Lytro light-field camera takes a step toward mainstream

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A Lytro light field camera. It turns on instantly and there's no shutter lag.

One of the pitfalls of introducing new technology is it sometimes takes awhile to catch up with things taken for granted with the old technology. There are, after all, a lot more gas pumps than there are Tesla recharging stations.

It's also the case with the Lytro camera, which uses something called light-field photography to let you do things like focus a picture after you've taken it. But Lytro has just taken a couple steps that bring it closer to the mainstream.

First, it unlocked the Wi-Fi capabilities that had been lingering, unused, in the camera since its introduction last year. Simultaneously, it released an app that allows users to wirelessly transfer photos to an iPhone for viewing or sharing.

Until now, the only way to get photos off the camera was to physically connect it via a USB cable to a Windows PC or Mac running Lytro's desktop app. From there, you could share them via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter, but the two-step process was a bit of a pain.

Now, you can simply use the embedded Wi-Fi to wirelessly connect with the iPhone app, from whence your photos can be shipped off to share. Besides the ability to change the focal point of a photo by tapping it, viewers can also shift its perspective. (An Android app is also planned.)

At $399 or $499 depending on the amount of onboard storage, the Lytro is still something of a tough sell to people who haven't seen it in action -- particularly in an era when point-and-shoot cameras of all kinds are being rapidly displaced by ever-improving smartphone cameras.

But no smartphone camera -- or camera of any other kind, for that matter -- can do what a Lytro can. Light-field photography is genuinely different, and unquestionably cool.

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