Lytro? Not so?

You know, there’s marketing and then there’s marketing and sometimes even I, who considers himself mostly immune to the manipulative powers of advertising making you buy things you never thought you could even dream of, falls victim to it. One of those rare cases was/ is the Lytro camera, which promises to give us refocusable plenoptic imagery on an affordable budget. The physical and technical principles behind it are not exactly new, as this is how some telescopes and other optical sensors have worked to some extent for years, but so far the limiting factor has been practicality – in producing such complex lenses at reasonable quality and acceptable cost as well as processing the huge amounts of data. Adobe also have done some research in the matter, obviously. Now it would have been so nice to ultimately be able to use that technology as a mere mortal, but alas, the promise of a bright future is sometimes not what it seems. The demo images on their web site do not look that convincing and my enthusiasm is fading with every noise speck I’m discovering. Don’t get me wrong – the potential is enormous, once you consider how such images could integrate with 3D scenery, but since what they have on show more or less looks like shots from a mobile phone cam or web cam, it doesn’t strike me as something I would use (yet). Maybe two generations down the road, when they can get sufficient resolution and exposure headroom, but not now. For the time being this appears to be strictly a gadget for people like my mom who can’t wait for a conventional cam’s auto-focus and could salvage a few shots by deciding on focus later. I just can’t see it doing anything I would use and given the rather steep price I think I would prefer to buy a classical system camera…

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