Lytro's infinitely re-focusable "living pictures" were already out-of-this-world amazing. Now, the innovative California startup has added two new features, called "perspective shift" and "living filters," that propel these one-of-a-kind pictures into another galaxy.
You might remember the Lytro camera as the curious little gadget, introduced in late 2011, that looks like an oversized tube of lipstick and whose photos can be re-focused after the fact by clicking anywhere on the resulting picture. The camera uses next-generation "light-field technology," which captures each individual ray of light traveling in every direction in a scene rather than just a single plane of light.
That means, among other things, that you don't have to focus before you snap a photo with the Lytro camera: You can focus wherever you want afterwards. The photos can be embedded anywhere -- on Facebook, Twitter or blog posts -- and no software was required to view them or tinker around with the focus, making them a social sharing and sales success for the small company late last year.
Here, for example, is a classic example of a Lytro photo (click anywhere on the picture to re-focus; you may have to update your browser if you don't see the image below):
Indeed, the first batch of these photos were already fairly mind-bending and trippy: The idea that any viewer could refocus a photo was (and still is) a radical idea. Now, though, Lytro is rolling out an update to its software that brings two important, equally trippy changes. They call these changes perspective shift and "living filters."
Of the two, the perspective shift is probably the more impressive, and the harder to explain. (Don't worry, we have examples below). Essentially, the additional feature -- which will come in a free update to the desktop Lytro software in early December -- lets you move around the point-of-view from which your photo is taken ever so slightly. Imagine you are a mosquito flying around the surface of your photo lens, and you probably have a good idea of how perspective shift looks: You can view angles and shades and gain perspective that you can't with a static photo.
Living filters adds an Instagram-like aspect to Lytro's pictures. These, too, can be shifted around. Clicking anywhere on the photo re-centers the focus of the filter, adding yet another interactive element to Lytro shots. The initial software update will ship with eight different filters, all of which we have below.
These added functions won't bring the Lytro any closer to becoming your primary shooter or the camera you would rely on to shoot a momentous family event; but it does add another two intriguing, distinctive tools to the artistic arsenal of creative types looking to use Lytro as a wholly unique form of creative expression.
You can check out the new features in action below. First, we've got nine photos of the perspective shift; then, we've got nine photos of the individual living filters.
The Lytro camera is available from the Lytro website starting at $499 and works with Windows or Mac.