Is the New Lytro Camera a Fail?
I have not actually held a Lytro camera but I have seen the technology in action with other cameras; Raytrix out of Germany is an example. That I haven’t held one keeps it on my bucket list but does not prevent me from chiming in on how I think it fits in photography. I love the technology and a year ago I glowed about the promise of light field photography shown by Raytrix. What the Lytro and other light field cameras bring to us is the concept of , as I called it a year ago, compositional photography as the emphasis on after-the-fact image creation points to the need for and interest in composition of subjects to draw out from composed/chaotic scenes-which chaotic scenes being very interesting. The change is as fundamental as that of still to moving photography.
Putting that seminal change into practice is tough. Transmission of sound through wire looked pretty bleak by today’s standards when Morse code was as good as it got. The same is true with movies when compared to what James Cameron can create versus early efforts. That is not to say the people working on even the failed early efforts were not geniuses.
Each “image” on the Lytro camera weighs in at 16MB but upon export as a JPEG it produces a 1MP image for print. That shows how much data is wasted in a standard photo but also shows how different the medium that Lytro operates in is. I see the small JPEG images as a bastard child format. It is like looking at the first true filmstrip, but not as a film because you didn’t have a projector and could only see it as a series of images strung together. Forget the webcam, Lytro and light field images are the first virtual photographs –images made to be seen on a screen and are only data otherwise.
My thoughts right now are that Lytro is more of a hobbyist camera than one for consumers or artists. The technology demands a sense of composition that consumers won’t really have but will be fun for a hobbyist/early adopter to work out. An artist might not appreciate the image quality but I would recommend getting one now so that they will be thought leaders when the technology comes of age. When will that be? I interviewed the innovators at Raytrix last year and they thought that it would take a few years for in-camera processing power to catch up to the promise of light field photography lest every photography look like a Ghostbuster with a power pack strapped to his back.
Plenoptic Camera Hits the Art School Scene
Generating much interest among photographers at Art Center School of Design in Pasadena, CA was the Raytrix R11 Camera. Set up in a below ground studio area, it was evaluated and visited by technicians and faculty at the school. Following that evaluation period, it was forwarded to Adobe with the potential for a good technical synergy to arise from that trial period.
Magazine Cover Shot with Nokia N8 Smartphone
South Africa based PiX magazine has laid claim to the first magazine cover shot with a mobile phone camera in its December – January 2011 issue. Image capture was done by the Nokia N8 but everything else looked pretty standard. It is a smartphone but the photographer still controls the lighting and post-capture processing. The editors stated: “We wanted to show that it is not the hardware that makes a good photographer but rather the technical execution of an idea. This includes lighting, your subject, and of course, the vision of your end result. ”
This brings the idea that photography is at a fork in the road; to the left is trying to impress with more technology on a standard digital platform, and on the right is the concept that the current way of doing things is mature, so mature that a device not even specialized in photography is up to the task and the skill lies in the photographer. Of course, the technology used today is like the old prehistoric warrior with a necklace of bear teeth – “You know I am great because I have this.” In either case it may be time to look for another way to judge a photographer.
A “behind the scenes video” is below:
The Nokia N8 camera is available at least through Nokia’s online store for less than $500. The N8′s specifications are as follows:
- 12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics
- Fullscreen 16:9 viewfinder with easy-to-use touchscreen parameters
- Xenon flash
- Face recognition software
- Focal length: 5.4 mm
- F number/Aperture: F2.8
- Still images file format: JPEG/EXIF
- Zoom up to 2x (digital) for still images
- Zoom up to 3x (digital) for video
- Secondary camera for video calls (VGA, 640 x 480 pixels)
- Internal memory: Up to 16 GB
- MicroSD memory card slot, hot swappable, up to 32GB
- Additional product details can be found here.
What do you think? Share your comments!