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Apple's Jobs, Lytro talked light field iPhone cameras: book

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.

Top two photos: notice changes of focus despite exact same shot

by MacNN Staff



  1. qazwart

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Problem w/ Lightfield

    The problem is that Lightfield takes a lot of pixels to process. The Lightfield camera talks pictures that are a mere megapixel in size. Yes, Pixels aren't that important when you're debating 5 Mp vs. 10 Mp, but there is a difference between 5Mp and 1Mp. The Lightfield camera also has issues in taking pictures in poor light too.

    It's a neat technology, but it isn't ready for the consumer.

  1. chas_m



    Don't know if you've noticed ...

    But cell phone cameras have problems "taking pictures in poor light" as well (that's why they have a flash). But their real disadvantage is fixed-focus. You are correct that light-field photography isn't really for prime-time just yet, but Apple thinks years ahead, not minutes, and has some great photographically-oriented minds on board. Apple + Lytro + some time could = great things, at least as regards cell-phone photography.

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