A company called Lytro claim to be producing a light-field camera that has a key feature that the focus point can be moved after the image has been taken.

Their claims have been questioned by jwz, a well-known blogger who says he can't understand how their diagram/explanation makes any sense. He points out that it includes lenses, which are about discarding the very information about light fields the company claims to capture.

The web-site includes some demonstrations which would be moderately easy to fake (Take the original shot with a Frazier lens, and then blur selective parts afterwards, or lots of photos of each layer photoshopped together.)

The web-site notably does not include any photographs of a prototype product.

The CEO, Dr Ren Ng won the 2006 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award for his research in the area. (Note: It was awarded in 2007, which explains some discrepancies about the award date.)

Is this a real product being developed? A fake? Or is there another option?

  • 6
    We might not know until one comes out (supposedly this year), but for any interested, HERE is his Stanford thesis with many examples, a shot of what looks like a "prototype" and an explanation of how it works. There's also THIS post form a colleague and funding partner. Appears legit on the surface of it to me!
    – Hendy
    Jun 23, 2011 at 3:22
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    The german company Raytrix is already selling light field cameras. But according to this Yahoo Tech News article Lytro's camera will probably be much cheaper.
    – Oliver_C
    Jun 23, 2011 at 19:00
  • The point about lenses is true (focal plane) but nobody said that the lens can’t be re-adjusted so as to record multiple focal planes. Jun 23, 2011 at 20:38
  • @Hendy, thanks for the useful link. @Oliver, that looks like a conclusive answer, rather than a comment. Want to make it so?
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 24, 2011 at 0:32
  • 6.5 years later, and Lytro Cinema is "only available to select partners in North America at this time." making its vapourware status still unclear.
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 10, 2018 at 13:46

1 Answer 1


Light field cameras exist, and they are awesome. I remember first hearing about this a few years ago from Adobe, as they had done a bunch of research into it for future Photoshop use, in creating software that could properly work with plenoptic images. (Plenoptic is another word for light-field.) However, there's still certainly plenty of evidence that this is the real deal:

  • Ren Ng's original Stanford site about the camera project.
  • From that website, the tech report about the research (Hendy linked to this).
  • Also from that website, a video demonstration and explanation (this is incredible).
  • A New York Times article from just a few days ago talking about it, which reveals that he's received $50 million in venture capital backing... quite a lot to put in if the investors aren't confident there's something there. And it should be a pretty public announcement. From the article:

    [Ng] thinks a popular use may be families and friends roaming through different perspectives on pictures of, say, vacations and parties posted on Facebook (Lytro will have a Facebook app).

  • An article from Wired in 2005 when Ng was still a grad student talking about the early stages of the development.
  • And an article from Popular Science about Raytrix, the German company that Oliver_C mentioned. Problem here is one needs to request prices on their cameras on their websites, though Popsci apparently went and did that, to the tune of $30,000. Good money on Ng's being cheaper.

This technology has amazing applications, though. It basically is the Enhance Button!

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    Never heard of this technology before, but I'm looking forward to it now!
    – Alain
    Jun 24, 2011 at 18:46

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