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Date: 22/04/2014 | By: Mathieu

The Lytro Illum: Is the future here already?

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The Lytro Illum: Is the future here already?

The title of this article may be a premature assessment seeing that we have yet to see and try the camera first-hand, but I can’t hide the fact that I am very excited about this announcement. Forget megapixels, crazy ISO, sensor size. And forget autofocus the way we know it today. The Lytro Illum gives birth to an entirely new way of shooting.

Lytro cameras aren’t something new – in fact, the first Light Field camera was introduced by the American company three years ago. And if you aren’t familiar with it, they are based on light field technology, which consists of several micro lenses placed over the image sensor. These microlenses capture the entire light spectrum of a scene. Then, the camera software uses the data collected to determine the direction of the light rays. This allows the user to change the focus point (from foreground to background for example) as well as alter its perspective.

The first Lytro camera

Basically the Lytro camera gives you a way to continue interacting with the composition of your picture even after taking it. They are sort of live images on your screen. To get a sense of how it works, try to change the focus point on the butterfly below.

You can also check out the first pictures from the Illum, which show even better how the concept works.

The first Lytro camera had a unique design as well as a kind of unique technology that probably ignited curiosity more than anything else. The specs were limited, such as 2mp of resolution (measured in megarays, the number of light rays the light field sensor can capture).

But now everything could change, because the Illum camera, announced just today, looks like a proper camera and packs some interesting specs.

The Lytro Illum includes a 4" tilting LCD
The Lytro Illum includes a 4″ tilting LCD

We get a 1 inch sensor and a 30-250mm equivalent zoom lens with a constant f/2 aperture. We get 40 megarays of resolution which should correspond to an average of 7 megapixels, still lower than any modern compact camera or smartphone but certainly more interesting than the previous model. And let’s not forget that we are talking about an entirely different kind of technology here. ISO sensitivity hasn’t been officially released. The previous Lytro camera can go up to 3200, but since the Illum has a bigger sensor we can certainly expect something more.

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A very modern design

The design looks futuristic and very simple. Buttons are kept to a minimum and many settings will probably be accessible via the 4″ touch screen LCD on the back. The resolution of the screen is less exciting however (480×800 only).

Pre-orders start at an introductory price of $1,499 which is far from cheap. And while the specs have been improved over the previous model, we are certainly far from what we are used to having on modern-day digital cameras. The exciting prospect is that this camera might just bring about a new way of shooting. I can’t wait to try it!

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The Back LCD is touch sensitive.

Photo Credit:

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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • mhicks

    As we look back through the years, many of us thought that any change, however far outside of what we currently had available at the time was never going to be useful. I believe that this camera won’t be the “BIG” change on our current photo tool kit, but this will lead to many changes through the years to come. Any improvement , no matter the direction, should be viewed as a great thing for the future of our students, our young kids learning to achieve the “perfect photo”. I hope that this leads all camera companies to think outside the box, or lens. Did anyone think 5 years ago that a point and shoot could have a full frame sensor?

  • Mathieu

    I agree, my curiosity is expensive indeed! 😉

  • soundimageplus

    Fair enough, but it seems it won’t be cheap to satisfy your curiosity.

  • Mathieu

    I don’t see the Lytro cam as just a tool for indecisive photographers. I think that the ability to change focus points as well as a little bit of perspective afterwards can also be an interesting creative tool to experiment with and tell a story in a different way. It won’t replace anything but it is the only camera that allows such a thing. I find it intriguing at the very least.

  • soundimageplus

    It’s not that difficult to take two or three shots with significantly different points of sharp focus and the question has to be asked, what really is the benefit of a picture with post capture mobile focus points?

    I’ve tried to think of what it could offer me and to be honest I’m struggling to come up with something to answer that question. It strikes me as another 3D type innovation that amuses rather than innovates.

    I have to say I’ve never been that convinced by the whole concept. Plus in many ways it destroys that ‘decisive moment’ ‘fragment of time that lasts forever’ idea that to me is the magic of photography. Could I suggest that it’s something only indecisive photographers could benefit from. And when is a photograph ever finished.

    For me as a photographer it’s the ability to get the timing right that keeps me shooting pictures. And to a certain extent we can do it already with video. With a 4K camera we can pick the ‘right’ frame to display as a still. But then, as far as I’m concerned, that looses something precious. And that is indeed the ability to ‘freeze’ a fraction of a second of what happens in the world that makes people want to look at it again and again.

    Plus that has to be the nastiest camera design I’ve ever seen!!

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