3 Cool Ways to Take Photos

Retro camera apps are so over. While every startup in Silicon Valley is trying to be the next Instagram, consumers have had enough of them. These three photo technologies are where it’s really at:

lytro light field camera


Rather than capturing a single plane of light (like cameras that have to focus do), this amazing little camera captures an entire light field. You can focus and refocus the resulting “living pictures”—and so can your friends. The Lytro can be yours for $399 or $499.

one-bit camera app

1-Bit Camera

Are Polaroid-esque digital photos too precious for you? Try the 1-Bit Camera, an iOS app inspired by the Nintendo Gameboy Camera and the original Mac OS. It’s got more than 150 kilopixels! You can get the 1-Bit Camera in the App Store for 99 cents, and see what 1-bit pictures people are taking here.

descriptive camera, powered by humans

The Descriptive Camera

Part art project, part genius: The Descriptive Camera doesn’t take pictures; it takes descriptions. The internet-connected camera is made up of a USB-powered webcam, a thermal printer, some status LEDs and a shutter. Images are relayed to human workers through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service (background on the name here), who return a paragraph description of the image in as little as 3 minutes for $1.25 a pop. The camera doesn’t print out a picture—it only prints the metadata.

I love this idea for helping improve image metadata for the visually impaired. But I can’t help but wonder about the usefulness of such descriptions without any context. Compare these first-glance descriptions with actual descriptions of the below photos by hovering over the images:

Matthew Brady, Gettysburg Battle photograph

hindenburg disaster photo

tiananmen square tank man china