploading, there’s the USB port at the bottom. The power comes from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

But the downside of the Lytro, as compared to the ordinary digital camera, is the price. The low-end model, with a memory card of 8 gigabytes that is good for 350 shots, sells for $399 while the $499 model has double the capacity.

So if you think the Lytro is no different than the ordinary digital camera, think again. It has the facility to refocus and that means the focus can still be altered after you had taken the photograph, so much like an editing function.

On the computer screen, the picture readjusts by itself depending on the desired focus shift of the user. So it’s not plain photography anymore. The varying display of the foreground vis-à-vis the background is already cinematography in motion.

Compared to the standard camera, the Lytro captures more data. It also keeps track of the luminosity of light, the direction where it came from and also the colors. That information is called light-field data.

The Everyday mode has the refocus range automatically determined while the Creative mode lets the user select the control of the refocus range. Understandably, the Creative mode eats up more memory.

Another downside of the Lytro is the small screen (1.5 inches) which makes the display grainy. For the “editing” of focus, it is better to upload the shots to a computer since it is easier to tinker with the shots using the computer monitor than the small Lytron monitor.

But uploading the shots via the USB cable takes a lot of time – about a minute per image. This is due to the arrangement of data inside the image file. Probably this needs retrofitting to lessen the inconvenience of uploading.

And for the hard print, the Lytro is not competitive enough. The resolution is a mere 1080 by 1080 pixels, good for a 3R (3 by 5 inches) print. The resolution of a standard digital photograph is around 2,200 pixels.

Amid the excitement, the user should be aware that the Lytro is only compatible to the Mac. However, the maker promises to come up with
a model that would be compatible to the Windows operating system.

Overall, the Lytro doesn’t really seem to be a magic camera. But this is
a good start. Probably in the next few years we will be having the magic camera that will allow all the changes that we desire.

Comments to this article can be sent to ajsocorro@yahoo.com