lytro illum
April 23, 2014

Lytro Introduces New Illum Light Field Camera And Software Platform

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

Three years ago, redOrbit reported that Stanford University graduate student Ren Ng turned his thesis work into a start-up company with a new vision — literally. His company, Lytro, introduced a camera that used light-field technology to capture an image, rather than single lens reflection as most digital cameras do. The new camera, with its interesting square design, allowed users to refocus an image after shooting it.

CNN reports that Lytro is back for another swing at bat with the new Illum camera. The first Lytro camera sold for a modest $399, which is a mid-range price for a decent digital camera. The new, higher-grade, more powerful Illum comes with a price sticker that is higher grade as well, $1,599.

What makes Lytro cameras so different? The light field technology allows the camera to capture all the available light in a particular image, rendering it in a nearly perfect 3D picture when viewed on a computer or mobile device. The image can be "played" with after being transferred to the computer as well: tilting, perspective, refocusing, even depth of field. And this is true for any viewer, not just the photographer.

"We think that if you look at how pictures work today in the world and on the Web, we're really still tied to the legacy of print," said Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal. "This will really replace digital in the way that digital has replaced film."

Trouble in Digital Paradise

CNN reports that the first camera suffered from poor quality images, and that the lack of "living pictures," as the company calls them, cluttering up your internet space reveals that the camera didn't take off quite as well as hoped. The market praised the technology as groundbreaking, but ultimately thought the Lytro was a one-trick pony.

Lytro images are not measured in megapixels, as standard digital photos are, but rather in megarays. The 2011 model took 11-megaray photos, and the new Illum takes 40-megaray images. Forty megarays, according to Rosenthal, is equivalent to 4 – 6 megapixels, which is far behind the current amateur-consumer digital cameras. The camera does have some bells and whistles, however.

It has a 4.5 inch tilted touchscreen inspired by Smartphone camera users and the old medium-format Hasselblad viewfinders. The non-interchangable lens has a 30-50mm zoom range with a consistent f/2.0 aperture. The biggest selling point, in my opinion, is that the operating system is built on an Android platform with a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Second best are the wireless sharing capabilities.

Lytro still has challenges to overcome. Their technology isn't widely supported (although some of the social media giants such as Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest have added support for the format, and Facebook will show them, though not host them), so the images are still best hosted on the Lytro site and viewed through the proprietary Lytro app.

Trying to break into the semiprofessional market with the new Illum is a bold move when many thought Ng would be better served to make a partnership with an existing Smartphone or camera company.

"Transformational tech needs a transformative product to bring the full benefits," said Ng, who is now Lytro's executive chairman.

According to Rosenthal, just licensing the technology to others would be akin to Tesla just being an electric battery and engine company.