Lytro Goes Pro

(news & commentary)


Lytro pre-anounced the Illum, a new light-field camera that will ship this summer. With a 30-250mm (equivalent) f/2 thirteen-element lens capable of 1:3 macro up front and a 1” 40 megaray sensor out back, the Illum hopes to help Lytro jump from curiosity to real use. 

What kind of use would that be? Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ sharing is integrated into the software, which should tell you something of intent. That 40 megaray number needs to be divided by 16 or 32 for light-field work, meaning that the camera is likely either 1.25mp or 2.5mp in terms of actual photo size. The thing about the Illum that will prove useful to some is that focus speed isn’t an issue: focus is done after the fact, so there’s no wait for the camera to acquire focus. Also Lytro is promising perspective and tilt type adjustments, as well. 

Lytro is also saying that the workflow for the Illum will be compatible with Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture, which seems to imply that they’ve developed plug-ins for their post processing capabilities. 

In terms of the camera, not a lot is known other than it has a 4" articulating touchscreen, a hot shoe, a 1/4000 top shutter speed, and weighs 2 pounds, 1 ounce (940g). Curiously, Lytro says the lens only weighs half a pound, so that makes the camera a 1.5 pound beast, right? ;~)  All for US$1595.


What is curious to me is why announce such a camera now? It seems premature, though it’s possible that Lytro is trying to pre-judge production needs. Still, we’re three months away from shipment on something that at the moment has to be judged solely on press release statements. The problem for Lytro is going to be trying to keep the hype up for three months and then hoping that the hype is exonerated with the actual product’s first reviews. Given the price, this is not a spontaneous decision kind of product, but one that most people will want to know much more about before committing. 

You can pre-order the Illum at a discount to US$1495 with a US$250 deposit, which also nets you a few additional benefits (something the Japanese camera companies should take note of): limited edition engraving, premium customer support, free shipping, and entry into a contest that has a prize of an all-expenses paid trip to shoot with Lytro and a professional photographer. You can pre-order from the Lytro Web site today. 

Update: I’m a little confused by Lytro’s various statements about the sensor. They say it’s a 4x improvement over the original Lytro, which seems to put it at the 1.25mp mark when all is said and done. To put that in perspective, 2.5mp is where we were at the start of the DSLR generation in 1999. 

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