Lytro shifts perspective

Imaging technology developer Lytro says the new capability it’s adding to its consumer light field camera, Perspective Shift, “brings living pictures to life in an entirely new way.”

The current camera lets viewers re-focus pictures from foreground to background after they were taken; Perspective Shift changes the point of view in a picture. On a computer or mobile device screen, Lytro says, “viewers can move the living picture in any direction – left, right, up, down and all around.”

When pictures are shared to the web, Facebook and Twitter, friends can experience Perspective Shift without added software.

Perspective Shift works retroactively on any light field pictures previously taken with a Lytro camera, and will be a free update on December 4th.

Lytro also announced “Living Filters” which change the look of the picture based on light field depth. Unlike traditional digital photo filters, the company says, “Living Filters create additional effects as viewers interact with a picture.” The nine filters include Carnival, Crayon, and Glass.

More information is here.

As I noted in our July PMA Magazine opinion piece, I’ve not yet tried an actual Lytro camera — but the images don’t make me want to go buy one either. After clicking on a half-dozen of the shots on the company’s site — and presumably they are chosen to best highlight the technique — the novelty wears off, and I felt no need to play with any more of them.

The new perspective shift has the same result: at first it’s cool, then it just looks like a slightly jiggling, wobbly photo. Having the point of view shift almost unperceptively does not truly bring a “new perspective” — it only perhaps emulates a slight 3D appearance, or is reminiscent of a lenticular print: a cool novelty, but certainly not how you want to take or display most of your pictures.

And again, it can be argued — hey, I’m arguing it right here! — that the whole approach is not an enhancement, but rather all-but counter to what we think of as “photography.”  Where we position our camera, and what we focus on, are two of the primary choices we make with every shot. If we are to turn those over to every viewer, are we doing anything more than holding a camera up? Is that all you want out your picture taking? I don’t claim to be a serious shooter in any way, but even I want to put more of myself into the experience than that.

[All that said: Lytros’s light field technology *is* amazing and will likely yield useful techniques. I’d pay for a camera if I could use it with a tool like the SketchUp 3D software to quickly model an entire scene.]