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Lytro Partners With 500px, Opens File Format Letting its Pictures Live More Places

The moves are aimed at allowing pictures taken with the company's light-field cameras to be used in more ways.


One of the big challenges for light-field photography startup Lytro has been dealing with the fact that it has to fit into a world that understands photos and video, but isn’t well suited or even interested in making use of its flavor of “living pictures.”

Understanding that, Lytro is preparing to shift how it stores photos, making use of the WebGL standard for 3-D graphics. It will release the resulting file format as an open source project on GitHub and is also working with photography site 500px, which will be the first to support the new image files.

“One barrier to [adoption] is we are not as widely deployed and accepted as JPEG,” CEO Jason Rosenthal said in an interview. “We want to start changing that.”

The move comes as Lytro prepares for next month’s release of its second product, the high-end $1,599 Lytro Illum.

Lytro is a couple years into its effort to introduce a whole new type of photography by capturing the entire field of light hitting a sensor, rather than just the points of light. Its signature benefit — the ability to have a shot refocused after the fact — has been copied using other technologies, but Lytro’s images have other benefits, including enough data to display in 3-D.

With the Illum, Lytro is shifting its focus from the mainstream consumer to the enthusiasts and pros that might be willing to pay for the creativity that Lytro’s technology can provide. The Illum is more like an SLR than a point-and-shoot, with a price tag to match.

Rosenthal told Re/code that the company has already reached 60 percent of its forecasted sales for the year thanks to strong preorders for the Illum. He didn’t share that sales target, but it is somewhere between $10 million and $100 million, he said. The company has already sold all the cameras it can produce for July with August nearly sold out as well, Rosenthal said.

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