New Photo Technology Brings Everything into Focus

Lytro technology
Lytro allows you to focus the picture to the background from the foreground, or bring the entire picture into sharp focus.

A new “camera” is emerging from the start-up mode and making noise in the digital capture market. Essentially, the new technology from a company called Lytro eliminates the depth of field limitations of traditional photography technology.

Simply put, the camera has harnessed the capture of the entire light field rather than one point of light, something that has been approached in the past by using a hundred cameras in one room. That capability has been brought into one unit the company says can fit in your pocket.

The primary benefit of the new camera is the ability to bring everything into focus after the shot is snapped. If there’s something blurry in the foreground, or the background, you can bring it into sharp focus after the fact.

As an example found in the video embedded below in which CEO and found Ren Ng describes the technology and its applications, an original capture with Lytro shows a boy blurred in the foreground with a sharply-focused background of water and mountains. Ng shows how Lytro allows the user to bring the boy into sharp focus while the background blurs.

What’s really amazing about it, at least to me, is that you can bring both foreground and background into focus, a trick that really brings the potential of Lytro to light, so to speak. You can also change the orientation of the photo (as shown in the same example in the video) and there are 3D rendition possibilities with the technology.

According to TechCrunch, Lytro has attracted $50 million in capital from NEA, K9 Ventures, Greylock Partners and Andreessen Horowitz. It would seem that Lytro is in position to make a mark, and quite a big one, in digital photography in the near future. The questions now are when, how much (money) and at what resolution?

Making a Difference with Metallic

C2 Reprographics prints this flyer on Sunset Photo Metallic Paper to highlight the pearlescent qualities that make a distinct difference on high-contrast, high-end images.

In its quest for a competitive edge, C2 Reprographics in Costa Mesa, Calif., was one of the first companies to try LexJet’s Sunset Metallic Photo Paper after it was introduced this summer. C2 Reprographics’ marketing director, Eric Monroe, says the company has been on the lookout for a way to replicate the unique pearlescent qualities of a paper that had previously been available only for chemical process, continuous-tone printing systems like the LightJet.

“I was dying to get this paper because we often compete with companies that have LightJets. We were looking for an inkjet version of that look so that we could compete in that space,” says Monroe.

Now that an inkjet version is available, C2 Reprographics can use its battery of HP Z6100s to produce a similar effect without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a photographic system. For C2 Reprographics, the paper has made the biggest impact in the architectural market.

“When architects create 3D renderings and modeling for their presentations, you’re seeing a lot of vibrant images, like the colors they use in the buildings, trees and sky. We have one architect who uses it exclusively. At first, I wasn’t thinking of my architect clientele as the main market for this paper, but they really like it,” says Monroe.

Monroe says that making a presentation splash has become increasingly important for architects who have been competing in smaller niche markets in response to the tighter economy of recent years. He says the paper gives the presentations a higher-end, more professional look that makes a difference.

Monroe adds that you should choose images with a lot of contrast to bring out the qualities of the paper that cause it to stand out from the crowd. “I purposely pick images I know will play well with the paper, like the flyer we printed on Sunset Metallic that shows a nighttime cityscape with lots of darks contrasting against reflections and light. If it’s a sterile image on a white background you probably won’t notice the difference, so you should just use a less-expensive paper for those applications,” says Monroe. “We charge more per square foot for prints on Sunset Metallic, and so far that’s flown. No one has said, ‘Wow, that’s too expensive.’ Instead they say, ‘I want to try that, because it gives me a distinctive look.’”