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Lytro heralds light field revolution



A new camera from Lytro reveals a radical twist to traditional photography, called ‚”light field imaging‚”, writes BRIAN KOPING

Traditional photography has taken a radical twist with the advent of light field imaging that creates ‚”living pictures‚” which can be selectively focused in post processing. This allows the taker and viewer to change perspective and move seamlessly from 2D to 3D, and is a concept that until now would have appeared inconceivable.

The research began some fifteen years ago, when light fields were first captured at Sanford University in America. The advanced research then required a room full of cameras connected to a super computer.

Today this technology is available as a Lytro light field camera, the looks of which belie the giant step in imaging technology it represents.

The camera is a rather featureless, square, tubular machine resembling a small surveillance camera about two-thirds the size of a box of shortbread biscuits. It has an 8x zoom lens with an f2 aperture constant across the zoom range, and only two buttons, one for exposure and one for zooming. For a little more versatility, the camera has a touch screen that allows one to choose between Normal Mode and Creative Mode. It also shows state of battery charge and the number of images taken.

On exposure, the Lytro captures some 11 million rays of light by means of a micro lens adhered to a standard sensor. The captured light is processed by a Light field engine 1.0 processor. This processor travels with every image, so the recipient receives a ‚”live‚” image, any part of which can be refocused by means of a click of the mouse, be it on Mac or PC.

Pictures appear to be crisp, with much detail and vibrant colour. Close-up imaging also appears to be impressive. It makes for interesting viewing, shifting focus from a hand holding a tiny sea creature in the foreground to the owner of the hand in the background of the image.

The light field is the core concept in this imaging science, representing fundamentally more powerful data than that of regular photographs.

The light field sensor captures colour, intensity and vector direction of the rays. In normal photography the sensor simply adds up the light rays and records them as a single amount.

The light field defines the appearance of the image being comprised of light traveling in every direction through every point in space.

Light field processing introduces new possibilities not possible before, using sophisticated algorithms. It substitutes powerful software for some of the internal parts of a normal camera. This improves the speed of taking and low light performance as well as creating opportunities to improve lens controls and design.

On taking the photo, there is no lag, as focusing need not be done and there is no shutter delay. Shallow depth-of-field due to the f2 lens is also not problematic, as the point of focus can be selected later.

All images taken may be converted to JPEG and printed like conventional images but, in this instance, the ability to refocus is lost. Another point to bear in mind is that a print with the entire image in focus is not yet possible.

The aluminium-bodied camera is available as a Hot Red16GB (750 images) at $499 or Electric Blue or Graphite 8GB (350 images) at $399. Flash is not available as trials using flash have not produced suitable images. A charger and tripod mount are available as extras.

The Lytro is compatible with only the Mac 10.6.6 or higher at present but a PC compatible version is in the pipeline for 2012.

* More information about the Lytro range is available at, along with a selection of live Lytro images to click on and see the focus shift..

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Product of the Day

Hisense adds AI-cameras to handsets

Hisense has entered the AI-camera space with the Infinity H30, aimed at the mid-range market. BRYAN TURNER tests the new camera technology.

Click below to read the review.



While many know Hisense for its TVs and appliances, it has an impressive lineup of smartphones. Its latest Infinity H30 smartphone packs a serious punch in the mid-range market, including features like a low-bezel screen and AI camera.

Out the box, the phone comes with the usual charger, charging cable and earphones. There is a surprise in the box: a screen protector and a clear case. A nice value-add to the already affordable smartphone.  

The polycarbonate plastic body feels premium, especially for a device in this price range. It has a colour changing body, depending on the angle at which it is held. The colour of the device we reviewed is called Ice Blue, and shimmers in darker and lighter blues. Aesthetically, this is a big win for Hisense.

The 6.5″ screen is a narrow-bezelled FHD+ display with good colour replication. Hisense is known for creating colour-accurate displays and it’s good to see it continue this legacy in its smartphones. The shape of the display is interesting, taking some design notes from Huawei’s Dewdrop display with what Hisense calls the “U-Infinity Display”. It makes the phone look really good. 

On the rear of the phone, one finds a dual-camera setup with fingerprint sensor. On the bottom of the phone, there is a speaker, a USB Type-C Port and a headphone jack. The speaker’s placement on the bottom isn’t optimal and the sound is muffled if one accidentally covers the single speaker area.

The 4,530mAh non-removable battery is very capable, providing a good 12 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and playing an online game every hour) until it reaches 20%. The battery capacity isn’t the only power feature of the device; it runs on the latest Android Pie operating system, which includes AI power-saving software measures to keep background apps from using battery.

It is a little disappointing to see the device came with some pre-installed games. Fortunately, one can uninstall them. Hisense makes up for this by issuing Android updates and security patches as the come out. This, coupled with the MediaTek Octa Core processor, provides a good user experience for playing games and multi-tasking.

The H30 has a whopping 128GB of on-board storage, and it can be expanded even more with a MicroSD card. The 4G-LTE capabilities are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload in an area with good cell service.

The 20+2MP rear camera configuration is good at taking shots on Auto mode, but pictures can be better after figuring out all the camera modes available. There is a professional mode for those who want to be extra creative with their photography. It also includes a baby mode, which plays various noises to make a baby look at the phone for a better picture. The AI mode can be enabled to make full use of the processor in the device, and fif the camera mode to be selected based on scenes photographed. 

The 20MP front camera performs equally as well. This camera is the reason for the U-like shape at the top of the screen. The camera app has beauty-face filters, for those wanting a slimmer face or smoother skin.

Overall, the Infinity H30 is a prime example of a good phone in an affordable price range.  The camera is very capable, and the AI processing helps what would otherwise be a regular camera. The aesthetically pleasing colour saves the day, and makes this mid-range device look like a high-end flagship. The device is retailing for R5,499 from most major carriers.

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Nokia 9 PureView pioneers new camera tech

Nokia packed five camera-lenses into its latest high-end flagship, but does more lenses mean better pictures? BRYAN TURNER took it for a test run.



Nokia is not new to the high-end mobile photography market. In 2012, it led Mobile World Congress (MWC) with its 41MP Nokia 808 PureView. This year, Nokia returned to MWC with its next PureView handset: the Nokia 9 PureView.

Instead of pushing megapixels, the mobile device maker chose to focus on intelligent exposure and sharp focus quality. It achieved this with a set of five cameras on the rear of the device – the most ever on the back of a handset. All of the lenses are 12MP f/1.8 lenses, and three of them are monochrome. The five lenses work in tandem to blend the best parts of a captured image. This is achieved through software image blending, which has been trained to know what’s good and bad about the image. 

Why monochrome? 

Lighting is dramatically improved with a monochrome sensor. About 2.9x more light can be captured with a monochrome sensor when compared to a conventional sensor. Huawei showed off the advantages of integrating a monochrome camera with the P9. 

Why three monochrome lenses? 

Detail can be captured at three different lighting settings, one to absorb a lot of light, one to absorb a little less light, and one to absorb very little light. These photos can then be blended into one great photo, without the user having to worry about setting the camera’s exposure manually.

The monochrome mode captures photos in crisp detail, while giving an authentic dramatic monochrome photography feel.

Only five lenses have been mentioned so far but the back of the device sports seven holes. The sixth hole is for the flash and the seventh is for the depth sensor. This sensor captures the depth of an image, so autofocus can be a little sharper and focus depth on bokeh images can be adjusted after the picture is taken. This adjustment feature is especially useful when a subject’s hair has been “bokeh’d out”.

Click here to read about the other features of the Nokia 9 PureView.

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