March 05, 2012
Malaysia-born Ren Ng is revolutionising photography with his Lytro light-field camera.
The Australian has developed a new technology for the mass market that allows anyone to adjust the focal point of digital photographs after they have been taken, and without having to fiddle with Photoshop or other image-editing tools.
The hand-sized digital point-and-shot camera looks like a torchlight; its key feature is what the California-based company calls “shoot now, focus later”.
In an interview with the New York Times last year, Lytro chief executive Ng described the images as “interactive, living pictures” due to their ability to be manipulated.
The Lytro achieves this trick with a special sensor called a micro lens array, which puts the equivalent of many lenses into a small space.
The camera was listed as Time magazine’s “50 best inventions” in its November 17 edition last year.
The 32-year-old Ng, born in Malaysia and raised in Australia from age nine, started work on the digital camera while studying for his doctorate in computer science at Stanford University in California six years ago.
The Lytro camera captures far more light data, from many angles, than is possible with a conventional camera.
When pictures are shared online, the “light field engine” travels with each image so anyone can interact with them on their computers, whether on desktops, tablets or smartphones, a technology review in the Sydney Morning Herald reported today.
However, the camera is not quite perfect yet, based on first reviews that came out last week.
A reviewer with the New York Times, Sam Grobart, noted that adding a filter or importing the image into Photoshop was not possible at the moment.
“Should Lytro’s engineers refine light-field photography into something more versatile and cheaper (imagine this on a smartphone), it may turn out to be a game changer,” he was quoted as saying by the Australian daily.
Another influential technology reviewer with the Wall Street Journal, Walt Mossberg, reported that the Lytro pictures can currently only be imported to Macintosh computers with its accompanying software, adding that the process is slow because of the relatively large files.
The Lytro camera is now available in the market in two storage sizes. The red hot 16-gigabyte (GB) model of the camera costs US$499 (RM1,500) and can take up to 750 pictures.
An 8GB version costs USUS$399 and can capture 350 images. It is available in graphite gray and electric blue.