Lytro Redefines the Camera

In some of our Annapolis Photo School classes we have talked about new types of cameras that offer interesting and exciting possibilities for photography in the future. We have mentioned mirror-less DSLR cameras that have the potential to replace the traditional SLR style camera, but the most innovative system we discussed is the Lytro – a “light field” camera that you don’t need to focus because you can actually set the focus point AFTER you take the picture. Many of us have ruined what could have been a great image simply because our focus was off a bit.  With the Lytro, not only can you change what is in focus afterwards, you can also change depth-of-field after. Those who have taken our DSLR class will know what I mean by “depth-of-field”, but for those who may not, it essentially means controlling what is in focus in your image – foreground, background, or both. With a traditional camera, the photographer has to decide all of that before taking the picture and must set the camera appropriately. But with this new technology, you can decide all of that later.  Interesting, huh?

Original Lytro Camera

Original Lytro

The original Lytro was introduced two years ago and is basically a rectangle box that fits into your hand (see picture). Although you can change shutter speed and ISO settings, it is very much a “point and shoot”, with a lens on one end and an LCD screen on the other. Although very innovative technology, it has many limitations and produces relatively low resolution images. The LCD screen is also low-rez which sometimes makes it difficult to adequately see your image. I considered this first model to be just an introduction for better things to come, and it seems I was right.

Lytro has now made a gigantic leap in design and just introduced a completely new camera with significant improvements over that first step into this new technology. Besides adding a larger sensor with higher resolution, they changed the look and feel to more closely resemble a traditional camera – albeit with a sleek, modern take on the design. The camera includes a 30-250mm equivalent zoom lens, wi-fi, and even compatibility with an Android app. They also added a hot shoe to allow flash units for even more versatility.

Lytro Illum Camera

New Lytro Illum “Light Field” Camera

The Lytro Illum will be available for purchase in July for $1599, and can be pre-ordered now for $1499. If you have a couple of hundred dollars lying around and want to experiment, the original model can now be picked up for as little as $199 and Lytro will rebate that amount on the new model.

If you’re interested in learning more about this system, you can start by reading a summary on DPReview, or by visiting the Lytro website.

Although still pretty much in its infancy, this could be the one that really changes the course of camera history.