What is Light Field Photography?
A light-field photography often addressed as plenoptic photography is the concept which uses a microlens array in order to capture 4D light field information. Such light field information can be used in various fields like HD computer graphics and Computer vision based solutions.
Though this concept is not new (originally proposed by Gabriel Lippmann in 1908), the first plenoptic camera was only proposed in 1992 by Adelson and Wang. Their proposed design had an array of microlenses. These microlenses were placed at the focal plane of the camera’s main lens. The photos taken through such a system can be refocused virtually in a computer at a later period.
Features of a plenoptic camera include:
The following are the features of plenoptic camera
- Ability to Refocus: The single major USP of these cameras are the ability to refocus images after they are taken.
- High Speed: Since there is no need to focus while taking the picture, this camera will be capable of capturing images quicker than conventional cameras as there is no need to focus before taking the picture.
- Low-resolution: The major disadvantage of this camera is the end image will have a lower resolution. The image captured by this camera can be later converted in to any normal image formats like JPEG at a desired focal plane.
- Larger Apertures: Since the focus can be adjusted at the time of post processing these cameras can have larger apertures and hence very effective in low-light environments. This is one of the major reasons for the popularity of these cameras.
- 3D images: A single image can be later processed to construct stereo images. This is made possible because of the depth information which available in these cameras (ability to focus at various depths).
Lytro’s Light Field Camera:
In 2004 Stanford University created a camera with a resolution of 16 megapixel with a 90,000 microlens array. They demonstrated that images can be refocused after they are taken. The pioneers in light field photography at the moment is Lytro. Lytro was founded by an alumnus of Stanford University Computer Graphics Laboratory named Ren Ng. He wanted to commercialize the light field camera which he developed as a graduate student at Stanford University. Raytrix, a German Company was actually the first company to sell such devices, they target industrial applications and not for consumer use. This makes Lytro the only Company to develop a light-field digital camera for consumer use.
Lytro’s first camera went on sale October 19, 2011, with 8 GB memory and was priced at $399. Later in February 29, 2012 they launched a 16 GB Version priced at $499. Check this page for a detailed Lytro review.