Rather Revolutionary, the Lytro Illum 30-250mm F2 Light Field Camera

This is Lytro 2.0, it has little in common with the first squarish light field camera introduced two years ago: here’s a well kept, totally unexpected camera development secret just unveiled, the high-end Illum light fielder with a large 1-inch sensor, an 8x zoom with 30-250mm reach and constant F2 aperture. It’s the “shoot now, focus later” motto redefined. As its predecessor, the Illum captures information about the angle from which light has arrived, allowing it to calculate images with different perspective and focus. Lytro calls the images “living pictures,” which are presented in a proprietary interactive format.

Lytro Illum
Lytro Illum
The Illum not only deserves a design award with it clean minimalist approach. With this light field camera (that actually looks like a camera), Lytro is targeting a more specialized market willing to spend $1,5k for an astonishing piece of optical engineering that has a maximum shutter speed of 1/4,000th of a second, touchscreen LCD, GPS and Wi-Fi support as well as a resolution of, yes, 40 million light rays. Lytro doesn’t talk megapixels, but that’s about four times the resolution of the first light field camera.

Its desktop processing software works with traditional products like Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom. Photographers can use the camera’s software to refocus pictures after the fact, generate 3-D images, adjust the depth of field and create tilt shifts. It will be available in July for $1,499. Current Lytro owners can get $200 off the purchase price and early orders receive other goodies.

Here’s how such a three-dimensional “living” image looks like, made by very rich collected information about the world:

Says Lytro about the Illum’s “40 megaray customized sensor:

Lytro’s patented microlens array technology unlocks the ability to capture the color, intensity and direction of the light rays flowing into the camera. This allows you to create imagery on a truly experiential canvas. By capturing and harnessing the power of light field, photographers can portray not just a cross-section of reality, but an authentic, interactive window into their world.

Lytro Illum
Lytro Illum
That’s not it. The Illum means composing pictures in a new way. During image capture an interactive depth feedback display shows the relative focus of all objects in the frame, allowing composition in three dimensions. A real time color-coded overlay of the live view lets you know which elements of the picture are within the refocusable range.

Lytro promises “precise photographic control with an exceptionally light and agile design.” For more information on this rather revolutionary camera, take yourself some time and study the Illum’s dedicated site.

And read The Verge‘s in-depth hands-on backgrounder! Clearly a camera made not by a camera company for a new class of photography. Maybe an a bit wider lens width wouldn’t have hurt and the camera’s rather on the bulky side, but certainly looking forward to this Illum (which in Latin means “today”).

Others doubt the concept. Engadget:

A classic Canon camera lens that has a zoom range of 70-200mm has about 22 pieces of glass. The Illum lens, on the other hand, has a zoom range of 30-250 mm with a very wide F2 aperture across it — and only has 13 pieces of glass. That same Canon lens would likely weigh around eight pounds. The entire weight of the Illum? About a pound and a half.

Does lighter and less complex mean worse? This Illum certainly doesn’t compare to established photographic tools as we know them… might well be a game changer. Just imagine how version 3.0 will look like.




  • MarcoSartoriPhoto

    Surely it is something new and maybe it could be funny to play with it, but I wonder how a “classic” photo would look like. How sharp would it be? From the sample here above I can play with the focused zone, but the close up looks blurry. I’m not a pixel peeper but I don’t know what to expect from this tech. I remember the first lytro being slow at downloading files, and these could only be viewed through their own software.

  • One More Thought

    No doubt this concept is still a work in progress….but I give Lytro credit for trying something different.

    And yes this could be a game changer once the technology is more mature.

    Photography is being changed by the digital age, and it will require many people getitng used to a new model. I also believe that 4k hybrid cameras will also be a game changer, because one will be able to extract usable stills from the video.

    It’s interesting because the Lytro cameras, as well as 4k cameras like the upcoming GH4, are promising to solve the age old problems of focus and getting just the right moment.

    As for that quote from Engadget: I don’t get it…as you mention, lighter and less complex is a feature, not a bug. Engadget usually writes great reviews, but on this they miss the mark.

    • If only the zoom range would be less monstrous. Wider at the wide end and less long, even with a fixed prime, would make it more compact and even more of a winner concept. And no ISO range given at launch, whatever that implies…

  • Robert Mark

    I think the point is that the Lytro images are not intended to be printed. Imagine an exhibit showing Lytro images displayed in a gallery full of interactive 50″ touch screens. Very cool.