Shoot first, focus later

This will be an interesting one to watch! I was sent an email this week (thanks Duncan) drawing my attention to a California-based start-up company's plans to launch a new kind of camera that is based on light-field photography. The result is photographs that you can focus after you take them. Check out the effect in Lytro's photo below - click your mouse on the cat you want in focus!

The Lytro camera records the colour, intensity, and vector direction of every individual ray of light, so that Lytro's algorithms can manipulate the photo later. It results in images with flexible focus, and can also create 3D images from a single lens.

Creator Ren Ng says that when a regular camera focuses physically, it is adjusting the lens relative to the sensor to bring different parts of the scene into focus. If the whole light field is available, you can do in computation what the physical lens would normally have done.

The cameras are due to debut at the end of the year and there's no word yet on pricing. It's not high on my wishlist but it's certainly intriguing!

Some more photos to play with:

A stegosaurus and his family