I haven’t used one yet, but this thing is fascinating to me. I love that they’ve made a camera with a totally new form factor rather than trying to cram the technology into something that looks familiar. 

Writes Sam Grobart for The New York Times:

Where a traditional image sensor (as in your point-and-shoot or DSLR) can only record where light strikes the sensor surface, Lytro’s image sensor can also record the angle that beam of light had when it struck it. By capturing that information, the sensor can pull in far more data about an image, allowing you to move through the picture, clicking and refocusing along the way.

There are additional advantages to a lightfield sensor. By capturing the angle of light beams, all pictures shot with a Lytro camera are natively 3-D (you still need a 3-D display and glasses, but the information’s already there). More importantly, the camera no longer has to focus because it’s capturing every focal point, which means there’s no focus lag. The camera can respond almost instantly to a shutter-release button.

And it has 8x optical zoom.

The downside is that it won’t be available until early 2012, and the cheapest version will be $399 (for the 8GB model, which can store about 350 pictures). 

Also awesome:

The Lytro only works with Macs, but Windows software is in development.

Imagine anything not made by Apple going that route even just 5 years ago. 

Update: This Is My Next gave it a try and said that it’s “not universally amazing”, but also notes that it’s still a prototype version that they tested out. 

I’m still trying to wrap my head around what the actual Lytro product (the camera) is and how it works without seeing it. But damn this sounds exciting.

A big idea to attempt to transform something that hasn’t been truly transformed since the 1800s.

But someone please tell me this doesn’t require Flash on the web. (The images on the site seem to.) Please.