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Could the lytro camera be used for astrophotography?

Ronald Dicke
asked this on January 24, 2012 09:58 AM

Just wondering if capturing a light field gives any advantage to using the lytro camera for astrophotography?

 

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Almir Germano

Thinking of using it in extended solar system objects, like the Sun (in H-alfa or filtered white light) and the Moon. What would be the impact on using it in prime focus astrophotography? Does the almost infinity focus inherent to astronomical objects completely invalidate the Lytro light field approach? The original paper from Ren Ng did not explore or make any mention of this kind of experiment, but it cites very prominently the adaptive optics field used in professional astrophotography. I have no background to discuss Dr. Ng paper, but I'm very much tempted on buying a Lytro just to try it in my Celestron Schmidt-Cass 8"!!

January 24, 2012 10:13 AM
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Ian Ellison
Lytro Staff
Check Answer

Hi gentlemen,

Thanks for your interest. The first Lytro Light Field Camera is not aimed at commercial or scientific use:

http://support.lytro.com/entries/20631662-i-have-an-idea-for-a-comm...

and

http://support.lytro.com/entries/20552272-is-the-lytro-camera-right...

 

That said, hopefully one day this technology can be used for a whole host of scientific applications, including astrophotography.

January 30, 2012 06:34 PM
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adam gould
Lytro Staff
Check Answer

Ronald and Almir,

I was chatting with Warren, one of our superstar engineers (they are all superstars really!), who also happens to be interested in astrophotography and has a small rig (Celestion C11 Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope w/ Starizona Microtouch). Here's what he said about astrophotoraphy, light fields, and Lytro:

=====================

While there's no benefit for the viewer (since everything is at optical infinity), there is an advantage for the photographer. Focusing a telescope just right to get pin-point stars is one of the hardest tasks in astrophotography, and poor focus is one of the most common failure modes. I often spend 45 minutes painstakingly focusing my telescope before taking any actual photos, and sometimes it has to be re-done as the telescope changes temperature over the course of a long night. A lightfield camera would eliminate that task and really make astrophotography simpler.

That big advantage comes with a big price, though -- the pictures probably won't look as good as those taken with traditional cameras. The Lytro uses an array of microlenses to spread light out into component rays, which are then re-assembled in software to simulate any desired focal plane. That re-assembly cannot be perfect, even in theory, because the pixels on our sensors have finite size. That means that true point light sources, like stars, are one of our biggest challenges.

I would definitely encourage people to experiment with lightfield astrophotography -- I want to do some of it myself -- but serious astrophotographers will probably find that the costs outweigh the benefits.

February 03, 2012 03:11 PM
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Ed Sunder

Specifically for planetary photography, which is most often at tremendous magnification, the actual focal point can change slightly from picture to picture because of atmospheric effects and the difference between in-focus and out-of-focus can be as small as thousandths of a millimeter. It seems that a camera like Lyto might allow you to get the focus close and then take a large number of images. If you could automatically focus each of those before stacking, I'd suspect that it would result in a much crisper picture. The other question that astrophotographers are going to want to ask is can images be taken without the front lens of the camera? At first glance this technology seems to potentially be extremely useful to the astrophotography community. Thanks!

March 01, 2012 06:33 AM
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Ian Ellison
Lytro Staff

Hi Ed,

This first Lytro Light Field Camera does not support changing or removing the lens in any way.  You make some excellent points, however the important thing to remember is that while the technology may at some point be just what the doctor ordered in terms of astrophotography, this particular product almost certainly will not be.

March 01, 2012 10:51 AM
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Jeff Wilson

I tried this with handheld afocal shots of Jupiter and the moon with my Lytro, using a 5.1-inch Newtonian.  The results were not good - much worse than the passable images that I got with my Canon point-and-shoot digital.  However, I will soon try again with the camera mounted to the eyepiece, eliminating the hassle of handholding.  This will probably be several weeks from now - if I think of it I'll post a follow-up here.

December 09, 2012 09:39 PM
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Greg Tokarski

Jeff, once you get it mounted it would be very interesting how it fairs... I see 2 things going against it - resolution and light sensitivity.. but technically you could lock it at ISO80 and let it take it's time.. and the focus is bound to be right.. so maybe it would work... ;) It sure would be interesting, but as the distance is so great, I do not think even the cool nebulas and what have you would show much perspective shift or refocusability. I think it would fair better with a microscope in that respect...

December 10, 2012 06:11 PM
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adam gould
Lytro Staff

@jeff, also just wanted to make sure you know about the new Timer feature, which you'll def. want to use with long shutter times.

December 17, 2012 04:21 PM
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Jeff Wilson

@Adam, Yes - I beta-tested the timer - it's a great addition.  Once I have a camera mount that allows me to attach the Lytro to the scope I'll try again.  This should be by the end of the month.

December 17, 2012 04:59 PM
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Peter Lee
Light Field Explorer

It is possible to take astrophotos with the Lytro camera and the camera is unstable when coupled to telescope...... only about 10% of the shots are recovered

https://pictures.lytro.com/pleecan/pictures/527916

 

PL

January 21, 2013 05:33 PM
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Jeff Wilson

Here are some of my efforts at getting the moon:

https://pictures.lytro.com/tip184/stories/101023  (about half of my shots were worthy of sharing, and they're not very good) - Lytro mounted afocally to my 5.1" reflector,

and Jupiter with its moons:

https://pictures.lytro.com/tip184/stories/87349 (also my first moon shot) - These were handheld through my 5.1" reflector.

I agree with Peter - images are far from great, but I might try some more.

Jeff

January 21, 2013 05:43 PM
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Peter Lee
Light Field Explorer
January 27, 2013 06:24 AM
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Rupert Powell

I am currently working with a friend on a new type of astro imaging telescope that suffers from a small amount of axial chromatic distortion. Currently we can take 3 shots (R,G & B) and change focus each time, then once combined the results are full colour and sharp.

Would the Lytro be able to do this without changing the physical focus? Could the colour extractions be done without taking RGB exposures separately? If so this would be UBER cool!

 

Cheers Roo.

April 08, 2013 07:16 AM
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Peter Lee
Light Field Explorer

I would not use the Lytro for astro imaging... does not work well... tons of work and not much to show for... there are better alternatives out there....

PL

April 08, 2013 07:32 AM
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Rupert Powell

Peter

It is more a question of the technology in general, rather than the current camera offering. It's the ability to take 3 seperate shots at slightly different focus that is the challenge at present. Yes we can do this now with a monochrome astro imaging camera, filter wheel and motorised focuser, but the light-field approach may be the ultimate answer with no moving parts. - I get your point about the current offering from Lytro.

Roo

April 08, 2013 07:38 AM
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Rupert Powell

Just to fill you in a little more. This new design developed by John Wall (of Crayford Focuser fame-look him up on Wikipedia) is very simple to build, optically forgiving, uses no exotic materials or glass and is cheap to make. If we could combine this with all that the light-wave camera can do to overcome the slight R to B dispersion (1-2mm fl) we could have a very cool alternative to astro-imaging rigs costing several thousands of £$ for a fraction of the cost. So the very nice Celestron C11 rig that Mr Ellison has (from Lytro) could be matched in performance by an instrument costing just a couple of hundred quid/bucks. It would also be easy to construct for anyone who wanted to get the tools out and would be far easier to use if the light-field could be used instead of filters/focusers/stacking software etc. The design is already in the public domain and just needs marrying up with the imaging train. The Lytro might just be the technology to complement this new approach.

April 08, 2013 08:14 AM
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Peter Lee
Light Field Explorer

How does one focus a tiny dot on a 1" Lytro screen?  Forget the Lytro...  I have tried and have more experience in astrophotos with a Lytro than most people ...

PL

April 08, 2013 09:02 AM
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Rupert Powell

I have forgotten the current Lytro, I am more interested in the technology behind it. Clearly eyepiece projection and focusing on the built-in viewfinder is going to be a dead loss. I am hoping that further developments might bring body only designs along with live view outputs.

Is there anyone at Lytro interested in helping us develop this aspect of the Light-field for use in this way?

Roo

April 08, 2013 09:09 AM
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Peter Lee
Light Field Explorer

Rupert: The Raytrix is more suitable for your application ... http://www.raytrix.de/

April 08, 2013 09:59 AM
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Rupert Powell

Mmmm Very interesting. Thanks Peter.

Roo

April 08, 2013 10:53 AM