By Graham Myhre and Dave Evans
As we get closer to LYTRO ILLUM shipping to customers and hitting store shelves, we wanted to take a deep dive into one of the most revolutionary parts of the new camera — the lens design.
Every light field picture is fundamentally a 3D view of the world, and to capture that multi-dimensional image, LYTRO ILLUM’s lens features some surprising specifications:
- 40-megaray sensor
- 30-250mm equivalent optical zoom
- Constant f/2 aperture
- Tablet-class computational engine
- 1:3 macro magnification (capable of focusing on a fingerprint left on the lens)
These capabilities are unheard of in a single camera with a single lens, so how is this possible with LYTRO ILLUM?
LYTRO ILLUM features the first lens specifically built and designed to harness the power of light field software. With LYTRO ILLUM’s unique lens, much of the work traditionally accomplished by glass elements in conventional lenses is replaced by pure computational power. Lytro built this unprecedented lens in partnership with one of the world’s finest lens manufacturers, designing the lens from the ground-up to unleash the potential of Lytro’s innovative software and light field imaging.
All cameras capture light in a way to make sense of the light in a scene, which is called the “light field.” With a normal 2D film/digital camera, the role of the lens is to focus all of the light that enters the camera’s entrance pupil to a single point on the image sensor — an extremely difficult task. As 2D photography moves towards both higher megapixel counts and lower f-numbers, this process becomes even more challenging, forcing lenses to become increasingly complex, with more glass elements, aspheric surfaces, and new, expensive, materials.
LYTRO ILLUM’s lens is a giant step in reversing this trend of increasingly complex lenses. Unlike a traditional digital camera lens, a light field lens does not focus all of the light from the aperture to a single point, but instead breaks it up into smaller bundles of light that are focused onto multiple points on the sensor. This allows the light field lens to accurately sample the entire light field as 3D data as opposed to a flat 2D scene. To make sense of the data, LYTRO ILLUM uses computational processes to reconstruct the light field. As the number of a samples (megarays) increase, more elements of the lens can be replaced by computation, removing lens aberrations.
LYTRO ILLUM’s lens will be a turning point in the camera industry where lenses become simpler and cheaper with even lower f-numbers. In the shift from Camera 2.0 to Camera 3.0, we look forward to seeing you capture immersive interactive stories that will move not just us, but generations to come.