Message From Missouri
In case that seems to be a little obscure, remember that Missouri is known as the " Show Me" state - populated by hog farmers and skeptics - and generally wants positive proof of anything before it parts with its money. An British equivalence might be found in Yorkshire but with a different accent and a yellow waistcoat.
Clothing and accents aside, I was very skeptical a few months ago when I read the DP Review article on the Lytro camera. This is the light-field camera that was said to be able to take in a scene without focussing, and to let the user choose later where they wanted the focus point to be when they viewed the image on a computer. There was a representation of this on the DP site that we played with, as well as a short report on the developer of the system and the company itself.
I have seen a number of wonders in photography in my time - Nimslo, Technicolor, Polaroid instant movie amongst others, and I wondered if this was to be an addition to this illustrious list. I determined to wait until they could show me.
They did. I saw two working Lytro's here in the shop a week ago and played with them. They were a simple small rectangular anodized casing with a big lens set into one end, two flush-mounted buttons along the side and an LCD screen at the other end. One button was on-off, one button was shutter, and a secret section at the back of the casing let you zoom the lens by sliding your finger over it - like the business that you do when you slide your finger over the screen of a mobile phone. Damn elegant.
And Damn. They work. Look at the screen, point the camera, press the shutter spot. Click. Then look at the screen to see the shot you have taken and touch it wherever you want the focus to be sharp. It sharpens there. Apparently you are going to be able to load this onto your computer somehow with a cable and away you go.
We'll be getting them when they are to be got, and I'll be able to tell you a price when we know it. They are not high-megapixel devices, nor are they system cameras to replace professional gear. But they do work, and they do look like a lot of fun.