Clever Hack for Shooting Lytro-Style DoF-Changeable Photos Using a DSLR

Lytro‘s groundbreaking consumer light-field camera made a splash in the camera industry this year by making it possible to refocus photographs after they’re shot. However, the cheapest model for the boxy device has a price tag of $399, and the reviews have been mixed so far.

If you’d like to play around with your own refocus-able photographs without having to buy an actual Lytro device, you can actually fake it using a standard DSLR camera (or any camera with manual focusing and a large-aperture lens).

Programming team The Chaos Collective has launched a new online tool that can take a short video clip shot using your ordinary digital camera and turn it into a Lytro-style refocus-able still image.

The basic idea is to capture some video with a shallow depth-of-field that sweeps across the scene over a short period of time. Simply take your DSLR, open up the lens, set it on a tripod, and then capture a short 2-3 second video clip while adjusting the focus from close to infinity.

Here’s the group’s explanation for how they developed their clever method:

[…] since we only had a digital SLR hanging around the studio, we started looking at ways to achieve the same effect without needing micro-lens arrays and light field engines. The idea is simple; take lots of pictures back to back at various focal distances (collecting the same information, but over time). Then later, we can sweep through those images to pick out the exact focal distance we want to use.

But wait… A sequence of images is just a video! And since most digital SLRs these days make it super easy to capture video and manually adjust focus, that’s all you need.

Since video is generally captured at tens of frames per second, a few seconds of footage will give you close to a hundred different focal distances to work with.

Here are some examples of focus-adjustable images they created using this hack:

You can head on over to this webpage to create your own. Simply follow the instructions outline there (and briefly described above) and then upload your short video to the web app. The tool processes your video directly in your browser without having to store your video on any servers.

DOF-Changeable Photos with an SLR [The Chaos Collective via Hack a Day]

  • Stan

    One image; deep focus. Wouldn’t it be easier?

  • Eren ─░zbul

    nothing clever about it, not at all,.

  • Jay

    No, because the idea is to have some aspect of the image OOF. Infiite DOF is a different subject.

  • Darren Keegan

    Er, PhotoShop?

  • David Tribby

    i cant get any of the samples to show up..

  • brandon

    it’s clever in the way their software makes this easy to do. otherwise, sure you could just take 50 photos of any scene at varying focus points and then just pick the one ou like best. or do the same in a few seconds with video if 1080 is good enough for you.


    i like this method better than the lytro

  • madmax

    This is way better than Lytro with any good HD video camera with a large aperture lens, not only DSLR cameras.

  • Oskar?

    I guess that’s how litro works I do not trust their marketing arrays….

  • madmax

    Good point. To work with moving objects, it would be necessary to add multiple shots for every frame. Only with moving objects Lytro system would be better than this, as long as they can implement this feature.

  • Joakim

    Would have been even better if you were able to tweak the amount of DOF not just the focus point.

  • The_photographer_Tom

    Strange. The samples don’t show up on my laptop either. I’m using Firefox. They also don’t show up in Opera. In Internet Explorer they go black when clicked. Seem to work in Chrome though.

  • Eduardo Tello

    Amazing work! Nice hack.