How badly will Lytro damage photography as a career?

Not likely; this is an area where the its disadvantages heavily outweigh the advantages. Have you ever worked with security cameras? The typical resolution is very fairly low (380 pixels wide) and resolution aside, the compression algorithms used are weighted very heavily in favour of reduced size over image quality. They have to be, because you’re going to want to retain your video (from maybe a dozen cameras) for a couple of weeks before you are confident that there’s nothing there you’re going to need to keep.

For plenoptics to work, you need to store your image in a very high resolution, and if you apply compression, you don’t have any wiggle-room for fudging - your compressed image has to be a very accurate representation of the uncompressed image, or you’re not going to be able to get any good data out of it to reconstruct the light field.

A “high res” security cam image is typically 540 pixels wide, and still aggressively compressed, so that still elements tend to “wobble” a bit on playback.

Because of the way the plenoptics work, if your hardware has an eight megapixel CCD, you will be limited to a two megapixel finished image. So right away, you lose three quarters of your retention - and with your remaining retention, you can’t apply high-efficiency ccmpression. The best tech right now is H.264, which gives you a 1:5 ratio over .jpg, which gives you a 1:10 ratio over the uncompressed data that a Lytro camera currently uses.

When technology advances to the point that additional bandwidth and storage available make it feasible to both dramatically increase the resolution of CCTV cameras and forego data compression with a 1:500 ratio, then it may start to be adopted for surveillance purposes. Until then, it just ain’t gonna happen, because the benefit is completely insignificant when weighed against the costs.

These same trade-offs will also prevent it from being widely adopted for professional purposes. It’s really neat tech, but it’s not a game changer, it’s a niche product. The ability to produce a stereo image from a photo taken with a single lens? Yes, I am attracted and when the price point comes down to earth, I want one.

A lot of people still don’t realize that though.
I mentioned up thread that I did a wedding shoot. Between me and the other person, we took almost 2000 pictures. He did all the post processing, but I’m guessing he handed her something in the neighborhood of 100-200 pictures.

Often times people will see one of my (handful of) good pictures and ask me what kind of camera I used. After explaining to them that it has nothing to do with the camera, I usually try to tell them that for every good picture I got, there’s several hundred sitting on my hard drive gathering dust. Hell, even when the picture is ‘set up’, I still take several pictures in hopes of getting one good one. A $2000 DSLR is just as good as a cell phone camera at getting people to not blink or getting your dog to look at the camera just right or not having a lamp post growing out of someone’s head.

Absolutely agree that there’s more to photography than the camera.

I spent ten years trying to have a photo taken of myself that I liked. My ex has a lovely camera, a beautiful Canon SLR with all the trimmings, and took many shots of me, all in focus, and they all sucked. My sister tried to, but… well, they all looked amateurish.

Last year I got a professional to take some shots. Within 20 minutes he’d taken shots of me better than anything I’d had taken in my whole life. You could give me $50,000 worth of camera and I couldn’t take pictures that good.

Earlier this year I was in Rome on vacation and the entire trip I would grab people from my group and ask them to take my picture. This time, I was at the top of the Spanish steps and a nice guy named Andy was nearby. He took my picture and I glanced at it …somehow he’d managed to frame it so my head completely blocked the dome of St. Peters Cathedral - the only major feature on the horizon. I had to ask him to take a second shot.

I share your views on this situation. My first thought when I read that security cameras would be a prime application for this new technology was: AAAHAAAAAHAHAH, HEE-hee… HA… ha… (titter)!!!

AFAIK, most security cameras right now only record 2 or 3 frames every second or so–just so they can save money on storage space (which is cheaper than water, practically). Some are still monochrome even!

And these folks are going to pay to have unlimited focus potential??? Hardly. Although it could be a different story for high end customers like the Feds for certain applications.

I didn’t even realize that you can see St. Peter’s from the Spanish Steps… I’d have thought that the buildings nearby would block line-of-sight in that direction.

Even if someone came up with a literally foolproof camera- perfect metering, focus, and all the technical garbage, composition, framing and lighting would still be what separates the pros from the amateurs, just like it is now. Most modern P&S cameras or DSLRs have decent enough autofocus and multi-zone metering as well as sensitive enough image sensors to make camera operation an afterthought, but the real trick is in what picture you take, not what camera you take it with.

Honestly, as someone who does this for a living, I’m not worried in the least. Having the latest, greatest, best equipment does not make somebody a good photographer.

Would you want it in your bag, though? Is there some niche or specific situation you see where this would be the camera you’d choose? I realize this isn’t what the OP was asking, but I’m wondering.

I can imagine finding the feature extremely useful in many settings, but without knowing the entire package, its hard to say where the actual camera will definitely be useful.


Very true. A friend and client of mine is a professional photographer, and has a pile of very expensive cameras (Nikon and Leica) but also some ridiculously cheap cameras. And some of his recent work has been shot with his iPhone and as screen captures from iChat.

Being able to adjust focus and depth-of-field after the fact would definitely be cool, no doubt about that. If, say, this camera produces the exact same quality of file my current cameras do, with the same frame rate, I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t use it.

God yes; there seems to be about a 50:50 chance that getting someone else to take a picture of me will show what I want. “Make sure the whole getup shows” -> a picture from the waist up. “Could you take a picture of us?” -> he took two, in one the person on the right is missing except for an arm, in the other the person on the left is cut in half.

And that’s for some very, very simple pictures, using point-and-click cameras.

Lytro can do this or this or this but the question remains, just because you have the camera, will you think to take those pictures?
(This was from the wedding I shot, fastest lens I ever used.)

I looked over the pictures a little bit more. It’s an interesting concept, and certainly one that would be useful, but the pictures I’ve seen so far of the technology in action are marginal pictures technically, at best. This could just be the result of compression, but they’re not high quality files and, to be honest, they all look a bit soft to me.

Still if this technology works as well as advertised, it’s only in its nascent state, so, presumably, it’ll just get better and better. Right now, from what I see, it’s not ready for professional work.

As for the statements about focusing, as many posters note, focusing has rarely been a problem with a modern SLR. The only times I’ve had problems with focus are in extreme low light situations. Thing is, I don’t want to do my focusing after the fact if I can help it. When I’m at a wedding shoot, I usually come away with thousands of pictures. I don’t want to spend time defining focus points and depth of field choices in post if I can help it. Now, if there’s a way to define these points in camera during shooting, and then you can change it later if you screw it up or change your mind, that’s cool.

I don’t see how this technology really changes anything with advertising and commercial photography. As mentioned above, focus is not a problem. The technique of photography is the easy part. Anybody can learn that. The really important stuff is learning how to see, how to compose, how to read light, how to interact with your subject and relax them, etc.

ETA: I should add, that there are certainly people out there with good eyes and poor technique. This will help that type of photographer out, no doubt. But I assume what we’ll see more of is the same crappy badly lit and badly composed point-and-shoot snapshots, only now we don’t have to worry about them being soft anymore.

Lytro is now available if anyone is interested. 2D resolution is only 1.2mp but the images can be converted to 3D when the software is available.

I hate to break it to you, but digital photography has already killed (or at least severely injured) Photography as a career!
I have a number of friends who are professional photographers, and all of them are finding it increasingly difficult to get work. First of all, the small clients who might need a couple of custom photos for a brochure are either going to Google search and stealing them, or taking the photos themselves. Secondly, the big clients who need a professional do large photoshoots now have a huge pool of hungry photographers, who are willing to undercut each other on price.

Oh wow, that sounds really neat! I’ll wait for the price to come down a bit though…

When I’ve looked at CCTV cameras, they’ve all had options to go up well past 10 fps, using full frame resolution. I want to say 540 lines, maybe 480.

I guess my company is not in the norm, as our multitude of cameras operate at no less than 7 fps.

Not to knock your experience, it’s nice to see how others operate.

I want one of these just for sports shots. I miss the focal point regularly when shooting my kids playing sports, and the ability to later focus on certain players would be great.

Thank you. I’m an artist, who was practically born with a great eye for composition (both of my parents were artists). Though I’m not a professional photographer, I do use some of my photos as raw materials, when creating on a larger scale.

I’m so tired of people who think that just because they have the right hardware (camera/lens/etc.) it makes them great photographers. Same for Photoshop. Just owning the software is no substitute for talent, training and experience.