Digital cameras have consistently and dramatically improved since they first went on sale in the early ’90s, thanks largely to the introduction of ever smaller, ever more-powerful sensors and processors. But those changes have been incremental compared with the leap taken in Lytro’s light-field camera. Lytro reverses how we take pictures, moving the act of focusing from pre-shutter-click to post-. Using an array of micro lenses between its primary 8x zoom lens and its image sensor, the camera fractures shots into thousands of discrete light paths, and the sensor saves the data in a single light-field picture (.LFP) file. Photographers open files in Lytro’s software to make any number of previously impossible edits. Most immediately useful is the ability to move the focal point, from as close as 3.5 inches all the way to infinity. Users can also create moving images that shift the focus from point to point or select a parallax option, which pulls two askew paths and converts images to 3-D. Decide on a final shot, and the software saves the 12-megabyte LFP file as a three-megapixel JPEG.
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