Technology advances everyday and it has become a way of life it seems. You buy a computer only to find out when you get home that you are already outdated. Cellphones, TV’s and of course, our favorite little gadgets: digital cameras, are all victims. Cameras are updated about every 12-18 months. They perform better in low light, the megapixels keep climbing to a point that it is pointless, they add 72 focus points on top of the 52 that was on the previous model… I get it. Upgrade. Upgrade. Upgrade. But it has reached a point where I think it is too much of an upgrade. Let me explain.
There is a little known company (right now) called Lytro based out of Mountain View, California and yes, this is where a once little known company and now ‘king of the internet’ called Google is from so this little town is packed full of innovative thinkers, designers and inventors. Lytro has an idea that will change photography and it is both very exciting and very scary. They are developing a camera that will allow you to change your point of focus after you have taken the photo. Yes, you read that correctly, I said AFTER.
Why is this so exciting? Well, think about this scenario. You and your family take a road trip to the Grand Canyon. When you finally get there and pick your jaws up off the floor from awe of how beautiful the canyon is, you ask another tourist to take a photo of you and your family with the canyon behind you. That kind tourist snaps the photo for you and hands you back the camera, then something amazing happens. A massive eagle flies by and you run off to take some photos of the eagle and completely forget to glance at the photo of you and your family with the canyon. Days pass, vacation is over, and you are now back home uploading all of your images to view them. You scroll through and then devastation ensues. That one photo of you and your family with the canyon is out of focus. You scream, break stuff and yell four letter words.
That scenario doesn’t sound too pleasing does it? Well, if that family photo was taken with a Lytro camera then you wouldn’t have a broken computer screen and apologizing to your children for those four letter words that you belted out. You would be able to simply click on you and your family in the photo and magically you all come into focus. Ta-Da! Awesome, right? Well of course but this is where it gets scary.
Photography has now become one step LESS of an art form in my eyes. What will define a professional photographer from a novice? What will define knowledge of photography over automated photography? Yes, we have auto white balance, auto ISO and auto focus which help a lot of people but now with the control of your depth of field AFTER you make the mistake; that is too much ‘mistake correction’ in my eyes. I say learn your camera and lenses, learn how photography works and practice it. Do not relay on machines to correct your mistakes because you will never learn. That is what the scary part about the Lytro camera is. If this becomes mainstream, all the ‘old school’ photographers will be the only ones left in the world that know what depth of field is and how to control it.
So how does it work? Without getting too technical, basically this camera can capture a ‘light field’ which is the amount of light traveling in every possible direction. Traditional cameras can not capture all that light. The Lytro, however, can and thus, allows you to control your depth of field in post processing because all the light and information was captured from the beginning. Pretty cool, huh?
Do not get me wrong though, if I ever get my hands on the Lytro camera I will try it out and see what it can do. But when I am done, I am going back to my Nikon. As a good analogy: You are not a chef if you cook everything in the microwave and the same goes to photography, you are not a photographer if you make zero decisions in your shot. Learn your camera people.