Weird Focus-Later Digital Camera Goes On Pre-order, But Only Works With Macs For Now

Lytro camera

This is the Lytro, a bizarre and radical new concept in digital photography that lets you snap an image now, and worry about focusing it later.

Pre-orders just opened today, and you can grab one for as little as $399 (I’ll take two!). But before you click the order button, make sure you have a Mac – because Lytro doesn’t work with Windows computers yet.

How does the Lytro work? The official description sounds like something from the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy:

The light field fully defines how a scene appears. It is the amount of light traveling in every direction through every point in space. Conventional cameras cannot record the light field.

But the Lytro can, right? It sounds like it must be the Infinite Improbability Drive of digital cameras, capturing everything everywhere all at the same time. There’s a full explanation of the science behind it on the Lytro site but quite frankly, having read it twice I still don’t really understand what’s going on.

What I do know is that the image files you get from this thing aren’t going to easily import into iPhoto. They’re described as “living pictures”, not your humble jpg file. They require extra software to edit and view them.

And that’s where we find out, tucked away in the details page, that the software supplied with the Lytro is Mac-only for the time being:

Includes a free desktop application for importing, processing and interacting with living pictures from the camera. It is built for Mac OS and requires Mac OS X 10.6 or higher. A Windows application is in development.

Hands up who remembers the days when it was the other way round? When new stuff got released for Windows first, because duh, everyone used Windows – and for Mac much, much later. If at all.

How times have changed.

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  • Bill

    your mom is a liar

  • Bill

    Oh and this camera is crazy cool.

  • James Beer

    Looks like DeBlur for Photoshop.

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  • Rishi

    Sounds like plenoptics at work…

    Glad someone has commercialized this so quickly.

  • blackmail1807

    The science behind it is simply called holography. Capture not just the amount of light at a given moment, but the phase (or the phase shift, to be correct) of the electromagnetic oscillations, coming from different points of the object, which gives us information about relative distances between parts of the composition.
    The only difference is that classic holograms are made on paper.

  • Chris

    hm…I’m missing a tripod screw thread. other than that, it seems quite cool

  • LeninD

    The second last paragraph was quite scary to read as a Windows user :)

    I would have brought the iMac in an instant if it wasn’t so insanely costly. Seems like a great camera concept though.

  • BB

    That’s what eBay is for. You can get a great deal on a used Mac there.

    I’ve bought and sold almost every Mac I’ve owned on eBay.

  • LeninD

    I appreciate your reply. I am not sure what country you are from, but I am Indian, and on searching I see that eBay.in has WAY less options than eBay.com :)

  • Rich

    I’ve been following this guy’s research for years.  What they are REALLY doing (why can’t they just say this) is the have an 11MP camera with lenses infront of each pixel on the sensor.  The lenses focus to one of 11 different depths, so you can focus to any of those.  Which reduces the effective resolution to 1080×1080 (or 1.1MP)

  • Mac

    I wish Apple would go ahead and just buy Adobe already and kill all the Windows versions of their software, which are inferior to the Mac versions anyway. That would bring a lot of people onto the platform. I think this group is smart, go where the savvy, hip, affluent, trendsetting consumers are first. Especially when your product is a $400 or $500 camera in a world of $199 point and shoots. Most Windows users are cheapskates.

  • aardman

    That would be a great idea if we live in a world where there is no such thing as antitrust regulation.  Oh wait, we just might get there if the Republicans gain full control of the federal government.

  • Aaron

    It’s far beyond that. Deblur for Photoshop takes an in-focus picture that was blurred by camera movement and removes the blur. 

    This camera can take a picture with a deep depth of field and, on command, re-focus it to any point in that depth of field at any time. Their site shows examples, and it’s amazing.

    Say you take a picture of a person through a pane of glass. You can refocus the depth of field to the person behind the glass, the frame of the glass, or things reflected off the glass way off in the distance. 

    This little, weird-looking camera is amazing.

  • LeninD

    Glad you’re not controlling Apple then!

  • LeninD

    Glad you’re not controlling Apple then!

About the author

Giles TurnbullGiles Turnbull is a freelance writer in England. He also writes for the Press Association and The Morning News. You can find out more at his website, and follow him on Twitter @gilest.

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