Best Mobile Startups 2012

Lytro: Re-inventing the camera

We all know how frustrating it is to take a seemingly brilliant photo, only to discover that it’s out of focus. Lucky for us amateur shutterbugs, a startup is making fuzzy photos a thing of the past. Ren Ng founded Lytro in 2006 when he was a researcher at Stanford University after he realized how difficult it was to properly focus an image with conventional cameras. The company’s Lytro camera captures all information about an image’s light field, allowing users to change what’s in focus after the fact.

The company’s first Lytro cameras became available in March. The 8GB model costs $399 and the 16GB version is $499.

Why the Competition Should Care

There’s obvious appeal to a camera that always delivers usable images. Lytro executive chairman Charles Chi told us, “We’ve created a lot of buzz around the company without paying to advertise, and I think that’s a really important indicator of how exciting this product and technology will be for consumers.”

So far Lytro’s product has received glowing reviews, partly due to the product’s novelty and partly because the camera simple does what it sets out to do. The process of refocusing an image is as simple as clicking on the spot you want to sharpen. However, Lytro’s technology means you’ll need special software if you want to manage photos on your notebook–and so far, that software is available only for Macs.


Chi said there is plenty ahead for the company. “In the near term, it’s really about getting our first product to market, and we’ll release a number of new features over time that continue to excite the marketplace,” Chi said. When asked whether the tablets and smartphones of the future will have Lytro technology built in, Chi told us that this new area figures into Lytro’s

plans going forward. Whatever Lytro’s future may bring, the company has yet to see any serious challengers enter the market with a similar technology.


  • Founded: 2006
  • Funding: $50 million
  • Employees: 75
  • Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif., with additional resources in Hong Kong

Best Mobile Startups 2012

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  1. Owen Says:

    This product needs to hurry up with production! I have much many plans for such an awesome device! :D

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