The Lytro Illum Is Where Light Field Technology Meets Real Photography

Lytro has made some big changes to its technology, packaging it in a product that looks far more like a camera than anything Lytro has built before.

To refresh your memory, Lytro is the company behind the light-field sensor, which senses the direction that light is traveling relative to the shot, rather than capturing a single plane of light. This, paired with powerful software, allows Lytro users to pivot the shot around for a 3D effect, or even better, change the focus of the shot after the picture has been taken.

With the new Lytro Illum, all of these capabilities are still there, but with more. Though the Illum looks like your standard camera, it’s built very differently. It has a brand new lens, with a zoom range of 30mm to 250mm with a super wide f/2.0 aperture across the entire thing. This is unheard of in standard cameras and lenses. And it’s light too, weighing in at just 1.5 lbs.

What was originally being done by multiple pieces of glass can now be done through computation, which is how the Illum works.

The unibody magnesium chassis keeps the weight down, as does the lighter lens. The sleek design is unfamiliar in a world of buttoned-up cameras. Instead, the Lytro only has two physical buttons and two physical dials, everything else is touch-sensitive on the flip-out screen. In fact, the display is actually angled upward to begin with so you get this “shoot from the hip” effect, as Ng called it.

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In terms of the buttons, one is your shutter and the other one helps you get a sense for depth of field and focus. One complaint among Lytro users was that they had no idea how well the picture would turn out. For Illum customers, there is a built in tool that gives you a better understanding of the 3D picture you’re taking, showing what will be able to be manipulated after the shot.

In terms of manual controls, you’ll be able to adjust exposure and ISO, and there are lock buttons for autofocus and autoexposure. There’s also a SD card slot and a USB 3.0 port, as well as built in wifi.

The difference in photos taken with the Illum and the original Lytro is clear, and can be credited to the 40 Megaray light sensor within the Illum. In comparison, the Lytro had only an 11 Megaray sensor, which means the Illum captures about four times the area size and way more light.

The Lytro Illum costs $1,599 on July 15.