After two weeks with the Lytro camera, I still can’t decide if it’s a highly refined proof-of-concept or an uneven look at the future of photography. It’s simultaneously addictive and frustrating. It’s also, as advertised, a truly unique photographic experience.
If you missed the hype surrounding the announcement of Lytro’s light-field camera last year, the short explanation is that it allows you to focus your photos after you’ve taken them.
That’s the addictive part. No Lytro photo is ever finished. You can continually readjust an image to focus on the foreground, middle, or background merely by clicking around the image. This also means it’s nearly impossible to take an out-of-focus picture. Just aim and shoot, then focus later.
Lytro calls these “living pictures,” and all the data that powers this re-focusing trick travels with each square-cropped image. Post a Lytro photo (using the company’s custom Flash widget) on your blog, on Facebook or on Twitter, and your friends and followers can refocus the picture in their browsers without downloading any special software. It’s like a choose-your-own-ending Instagram.