Earlier this month, Eric Cheng, Lytro’s director of photography, tweeted a photo taken with a Lytro camera. Lytro makes a light-field camera that captures photos you can refocus later, but there was something noticeably different about this particular photo: it had animation. Cheng also posted similar animated GIFs to his Google+ page. Naturally commenters wanted to know how it was done. Well, today, Lytro lets everyone in on the fun with a new iOS app that lets you create animated GIFs. And if you own a Lytro, you’ll need to upgrade the firmware to enable the built-in Wi-Fi, a feature that was never mentioned before.
The app creates two types of animated GIFs: refocus animation and perspective shift animation. Refocus animation continuously changes the focusing between the foreground and background subjects – the Lytro camera’s magic trick. Perspective shift, a feature Lytro added to its desktop software in the previous firmware update, lets the user move around the photo to create a 3D effect; the new iOS app can create a continuous animation of that effect. While you can add these effects to all your photos (older photos, however, must be processed for perspective shift on the desktop app, which is a painfully slow process), the ones that are most effective are the ones you’ve put some initial planning into it (see Cheng’s photos for what we mean). So far, the only way to create these animated GIFs is via the iOS app, as the feature isn’t anywhere to be found on the desktop app.
The app, which is a free download (your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch needs to be on iOS 6.1, however), pairs with the Lytro camera the same way Wi-Fi-enabled digital cameras pair with smartphones. The Lytro camera connects directly to an iOS device via Wi-Fi, where you’ll be able to view and share photos on your Lytro account. From the app you can then upload the shared images to Twitter and Facebook, e-mail them, or turn them into an animated GIF. You can also view photos from other Lytro users. As a social experience, the app is fairly basic in what you can do, but the app is very stable and easy to use (although if you’re on a Wi-Fi-only iPad or iPod Touch, you’ll need to hop in and out of the Wi-Fi connection to switch between the camera and your Internet connection).
Although the Lytro camera’s ability to refocus is a cool trick, it leaves users wanting more. As the firmware updates demonstrate, there’s growth potential for this camera beyond refocusing – it’s just that they’re slowly being rolled out. But it’s good to know that Lytro is trying to update the product as it goes.