Lytro’s ‘living pictures’ camera to ship early next year

Lytro’s released the amazing wide field camera we wrote about back in June, which allows photographers and viewers to refocus pictures after they’ve been taken.

The pocket-sized device, which looks nothing like a traditional camera, has an 8x optical zoom and f/2 lens. There are just two buttons – power and shutter – and a glass touchscreen that lets pictures be viewed and refocused directly on the camera. The lack of focus on the camera itself means there’s no shutter delay.

While the picture quality might not be quite state-of-the-art, the camera really is something completely different. Unlike conventional cameras, it captures all the rays of light in a scene, which is what makes its magic trick possible.

The light field sensor captures the color, intensity, and the direction of each individual light ray entering the camera, with the data processed by a light field engine.

When pictures are shared online, the light field engine travels right along with them, allowing the viewer to interact with them on most devices. They can be shared on Facebook, Twitter or by email.

The camera was developed by Ren Ng, a former student at Stanford University, who says he was frustrated by the limitations of conventional cameras.

“Light field photography was once only possible with 100 cameras tethered to a supercomputer in a lab,” he says.

“Today it’s accessible to everyone in a camera that’s small and powerful, but incredibly easy to use. Our goal is to forever change the way people take and experience pictures, and today marks our first major step.”

There are two models available: an 8GB version holding 350 pictures for $399 and a 16GB model for $499, holding 750 pictures. They can be ordered now, and will ship early next year.

Click on an area in the image below to refocus it on that spot.