Lytro's light field technology camera takes "living pictures"

How a photographer decides to focus a photo — the depth of field — is one of the factors that can define their work as art, and differentiate it from photojournalism and snapshots. It’s the artist’s way of directing the viewer’s gaze, manually manipulated with the f-stop of a camera in analog photography. But in the Lytro, the camera records all of the available light, permitting photographers to change their minds about their photo’s depth of field from their computer screens or the camera’s touch screen. You can give it a try with the photo below:

(Click once on the image to refocus the photograph.)

“It seems that the camera is definitely geared towards ordinary consumers looking to take snapshots, rather than people who are more serious about photography as an art form,” writes Michael Zhang in the photography blog PetaPixel. “For now, it really is just a novel toy,” says Engadget.

Commenters on some photography forums have had harsher words. “It’s gonna kill the art of photography,” writes Hypebeast commenter wtfHarsh. “I think that this is pretty awesome but can’t see any professionals switching to this kind of camera (if this technology is even gonna be available for DSLR’s),” writes FuzzyWhaleKub on the same site.

Images can be viewed in 3-D on a 3-D HDTV, but if the film world is any guide, 3-D does not lend itself to high art. Still, the camera’s technology is in its early phase, and professional artists have incorporated many other forms of mass-market photography, like the Polaroid, into their work. Writes RL Schrag, an artist and professor: “I know, people will do silly things with it. We’ll see images with more focus highlights than anyone could absorb. Those will be horrible. But the others? Oh, the possibilities ...”