When Lytro introduced its first light field camera a couple of years ago, the promise of being able to focus an image after it was captured was intriguing. But despite the excitement generated by Lytro’s technology, the toy-like camera seemed more of a novelty than a serious photographic tool. Since then, Lytro stepped up its game and just introduced a new, bigger and better light field camera: The Lytro Illum.
Built around the same light field technology as its predecessor, the Illum captures the angle, color and brightness of light rays. This, in turn, allows users users to change the focus, adjust depth-of-field, shift perspectives and create 3D images using Lytro’s desktop software. From the demo pictures, it all seems pretty magical even though principles are solidly based in science.
Measured in megarays (millions of rays), the Illum features a 40 megaray sensor–a huge increase over the original Lytro camera’s 11 megarays. The magnesium and aluminum camera, which weighs a hefty 33.15 ounces and measures 3.38 x 5.7 x 6.5 inches sports an 8x, optical zoom lens with a 30-250mm focal range, as well as impressive 1:3 macro capabilities.
The camera body also offers a 4-inch tillable LCD, external shutter release port, hotshot, tripod mount, removable battery and SD card slot. While the Illum’s feature-set may not offer all the bells and whistles of similarly-priced DSLRs, photographers will appreciate its manual, program, shutter-priority and ISO-priority shooting modes. One particularly helpful option is the ability to preview the specific image areas that can be re-focused on the LCD prior to triggering the shutter.
Is the Lytro now more than a novelty? In many ways, yes. Given its added photographic controls and a zoom lens, it’s an interesting tool that has the potential to change the way we shoot. We don’t see widespread adoption across photographers—at least not with this model and especially not for wedding and portrait photographers who need to make and sell prints. Although printing is possible, and the Illum’s sensor is larger than that of the original Lytro camera, file size and image quality probably aren’t there yet. Remember Lytro measures its sensor in megarays and not megapixels. From what we’ve read, you might be able to get a 4×6 print out of the Illum, but its real strength is viewing and interacting with the image on a computer, mobile device or online. Lytro sees the Illum as a tool for “creative pioneers—ranging from artistic amateurs to experienced professionals” to “tap into a new wave of graphical storytelling.” Given the creativity of visual artists, the Illum may be the beginning of a new wave of photography.
The camera comes bundled with a battery, charger, micro USB 3.0 cable, lens hood, cleaner cloth, strap points and strap. The desktop application, compatible with Mac OS 10.8.5 or higher and Windows 7 or 64-bit Windows 8 is available free of charge. Lytro is taking pre-orders now at a promotional price of $1500 and other benefits such as an extended two-year warranty. The camera is slated to ship in July for $1,600. Upgrade pricing is also available for current Lytro owners.