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The Picture Revolution

The Picture Revolution
by Gary Woods

One of the coolest parts of the digital revolution is photography. There are cameras for every level of photographer and at their core all those cameras are all about capturing as much light as possible and displaying it as accurately as possible.

The latest wrinkle I've seen in digital photography is from a startup called Lytro ( and it uses a protocol called Light Field. This core concept in imaging science represents a fundamentally more powerful data stream than is present in regular photographs and fully defines how a scene appears. It is the amount of light traveling in every direction through every point in space and it's all the light rays in a scene.

The process substitutes powerful software for many of the internal parts of regular cameras and introduces new capabilities that were never before possible. By relying on software rather than components, cameras can improve performance from increased speed of picture taking to the potential for capturing better pictures in low light. It also creates new opportunities to innovate with camera lenses, controls and designs.

Okay, all of that sounds pretty cool but now for the rest of the not quite finished picture. At this point there are no commercially available cameras with the Lytro process. You can go on their website and "reserve a camera" by leaving your email address but there are no prices mentioned for the cameras you're reserving even though they're not asking for money yet.

Another intriguing wrinkle in this story is that the company is looking for beta testers. You can go to the FAQ page and click on the subscribe button to enter some basic information about yourself and volunteer to beta test their gear.

From looking at the photos on the website the process looks pretty interesting so if you've got a few extra minutes and want to help out a Silicon Valley startup check 'em out.

If you have any suggestions or questions for me please drop me a note at or see my column on the Internet at or call me at (805) 729-0910

Gary Woods is the Computer Trainer for the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. And he is a Broker/Associate at Home Realty & Investments, Inc