Steve Jobs Met with Light Field Camera (Lytro) Company's CEO

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In the upcoming Inside Apple book by Adam Lashinsky, it's revealed that Steve Jobs had expressed interest and subsequently met with the CEO of Lytro, the makers the first light field camera. The relevant book quote posted by 9to5Mac states:
The company's CEO, Ren Ng, a brilliant computer scientist with a PhD from Stanford, immediately called Jobs, who picked up the phone and quickly said, "if you're free this afternoon maybe we would could get together." Ng, who is thirty-two, hurried to Palo Alto, showed Jobs a demo of Lytro's technology, discussed cameras and product design with him, and, at Jobs's request, agreed to send him an email outlining three things he'd like Lytro to do with Apple.
Lytro received a lot of press last year when the first of its light field cameras went on sale in October. The product even received Popular Science's 2011 Innovation of the Year.

Light field cameras are a different take on photography by capturing "the entire light field" and saving all that information into a single file. Photographers can then edit the file afterwards in a number of unique ways -- including refocusing the image. This video walks through this unique ability:

One of the limitations in the early light field cameras is a relatively low resolution. The first Lytro camera produces final photos of only 1.2 megapixels (1,080x1,080). The cameras also don't take any video and start at $399 for an 8GB model. The camera carries an elongated form factor that seems to be a result of the unusual optics required.

Given the hype surrounding the technology, it's perhaps no surprise that Steve Jobs found interest in meeting with the young company. That meeting, however, is getting special attention due to the fact that Walter Isaacson had said that Jobs wanted to reinvent television, textbooks and photography.

Apple just released their first digital textbooks for the iPad, and is expected to get into the television space. Apple's future goals for photography, however, remain unclear. Apple includes a digital camera its iPhones and has made progressive improvements in camera quality over the past few generations. While Apple no longer makes a standalone digital camera, they were one of the first to product a consumer targeted digital camera back in 1994.

Given the popularity of smartphones and the subsequent decline of point and shoot camera popularity, we'd expect any future Apple movement into photography would be centered around the iPhone.

Article Link: Steve Jobs Met with Light Field Camera (Lytro) Company's CEO
 

Dreamer2go

macrumors 6502a
Jun 23, 2007
645
222
iPhone's camera's next feature: Optical zoom, not just software zoom...

If that happens, iPhone's camera is the best point and shoot. (Alongside DOZENS of camera apps)
 

Tortri

macrumors 6502a
Aug 30, 2010
759
9
I can see why apple is going to have a hard time with leaked info like this. yeah cool and all but not as cool when you leak this and give your competitors a possible advantage.
 

Anaemik

macrumors 6502
Feb 25, 2009
289
0
Potentially a very interesting new technology. However, one thing is kind of bugging me with respect to the video demo of the refocusing: the "depth of field" looks incredibly fake and processed from the very short example in the video, and it certainly doesn't seem like a natural, photographic depth of field response - more like the image has somehow been separated into "depth layers" and then had selective blurring applied to one or more layers. This feels pretty artificial as far as first impressions go, but I'm more than happy to reserve judgement until a more revealing demo of the technology is made available.
 

nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,546
1,186
Since I got my iPhone 4, I abandoned my standalone camera and never thought I’d go back. Sometimes I do wish for powerful telephoto, but never when I’m expecting—and I’m not going to lug a big camera everywhere I go for that one occasional purpose.

Lytro's is the first camera that tempts me to own a dedicated camera again! Maybe version 2, but this is really cool tech—and useful. Especially if you can do a lot with exposure after the fact (I understand that’s limited now, compared to what you can do with white balance and focus). HDR post-processing from a single moment in time would be great, for instance.

The best thing about re-adjusting focus later: NO focus delay before the shot!
 

RalfTheDog

macrumors 65816
Feb 23, 2010
1,394
53
Lagrange Point
Photography is all about controlling depth of field. Choosing what is in focus and what is not. Do you want just the models nose in focus or do you want the model and the car three blocks away. By controlling depth of field you make the image seem more three dimensional and you draw the viewers attention to what you want them to see.

This is a very good technology that if used properly will be revolutionary. If abused, it will lead to endless fields of bad pictures.
 

splashman

macrumors 6502
Jun 23, 2003
350
0
Latest useless gimmick

Okay, let's have a show of hands: How many people here have taken photos where they wish they could re-focus at will to emphasize one element of the photo?

Wait, before you raise your hands, let's limit it to those people who take such photos often enough to pay extra for the capability. And lug around a bigger device.

And let's limit it to those who aren't professional photographers, since this $399 1.2MP model would be useless for such.

Okay, so now let's see all those raised hands.

Anyone?

Buehler?
 

nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,546
1,186
Potentially a very interesting new technology. However, one thing is kind of bugging me with respect to the video demo of the refocusing: the "depth of field" looks incredibly fake and processed from the very short example in the video...
Yeah, they did some wacky too-clever moving-video effects there; don’t look at that as a true example of their still output. Their camera does seem to work as claimed, and they have some nice still shots to show the actual output:

http://www.lytro.com/living-pictures

Even so, those are examples of still output but NOT examples of live re-focussing. That, I believe, has to be “faked” (simulated) to some extent in the web gallery, because you’re viewing the re-focus in Flash, not in Lytro’s own software that decodes the light field. It may be close to the real experience, though—and the output (once the re-focus motion is over) is probably accurate and taken from their software. It doesn’t stand out as “weird” the way that video does!
 

ABernardoJr

macrumors 6502
Dec 19, 2006
364
0
Okay, let's have a show of hands: How many people here have taken photos where they wish they could re-focus at will to emphasize one element of the photo?

Wait, before you raise your hands, let's limit it to those people who take such photos often enough to pay extra for the capability. And lug around a bigger device.

And let's limit it to those who aren't professional photographers, since this $399 1.2MP model would be useless for such.

Okay, so now let's see all those raised hands.

Anyone?

Buehler?
lol Just as it is with much of basically every newer piece of technology, it's going to cost a lot more in the beginning. Just like Blu-Ray players, SSDs, etc. I think what's a bigger story is that this is at least starting to develop, in a few years maybe things will be more reasonably priced and well-featured.
 

RalfTheDog

macrumors 65816
Feb 23, 2010
1,394
53
Lagrange Point
Okay, let's have a show of hands: How many people here have taken photos where they wish they could re-focus at will to emphasize one element of the photo?

Wait, before you raise your hands, let's limit it to those people who take such photos often enough to pay extra for the capability. And lug around a bigger device.

And let's limit it to those who aren't professional photographers, since this $399 1.2MP model would be useless for such.

Okay, so now let's see all those raised hands.

Anyone?

Buehler?
This is a first generation product. I can picture a later version that is much more professional friendly. Would I use it every day? No. Would I spend $5,000 or $10,000 for a version that I could use when I needed it? Yes. I am assuming that a professional version would come with much better tools, have many more layers (perhaps 1024 or 2048) and give you much more control.

Give it five or ten years and this will be fantastic!
 

nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,546
1,186
Okay, let's have a show of hands: How many people here have taken photos where they wish they could re-focus at will to emphasize one element of the photo?

Wait, before you raise your hands, let's limit it to those people who take such photos often enough to pay extra for the capability. And lug around a bigger device.

And let's limit it to those who aren't professional photographers, since this $399 1.2MP model would be useless for such.

Okay, so now let's see all those raised hands.

Anyone?

Buehler?
How many people—NON-professionals, please--have ever taken a photo with bad focus?

Wait, before you raise your hands, how many of you would be willing to carry a still-very-small device, that’s also fun and cool?

A see a certain niche raising their hands!

Thank goodness for niche products: imagine a world where no products existed except those that appealed to all people? You’d never find what you wanted...

And those early adopters can lead the way to higher-res versions to come :)
 

splashman

macrumors 6502
Jun 23, 2003
350
0
lol Just as it is with much of basically every newer piece of technology, it's going to cost a lot more in the beginning. Just like Blu-Ray players, SSDs, etc. I think what's a bigger story is that this is at least starting to develop, in a few years maybe things will be more reasonably priced and well-featured.
I'm sure you're right, but that wasn't my point. Lytro's tech solves a problem most people don't have. It's a gimmick that demos well, but most people won't use it after the novelty wears off. Like video chat.

If the Lytro tech can be added to a cellphone without significant size/cost/weight penalties, then sure, what the heck, add it in. But the fact remains, it's a gimmick that most people won't use.
 

japanime

macrumors 68000
Feb 27, 2006
1,946
1,886
Japan
This article seems to imply that Jobs' desire to reinvent photography has not yet been achieved.

I think it's safe to say that Jobs and Apple already have reinvented photography — with the iPhone 4 (and 4s).

With the assistance of some amazing editing applications, serious photography is being done with the iPhone's camera. Books featuring images taken with the iPhone 4 are being published. Professional photographers have embraced it. And millions of amateur photographers are developing their skills and taking amazing pictures with it.

Just as kludgy tablet computers had been around for a decade (or more) before Apple's released the iPad and reinvented that segment of the computer industry, lousy camera phones had also been around for years before the iPhone 4 made the photography world sit up and take notice.
 

splashman

macrumors 6502
Jun 23, 2003
350
0
How many people—NON-professionals, please--have ever taken a photo with bad focus?
The correct question is "How many people have enough focusing problems with their current camera to warrant purchasing an additional device?"

Wait, before you raise your hands, how many of you would be willing to carry a still-very-small device, that’s also fun and cool?
Sounds like a Ballmer ad for Zune.

A see a certain niche raising their hands!
Yep, those for whom money is less important than their Dweebs of America cred.
 

MisterK

macrumors 6502
Jan 9, 2006
413
156
Ottawa, Canada
In 3D

I'm looking forward to what this tech could eventually do when it's used with 3D. Part of the problem with 3D, as I see it, is that the camera forces the focal point of all the shots. I'd love if I could have depth of field based on where my eyes were focusing. I know this is a ways off and that we'd need some serious processing power, but I dare someone to say computers will never be that powerful. This idea isn't perfect, but there's something here.
 

splashman

macrumors 6502
Jun 23, 2003
350
0
This article seems to imply that Jobs' desire to reinvent photography has not yet been achieved.

I think it's safe to say that Jobs and Apple already have reinvented photography — with the iPhone 4 (and 4s).
Yep. Apple pushed the industry forward with iPhone 4, and even further with the 4s. If not for Apple's big push, and emphasis on photo quality, the industry would still be stuck in the "more megapixels is better" moronity. (Actually, most of them still are, since they can't make their own software.)
 

ABernardoJr

macrumors 6502
Dec 19, 2006
364
0
I'm sure you're right, but that wasn't my point. Lytro's tech solves a problem most people don't have. It's a gimmick that demos well, but most people won't use it after the novelty wears off. Like video chat.

If the Lytro tech can be added to a cellphone without significant size/cost/weight penalties, then sure, what the heck, add it in. But the fact remains, it's a gimmick that most people won't use.
It's definitely arguable that everyday people don't really worry about focusing incorrectly with photos, and at its current state this product seems to be aimed at the everyday people in a way, since pros might not find much use for a camera with considerably limited features for a high price at the moment. That's a reasonable point, but again, it goes back to the idea that in a few years, the price will go down and the feature set will increase, which would then cater to pros who are more likely to worry about focus issues than point and shooters.
 

MattInOz

macrumors 68030
Jan 19, 2006
2,761
0
Sydney
I'm looking forward to what this tech could eventually do when it's used with 3D. Part of the problem with 3D, as I see it, is that the camera forces the focal point of all the shots. I'd love if I could have depth of field based on where my eyes were focusing. I know this is a ways off and that we'd need some serious processing power, but I dare someone to say computers will never be that powerful. This idea isn't perfect, but there's something here.
My interest would be for Photomontage work from 3D models.
Have a lightfield virtual camera to drop in your model at same location and the two images should be able to crop themselves together, then play with the depth of field for the production shots.

BTW: It was pretty obvious Apple was taking interest, given the number of Apple employees twittering lust for it.
 

Friscohoya

macrumors 6502a
Jun 16, 2009
708
0
Oaktown
I could see lots of everyday users using this technology. Particularly on a phone. Think of all the times that you take a flic and it comes out blurry or unfocused. If you could change that and just take quick shots that the phone could then "fix" later you could never take a bad picture...