updated 12:05 am EST, Tue January 24, 2012
Steve Jobs said to have talked with Lytro on cams
Apple's Steve Jobs may have discussed long-term plans to use Lytro's light field cameras in future iPhones and other devices. An advance excerpt from 9to5 of the book Inside Apple claims that Jobs reached out to Lytro founder Ren Ng during 2011 to talk design and cameras. After meeting in Jobs' neighborhood of Palo Alto, Ng was asked for three points of collaboration between Lytro and Apple.
Whether or not a deal was finalized, and when it would come to fruition, weren't mentioned. Ng is believed to have impressed Jobs at the meeting, making it probable that talks went at least beyond the late CEO.
Apple is known to have focused more on photography with the iPhone over the years as the potential became clear. Once treating it almost as an after thought, the company starting with the iPhone 3GS began making image quality an important aspect of its shots. The iPhone 4S is widely thought to have the best overall smartphone camera through a combination of a low-light-friendly and color-accurate sensor, high-quality optics, and software that supports both tap-to-focus as well as auto exposure and focus locks.
Light field photography is still in its earliest stages, but it potentially solves many of the problems of photography. By capturing all the light in a scene and not just that directly hitting the sensor, it can allow for 'infinite' focus that lets users get perfect focus on any subject. It similarly helps with low-light shooting.
Any release might not come until years later. The initial Lytro camera costs $399 and wouldn't be cost-effective scaled down. In current form, light field cameras also have considerably lower resolution than traditional cameras and need proprietary apps to process their full photos.
Should Apple have the chance to bring Lytro to smartphones first, however, it could have a major advantage by allowing for quality mobile photos with the sort of extremely simple control that Apple likes.