Lytro just released the first consumer light field camera. For the end user a light field camera means a photographer can select focus after the camera records the image. But this is only the beginning. Light field technology essentially allows photographers to capture the depth of a scene without the need for two cameras. Here’s an example from Lytro’s gallery. Click with the image to adjust the focus.
This first version of Lytro’s camera uses the image data captured to translate into determining the focal point of the image.
PC Magazine did a pretty good job of explaining some of the technical details of the Lytro camera. You can read the article here.
Being able to record depth information with a single camera will completely change the way filmmakers create 3d stereoscopic movies. Currently there are only two effective
ways to create a 3d image, either shoot with two cameras or perform a very labor intensive 2d to 3d conversion. Two camera stereoscopic systems are great but they are very clunky and provide very little latitude after the images are recorded.
Light field recording will give 3d stereographers the a much larger rangeof flexibility and control.
Lyrto has already taken this technology into stereography, here is a video that shows some of the uses of light fields in 3d. (glasses are required)
I am still learning about the technical details of light fields and I am planning on learning more and hopefully posting more technical information in the future.