Technically speaking, light field technology has been around for while. A light field is defined as all the light rays in a given space, traveling in every direction. It is essentially the 4D data of light. It was first defined as early as 1936, but it wasn’t introduced into computer graphics for another sixty years, in 1996.

Fast forward to 2012 and it was first used in photography. Unlike the photography we’ve always known, where light and colour data are input into a flat 2D sensor, light field photography has microlens arrays, which determine the direction of light, placed before the sensor. It has about a hundred thousand microscopic lenses with minute focal lengths which all dimension to the 2D data entering the sensor. The resulting is basically a composite image of a hundred thousand different images. And this is where the awesomeness of light field photography begins.

Lytro Illum
Two years ago, a company called Lytro created the very first consumer-level light field camera for the masses. It looked like a little kaleidoscope and took okay photos. What made it special at the time is how the photo’s focus point can be changed after taking the photo. Sure enough, photography apps on smart phones pounced on the idea, and the camera’s selling point fast became insignificant. Of course, in the case of the apps, they basically just took fully focused photos and added blur. Lytro’s little camera pretty much faded into oblivion soon after that.

Two years later though, in the second quarter of 2014, Lytro release the newest incarnation of their light field camera. And was it worth the wait indeed! The Lytro Illum is the only camera of its kind. It packages the high-end technology of light field into a consumer friendly and familiar body. The Lytro Illum looks like a futuristic DSLR, with a lens and sleek body. To add to the feel of familiarity, it has a 4-inch LCD screen and control buttons as well.

But what makes this camera so special is what’s inside. Forget the company’s original selling point of re-focusable images; the photos captured by the Illum can’t only be refocused, but you can also view the parallax, resulting in practically 3D interactive images. The adjustable depth of the photos creates a feeling of looking at several different photos at a time, making the image so much richer and more dynamic.

Living Images Effect
The interactive photos created by the Lytro Illum give a feeling of living images. It takes the viewer much deeper into the photo because then he can determine what he wants to see. And in that, he unfolds the story of the photo. It creates a deeper connection and a stronger impact that static images do not have, if only because he has the opportunity to “see the bigger picture” within the image.

Lytro Illum also has the capability to let the photographers determine the sequence with which they’ll present their photos through built-in animations. This way he can tell his story as he pleases.

For many, the camera changes photography not just in terms of output, but because taking photos using the Illum requires a totally different frame of mind. With the Illum, there is so much room to give details, so much versatility in terms of point of view, and, because of the focus pull-in, so much depth. Thus composition and concept take an importance they’ve never had before. This creates new highs for photographers who have been shooting one way for so long. This also opens new avenues for creativity and story-telling.

Julia Escano – Shoot The Frame

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