Traditional still cameras can only focus on a single plane for each image while rendering everything outside of that plane out of focus. However, new light-field imaging technology makes it possible to adjust the focus plane after an image has already been captured. This technology allows the viewer to interactively explore an image with objects and anatomy at varying depths and clearly focus on any feature of interest by selecting that location during post-capture viewing. These images with adjustable focus can serve as valuable educational tools for neurosurgical residents. We explore the utility of light-field cameras and review their strengths and limitations compared to other conventional types of imaging. The strength of light-field images is the adjustable focus, as opposed to the fixed-focus of traditional photography and video. A light-field image also is interactive by nature, as it requires the viewer to select the plane of focus and helps with visualizing the three-dimensional anatomy of an image. Limitations include the relatively low resolution of light-field images compared to traditional photography and video. Although light-field imaging is still in its infancy, there are several potential uses for the technology to complement traditional still photography and videography in neurosurgical education.
Keywords: light-field; lytro®; photography; plenoptic.