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Lytro 'living picture' camera unveiled

Lytro

You know how most cameras have to focus on one particular thing, or else give you a blurry mess? Lytro is the first camera that captures all the light in a scene in such a way that you can focus later — after you've taken the picture. This creates what the company calls "living pictures," which you and people you share your photos with can interact with however they like.

While we already reported the breakthrough, from Stanford researcher Ren Ng, who founded the company, this is the first anyone has seen of the cameras themselves, which will go on sale in early 2012. Starting at $399, they're priced for a consumer audience, despite the technology magic they hold within.

The small funky cameras are built around a continuous f/2 aperture lens with an 8X zoom. This means that whatever you're zooming in on, you're still capturing the same amount of light. There's just two buttons — power and shutter — and the rest is handled by a touchscreen interface. The camera's processor includes a "light field engine" that allows it to focus and refocus pictures in the camera, and when you send the photos to the Web, the engine goes with it, so others can use it.

Lytro

There's a $399 8GB version and a $499 16GB version, but before you get all excited about endless shooting capacity, bear in mind that each image takes upwards of 20MB to capture. For pros, this is in line with the amount of data stored with RAW image files, but still, these files are hogs.

But storage demands are just a minor quibble. Make no mistake about how excited we are to test out this totally new kind of photography. And don't forget to play with it yourself on Lytro's gallery.

More on this and other cameras from msnbc.com's Gadgetbox:

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