'Revolutionary' new camera lets you shoot now, focus later




Posted on July 2, 2011 at 6:33 PM

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — The point-and-shoot camera (as we know it) is becoming less important. Many of us now are content with our cell phone cameras.

But a new Silicon Valley startup called Lytro is poised to shake things up with it says is a revolutionary new camera.

Right now,  it's just a tease. All you can do now check out some photos on the company's Web site.

But if you're not impressed yet, listen to what Lytro's camera promises to do: You can change the focus of the picture after it's taken.

Lytro has posted some demonstration images that show how it works. One photo shows a mom in the background with the baby slightly out of focus in the foreground. But a simple mouse-click on the child's face makes him crystal clear.

Ren Ng developed the technology while working on his Ph.D at Stanford University. The breakthrough, he says, is that the camera is able to capture more light than others.

"The key at its core is such a powerful breakthrough that this is forever going to change how we take and experience pictures," Ng said.

Just how much of a game-changer is it?

We spoke with Richard Koci Hernandez, a professional photographer now teaching at UC Berkeley. Lytro gave him a camera to test. But because the company is still in stealth mode, it put the device in a protective case, so Hernandez hasn't actually seen it.

"It's masked it's like a brick of plastic," he said. "I don't know what it is. I really can't tell you what's inside there."

But Hernandez said he was instantly sold after taking his first picture.

"You know, my jaw pretty much dropped to the floor," he said. "There's no question about that. I knew immediately when I saw what it could do it was just going to be a whole new game for photography. To be able to now shoot a picture and be able to refocus it later and not have to worry about that is a big deal. "

Lytro has set up shop in a nondescript office building in Mountain View, California near Google headquarters.

The company says its camera will hit the market sometime later this year.