Hands On with the New Lytro Camera

Hands on videos and first-impression reviews of Lytro’s new revolutionary light field camera are starting to emerge. Engadget writes,

For now, it really is just a novel toy. A $399 toy that’s certainly within reach of the photography junky in your life, eager for a new twist on an old concept. That may or may not describe you, but mark our words — when Lytro integrates this kind of tech into a larger, more potent shooter: game over.

The extremely minimalistic flashlight-style design shows that the company is aiming at ordinary consumers rather than people who are more serious about photography. You can’t really get simpler than a tiny camera with three controls (on/off, zoom, shutter).

  • MEM Photography

    No-one I’ve seen yet has said what an 11mega-ray sensor actually translates to in terms of mega-pixels on screen.  I’m suspecting very few given that it has been suspiciously left out of the specs!  Anyone have any information on that?

  • Michael Zhang

    We haven’t seen it anywhere either. Will send in an inquiry and update our posts if we find out.

  • Trevorhor

    How large a print can this camera make? How do you control depth of field not just focal plane?

  • Graysmith

    Worst ergonomics ever (camera or otherwise).

  • Mikael Gramont

    I think the point is that everything can be in focus, once you play with the software on a computer. So the notion of depth of field probably disappears.

  • Anonymous

    I did some looking for the resolution question as well, it seems the only thing that anyone has gotten out of them is that its “at least HD” .  In other words this is going to be a small image!  They clearly don’t want people latching onto this fact as they are dodging the question left right and center.

  • Jim Markland

    I see nothing about capture duration….?????????

  • Louhe87

    i feel like this camera will cater specifically to digital viewing.  While I’m sure you can make a print (though i’m thinking quite small), i think lytro is aiming for the online market.

  • Anonymous

    I was very excited when i saw they had a release date, but now feeling fairly skeptical about it after reading the specs…. as other posters have already mentioned, there are key specs left out like iso-range, shutter speed range, output image size, battery life. This “toy” would be worth $200 max to me (Harinezumi price)

  • Joe

    HD (1080p) would be around 2 megapixels. And if you do the math of 350 shots in 8GB, each shot is about 23MB. So, you have a 23MB raw file that produces a 2 megapixel image. 

    You pay a high price for eliminating/changing focus.


    The three Lytro camera models sport a very different design on the
    outside, but their light-field technology inside is even more of a
    departure from conventional cameras.


    The three Lytro camera models sport a very different design on the
    outside, but their light-field technology inside is even more of a
    departure from conventional cameras.


    i want to know how many f stops is the aperture and what would be ideal lighting conditions for this camera. can i shoot at night with it?

  • wickerprints

    The fact that Lytro will not disclose the pixel dimensions of the resulting images, and that low spatial resolution has been a well-known, longstanding issue with plenoptic imaging, indicates that they are deliberately withholding this specification because it’s actually very poor.  Their behavior is very frustrating, because I find it dishonest and manipulative.  This camera has gotten so much press, but I predict it will flop once consumers realize this is nothing more than an expensive novelty, and that their cell phones take better photos with more detail.  Until Lytro will give a pixel count, I will keep calling them snake oil peddlers.

  • Coyote Red

    What an exciting product!  What I’m interested in is the ability to take extremely quick photos and adjust later.  Sometimes you simply don’t have the time to take a photo before the opportunity is gone.  Given the small size and quick time to take a photo AND not having to worry about whether the camera made the correct focus choice it a great benefit.  Example?  Hiking and you see an uncommon bird.  I have many a photo with the leaves close to me in focus and the bird completely out of focus.  A quick follow up shot and the bird is already gone.  A very exciting niche product indeed.

  • Alan Dove

    Can we please stop parroting their press releases and calling it a “revolutionary new” camera? This is a small, somewhat pricey imaging toy with terrible ergononomics and (probably) lame resolution. Seriously, the hype-to-reality ratio here is reaching Segway proportions.

  • Anonymous

    I think people are looking at this concept camera wrong. This was not developed for prints, the whole point is to be able to refocus, so it’s a digital display only, meaning the MP’s don’t matter as much as all you whiners are worried about. You can’t even post a pic outside of their proprietary software or facebook. It’s basically a video image in terms of display.

    The aperture doesn’t matter because of: 1. the camera refocuses anywhere, there is no real depth of field, it’s infinite; and 2. the camera’s capture functions are automated, you cannot control your exposure; and 3. the camera shoots in HDR. Look at the images, they display a large dynamic range and are not as limited in exposure range as conventional cameras.

    This device takes “pictures,” but is not a camera like any of us think of it. Just like the difference between shooting a video and stills, there is a wholly different line of thinking and reasoning in this camera.

    It’s a new method of looking at image capture and sharing, and personally, I’m super happy someone decided to try something different for a change.

    The best part is, in the first two days it is already shaking up the photography world in so many ways. No one knows what to make of it, or what it really is, but they are willing to claim it is only worth this much or that it’s not going to function like their SLR.

    This is a brand new market for Lytro as well as the rest of the world. I hope we’re prepared for the implications of this new (I know it’s been around since the inception of photography just about, but no one else has compacted it into a consumer-usable model until now) tech. Much hope for the future of this company, time to start buying stock!

  • Anonymous

    How about you read about what the insides are before determining what it is? You keep chasing your MP’s in your point and shoot and leave the new tech to people who want to change the game.

  • Anonymous

    They haven’t made that a significant point because it doesn’t matter. The camera isn’t made for print or display larger than the images we have already seen, so MP’s aren’t a factor in the image itself. It’s a different way of thinking about images and sharing those “living pictures.”

    It’s different like stills v. video. All these naysayers may be right about them not making it out of this first production run, but it won’t be because of the reasons they are claiming. The world just may not be ready for the implications of this tech.

    Looking forward to updates on this company and their climb up!


  • Seven Bates

    Okay everyone – thanks for making photographers seem like a stodgy group of Luddites. I’ll explain it to you.

    1) The Lytro people are avoiding the “megapixel” word because of people like everyone in this thread. You find it dishonest and upsetting because you’re obsessed with a different concept of what a photograph is, than what a light field camera produces.

    2) Plenoptic cameras create images that are supposed to be viewed on a screen. Their interactiveness is the entire point. HTML 5 and the new methods of online file formatting allow Lytro to put interactive images online, for the purposes of exploring. Printing one of these images would be like taking a slice out of an entire pie. Yes, it can be done, but it’s not the purpose of *THIS* specific camera.

    3) Megarays of light is a term newly coined to explain the amount of light information captured by a plenoptic array and sensor combo. The sensor itself is probably quite larger than 2 megapixels, but the individual plenoptic lenses are dedicated to specific sections of the sensor. When the light information is combined, the math makes a larger “megapixel” sensor record much different information than a typical camera would.

    4) Eventually, this technology will be translated into a higher end device, with the intention of it being capable of shooting images at a “megapixel” level that would be conducive to big prints. At the moment though, the company is looking to make millions by creating a consumer-level camera that could change photography forever, get the technology out there, and spur further development. It’s extremely arrogant to be upset at them for not making a “pro” version first. What a crappy business model; who would want to risk their business on the fickle, vituperating, megapixel-obsessed whims of professional photographers?


  • Seven Bates

    Think outside the box people.

  • Seven Bates

    “Our vision is a product that allows people to shoot and share very simply” – Ren Ng, founder of Lytro

  • Steve

    Even if the camera was perfect, they only have Mac software and they are only selling it in the US.  They have thought outside the box with the camera and I think that’s great but they don’t seem to of thought much about the majority of people that might of been interested in buying it.

  • szielins

    Y’know, under circumstances when I need everything to be in focus and I’m willing to accept low resolution in order to get it, I bump up the ISO, stop down the aperture, and make a mental note that in post, I’m going to have to Gaussian-blur the image a pixel or two and then shrink it.

    The laws of physics remain the same no matter who builds the camera; a given sensor can only capture so much information at a certain precision and accuracy in a given length of time.  Stick an array of microlenses between the main lens and the sensor, and while the data the sensor will capture will be different, there isn’t going to be MORE of it.  The plenoptic design buys a deeper depth of field at the price of resolution.  If that’s what you need, great.  If not, then not.  Just bear in mind that at the $400 price point, there isn’t going to be much sensor in there.

    (For people who want to know more about the underlying technology per se, I can suggest Ng et alia’s paper “Light Field Photography with a Hand-held Plenoptic Camera”: .)

  • szielins

    The sample photographs at are 540×540.  That resolution sounds like it’s in about the right ballpark to me; it’s consistent with a 540×540 array of microlenses in front of what would ordinarily be described as an 11 megapixel sensor, with each microlens imaging onto the sensels that would ordinarily be used to yield a 6×6 block of pixels.  (~11 megapixels is in the low end of the ballpark for other cameras in the $400 range these days, but that microlens array isn’t going to be cheap to manufacture.)

  • Anonymous

    A new tech, how come it’s not up to par with the high-end current specs, let’s bash it!

  • Anonymous

    See above. You’re thinking about this all wrong. Everything in focus is no where near the point of this. You linked the dissertation, read it.

  • wickerprints

    You are rude and you assume too much.  My degree is in mathematics, and I have more than enough technical background to actually understand Ren Ng’s paper, which I have read in detail.  So don’t presume to lecture me about what is inside this camera.  I understand what it does; the problem, as I have repeatedly stated, is that despite the product being finalized, he doesn’t give any facts about the dimensions of the image.  Who cares about a plenoptic array if the imaging resolution is tiny?  That’s why this information is important.  What consumers deserve to know is what image size they can expect from this device.  That Lytro is being intentionally silent on this issue, even misleading people with made-up terminology like “megarays,” speaks volumes about what it can actually deliver.

  • Anonymous

    Once again, trying to fit a square in a round hole. It has a resolution measurement and everyone is ignoring it. Being the math wiz you are you should be able to spot that. “Megarays” is made up because plenoptic cameras and their components haven’t been a public term in need of defining until now. Just like with TV’s the image is referred to with “HD” and “1080p,” this is a display image, not a print. And it is a consumer camera for fuck’s sake, this isn’t a FF highrez monster. It does what it is supposed to, and simply. It is going to be perfect for a whole bunch of people who can’t even grasp what it is or for.

    People can’t complain about music volume being measured in decibels when they want to know the gigahertz. I don’t know why everyone is having such a hard time with this. I love the chaos!

  • Freiherr

    From its hardware megapixel count to print megapixel the ratio is roughly 10:1. It’s more suited for hdtvs than print use. HDTV only needs 2 megapixels.

  • Freiherr

    I won’t mind if it does 3D video but it’s not there yet to support this.

  • Berneck1

    While my gut tells me this is a ridiculous camera…… This could become the iPod of cameras. Time will tell….

  • Reheller

    I’m intrigued by the concept and by the examples that I could play with. I’ll need my LYTRO as soon as it is available in Europe and the Windows application is ready :-) Btw, I love a picture, not the number of pixels it’s made of. 

  • Bill

    This is going to flop.  most people want to take a picture, crop it and then post it.  I don’t want to be screwing around setting the focal point on pictures.  It’s interesting the first couple of times and then I would prefer that that person who took the shot set the focal point.  That ‘flashlight’ design also is the worst design i”ve seen for a camera.

  • Bill

    And it doesn’t look like anyone has mentioned that you need a Mac.  This thing does not work with a PC.

  • Catman

    I think that it’s perfectly fine to look at this from both the perspective of a photographer and the perspective of someone who wants to share these images on line.  There are a number of images taken with the camera available to examine so it is not too hard to get an idea of the level of resolution for images converted to jpg or printed.  From what I can see, 3×5–fine, 5×7–in question, and 8×10–forget it.  That should be fine for e-mailing a jpg or printing a snapshot if I do want to do that in some cases.

    I have to say that I love it when someone wants to relegate things to the “expensive toy” status–some expensive toys can be fun and this one looks like fun to me.  I’ve got some lenses that cost a lot more than one of these that can be considered just as limited in their potential applications.

    I’m ordering and looking forward to playing with this toy when it arrives…

  • sparkdoctor

    This camera might be a consumer flop, but it could be a scientific boon for people like me.  I am interested in photographing atmospheric particles that are drifting in front of my microscope, and I think it would be very useful to be able to see all of them instead of only the ones that pass through the focal plane.  Just think, an extended focal length rather than a narrow focal plane! I think Lytro can easily market this as a novel microscope.

  • Lee Watson

    Just an update here…

  • Aleksdude

    Wickerprints, I agree with you on your point.  A simple answer to what the image will result in when transferred over to any 2d image format like jpg or png is pretty important to know.  I’ve been looking around lytro’s site for quite awhile only to find that 1080×1080 (5×7) is the resolution you should come to expect: 

    ChristianRudman, I know you’re excited about this technology.  But please don’t discount what wickerprints is trying to say by always relegating your argument to “it’s apples and oranges”.  

    For me, what’s important is the usability of the camera.  Albeit, lytro is being sold for reasons of being used on online social websites.  Does the cost of $400+ justify this?  Alot of people were saying that this camera was going to be a game changer in photography.  But reading more into lytro’s current marketing scheme, this camera has alot of limited features in it’s 1st gen model. I’ll be hopeful that they can improve upon the technology so that one day it’ll live up to it’s hype.  Or at the very least, make this something affordable.