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Lytro, Inc.
IndustryConsumer electronics
FoundersRen Ng
Key peopleRen Ng, Executive Chairman; Kurt Akeley, CTO; Jason Rosenthal, CEO
ProductsPlenoptic camera
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Lytro, Inc.
IndustryConsumer electronics
FoundersRen Ng
Key peopleRen Ng, Executive Chairman; Kurt Akeley, CTO; Jason Rosenthal, CEO
ProductsPlenoptic camera
Front of a Lytro light-field camera
Back side of a Lytro light-field camera

Lytro, Inc. is a startup company founded in 2006 by Ren Ng, a light field researcher at Stanford University, which manufactures plenoptic cameras for consumer use.[1][2][3][4]

In 2011, Lytro introduced its first generation pocket-sized camera, capable of refocusing images after being taken.[5] It went on sale October 19, 2011 in 8 GB and 16 GB versions,[6] and began shipping on February 29, 2012.[7][8]

In February 2012, the company won the Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal’s Idea and Innovation Award in the consumer technology category.[8][9]

In April 2014, the company announced Lytro Illum, its second generation camera for commercial and experimental photographers.[10] The Lytro Illum markets at $1,600.[11] The Illum resembles a conventional mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera, but has a permanently attached 30–250mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.0 lens and an articulated rear screen.[12]


Ren Ng, Lytro original CEO and founder, holding a Lytro camera.

While he was a researcher at Stanford, Ng was photographing a friend's daughter and noticed "it was incredibly difficult to focus the image properly and capture her fleeting smile in just the right way."[13] After completing his Ph.D, Ng decided to use his experience in light field research to "start a company that would produce light-field cameras that everyone could enjoy."[13] The company was originally named Refocus Imaging, before launching as Lytro.

Lytro board members include Ben Horowitz, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz; Patrick Chung, partner at NEA; and TiVo cofounder Mike Ramsay,[14] with Charles Chi of Greylock Partners serving as Executive Chairman.[15] Advisors include Intuit cofounder Scott Cook, VMware cofounder Diane Greene, Dolby Labs chairman Peter Gotcher and Sling Media cofounder Blake Krikorian.[14]

Lytro founder Ng was Lytro's first CEO. Lytro’s Chief Technology Officer Kurt Akeley was a founding member of Silicon Graphics.[15] In June 2012 Ren Ng announced that he would be changing roles and be Lytro's Executive Chairman focused on innovation. Charles Chi would change from Executive Chairman to interim CEO while Lytro's board begins looking for a new CEO.

In June 2011, Apple CEO Steve Jobs purportedly met with Lytro CEO Ren Ng to discuss improvements for the iPhone camera.[16]

Although not a true light field camera, the HTC One (M8) mobile phone released in April 2014 mimics Lytro's depth-sensing functionality through the use of a second camera and stereoscopic post processing.[17]


Lytro Light Field Camera[edit]

Taking a photo with a Lytro camera.

Lytro's plenoptic camera features a matrix of tiny lenses on a sensing chip.[18] These sensors gather light from different sources and directions. The camera itself is a squared-off tube less than five inches long with a lens opening at one end and a 1.52" LCD touch screen at the other. The first generation of the camera comes in two options: one with 8GB of memory (which can hold 350 pictures) and one with 16GB (which can hold 750 pictures).[8][19][20]

Lytro ILLUM[edit]

The Lytro ILLUM features a 40 megaray sensor (in comparison to the Light Field Camera's 11 megaray sensor), and a more powerful processor. The 30-250mm lens with 8x optical zoom, f/2.0 aperture, and 1:3 macro is much more prominent in the design of the camera, but is still non-interchangeable. The lens was designed to weigh half a pound to make the camera lighter and more agile. The Illum features a 4" LCD touchscreen with a wide aspect ratio, featuring an overlay that shows the photographer the relative focus of all objects in the frame and which elements are re-focusable. The camera has an SD card slot and no internal storage, and also features an external shutter release port, hot shoe, tripod mount, and removable battery.[21][22]


As of June 21, 2011, Lytro has raised approximately $50 million.[23][24] This round of funding was led by NEA, with participation of investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners and K9 Ventures and along with individual investors.[8][14]


Light-field photography (also known as plenoptic photography) captures the available light in a scene coming from more than one direction.[14] It works by breaking up the main image with an array of microlenses over an image sensor.[25] The camera software then uses this data to determine the general directions of incoming light rays.[26]

Features of a plenoptic camera include:

One drawback is low resolution: Users are able to convert the Lytro camera's proprietary image into a regular JPEG file, at a desired focal plane. The resulting image from the first generation camera has 1080 × 1080 pixels (roughly 1.2 megapixels),[30] and 2450 × 1634 (4.0 megapixels) from the Illum.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lytro Company Fact Sheet". Lytro. Retrieved 24 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Azevedo, Mary Ann (1 July 2011). "Lytro Inc. focused on its light field camera technology". San Jose Business Journal. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Fried, Ina. "Meet the Stealthy Start-Up That Aims to Sharpen Focus of Entire Camera Industry". All Things Digital. Retrieved 24 June 2011. 
  4. ^ A Start-Up's Camera Lets You Take Shots First and Focus Later Steve Lohr, New York Times, 2011 June 21
  5. ^ Andrew Couts, Digital Trends. "Lytro: The camera that could change photography forever." June 22, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  6. ^ "Lytro announces Light Field Camera". Digital Photography Review. October 19, 2011. 
  7. ^ Inside the Lytro by FRANK O’CONNELL, Business Day, New York Times, 2012 March 1
  8. ^ a b c d Diana Samuels, Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal. "Lytro ships first cameras to lucky customers." Feb 29, 2012. Retrieved Apr 25, 2012.
  9. ^ Mary Ann Azevedo, Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal. "AWARD – Consumer Technology: Lytro light camera lets users focus long after photos are shot." Feb 17, 2012. Retrieved Apr 25, 2012.
  10. ^ "Lytro unveils a more sophisticated 'light-field' camera". Reuters. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  11. ^ By Heather Kylle, CNN."/ Lytro refocuses with a new $1,600 camera."April 22, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  12. ^ Nicole Lee (April 22, 2014). "Lytro's new light-field camera looks like an actual camera, costs $1,599". Engadget. 
  13. ^ a b Bonnington, Christina (23 June 2011). "Ren Ng Shares His Photographic Vision: Shoot Now, Focus Later". WIRED. Retrieved 18 August 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f Geron, Tomio (21 June 2011). "Shoot First, Focus Later With Lytro's New Camera Tech". Forbes. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "About Us". Lytro. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  16. ^ Lance Whitney, CNET. "Steve Jobs wanted to reinvent iPhone photography, says book." January 24, 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  17. ^ "HTC One 2 (M8): dual rear cameras for Lytro-like refocusing confirmed". Stuff. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  18. ^ Ned Potter, ABC News. "Lytro Light-Field Camera: Shoot First, Ask Questions Later." December 20, 2011. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  19. ^ Dante Cesa, Engadget. "Lytro introduces world's first light field camera: f/2 lens, $399, ships early 2012." Oct 19, 2011. Retrieved Apr 20, 2012.
  20. ^ John Bradley, Wired. "Focus on the Future." Feb 29, 2012. Retrieved Apr 20, 2012.
  21. ^ "Lytro's new light-field camera looks like an actual camera, costs $1,599". Engadget. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  22. ^ "Lytro Illum changes focus even after you've taken the photo". CNET. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  23. ^ Ina Fried, AllThingsD. "Meet the Stealthy Start-Up That Aims to Sharpen Focus of Entire Camera Industry." Jun 21, 2011. Retrieved Apr 24, 2012.
  24. ^ Tomio Geron, Forbes. "Shoot First, Focus Later With Lytro's New Camera Tech." Jun 21, 2011. Retrieved Apr 24, 2012.
  25. ^ Coldewey, Devin. "Doubts About Lytro’s "Focus Later" Camera". TechCrunch. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  26. ^ Lars Rehm, DP Review. "CES 2012: Lytro Photowalk." Jan 13, 2012. Retrieved Apr 20, 2012.
  27. ^ "Depth Composition Features". Lytro Illum manual. Lytro. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  28. ^ José Manuel Rodríguez-Ramos (1 April 2011). "3D imaging and wavefront sensing with a plenoptic objective". SPIE. 
  29. ^ "Plenoptic lens arrays signal future?". TVB Europe. 23 September 2011. 
  30. ^ Goldman, Joshua. "Lytro camera: 5 things to know before you buy". CNET Editor. CNET. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  31. ^ "LYTRO ILLUM 40 Megaray Light Field Camera". Digital Photography Review. Retrieved 2014-10-19. 

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