Lytro Illum, the second generation light field camera, launched for $1,599


Light-field photography and the ability to refocus gave the original Lytro camera the kind of acceptance expected from consumers.  While the concept was brilliant, the end product was a far cry from conventional point and shoot cameras. The quality was nothing to write home about, and hence, it didn’t take the market by storm. Now, Lytro wants to take it forward with the new Illum.

Following the same concept as the first-generation point and shoot light-field camera, the Illum does everything a bit better. To start with, it gets a more conventional camera like form-factor. A fast lens with a fixed f/2.0 aperture and 8x zoom (30-255mm) protrudes from the camera. The camera, in pictures, resembles SONY NEX cameras. An articulated screen, and a couple of buttons and a dial take the most of the camera’s backside.

The Illum still has the same USP as the previous one, it can refocus images. But unlike smartphones, which blur the background/foreground in the name of refocussing, the Lytro camera takes in the data from the pictures and gives a better control over the images. And this data will open up a few other opportunities in the future. The Illum gives manual controls of exposure, and with the assistive focussing feature, it also lets users know about the areas that can refocussed onto after the picture’s been shot.

As for publishing, Lytro is trying to work out an arrangement where the more popular photo sharing websites get the ability to display pictures clicked using Lytro cameras and give users the ability to refocus online. Also, pictures can also be exported in regular formats (after being shot and refocussed using the Lytro).

The Lytro Illum looks as much a revelation as the first model did, although this one’s a bit more polished, and gives users more control. Light-field photography can be the future of this art, and dependence on software and processing, and less on camera gear, could find a way to the high-tech world we live in.

But at a price tag of $1,599, the Lytro Illum is quite an expensive affair. For outright image quality, photographers might not like to leave their DSLRs, let alone medium format cameras. As the sample pictures suggest, the refocussing looks nothing short of brilliant, but Lytro has a long way to go before it could think of replacing professional cameras.

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