A solution looking for a problem.
I wrote about the Lytro camera with considerable enthusiasm over a year ago. It’s now hitting the stores with zoom and manual options added.
Thinking it over and experimenting with their publicity photos taken on the camera I now conclude I was dead wrong.
The Lytro takes an image whose point of focus can be changed when viewed on a computer. The problem with that – putting aside questionable definition and so on – is that no one in their right mind wants to do that. In fact it’s exactly backwards. While the technology frees the user from the need to focus, as the focus point can be determined at the playback stage, in practice what the user wants is a small camera, likely as not in his cell phone, where everything in the picture is sharp. Like the Lytro that obviates the need to focus at the taking stage. But it’s at the viewing stage that the user wants to determine what should be sharp or blurred. But the user only ever wants one thing sharp. He does not want multiple choices. And he wants the image big and sharp where he chooses. Most of all, the last thing the consumer wants is to carry another gadget, especially one with the Lytro’s questionable ergonomics, these largely dictated by the need to use a long lens to confer the required shallow depth of field.
No, users do not want the choice of many sharp points of focus depending one where the image is clicked at playback. Users want one sharp point of focus with all else blurred. One click. So what is called for is processing software that permits that, maybe allied with data capture at the taking point to record relative subject distances when the image was first recorded. Trees were 50 feet away, person was 10 feet away, etc. At playback you click the person and the trees are rendered blurred.
Yes, I do the selective focus thing using the excellent Magic Lasso in Photoshop but no average user is going to want to do that.
Lytro has it exactly wrong. A gimmick which answers a question no one is asking. A solution looking for a problem. I give them one year and hasta la vista to all that venture capital.