Lytro Unveils the ‘Illum': A Beautiful Beast of a Light-Field Camera

3-Quarter NEW

More than two years after the debut of the company’s first camera, Lytro has come back with a vengeance. Well, actually, Lytro has come back with an ‘Illum,’ which is the name of a new camera that the company says, “advances the light field category from novelty to game-changing visual medium that could one day rival digital and film.”

Those are lofty words, but one look at this Star Trek-worthy beast of a light field camera and its spec sheet, and you might just become a believer. It is, in essence, the original light field camera on steroids — like they took their original concept, let’s call that camera the Lytro 1.0, and then skipped 2.0-9.0 to arrive directly at 10.0.

Open & Shut Side_72dpi

Spec-wise the camera is upgraded in every way. A ’40 Megaray’ resolution 1-inch (that’s four times larger than the previous camera) sensor is paired with an Android-powered system and Light Field Engine 2.0 for larger files that process faster.

There’s also an 8x optical zoom (30-250mm equivalent) lens with a constant f/2.0 aperture, a 4-inch 800×480-pixel tiltable touchscreen, max shutter speed of 1/4000 sec, and exposure controls that include Program, ISO Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual.

Here’s a closer look at the camera from all angles:


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Ortho Top

From the beginning, Lytro’s goal with light field technology was to revolutionize photography. To transform picture taking from capturing “a static cross-section of reality” to capturing “an authentic, interactive window into their world.” The Lytro Illum aims to do just that by giving serious photographers a light field tool that can keep up with (or perhaps even exceeds) the demands of their creativity.

“With LYTRO ILLUM, creative pioneers — ranging from artistic amateurs to experienced professionals — will tap into a new wave of graphical storytelling,” Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal explains. “By combining a novel hardware array with tremendous computational horsepower, this camera opens up unprecedented possibilities to push the boundaries of creativity beyond the limits inherent in digital or film photography.”

Interactive images taken with Illum will be viewable in-camera and through Lytro’s own players on supported computers, tablets and smartphones. If you’ve forgotten what those images are like, check out the embedded player below:

Speaking with Engadget, Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal summed up their hopes for this camera well when he said, “If Camera 1.0 was film-based, and Camera 2.0 was the transition from film to digital, we’re at Camera 3.0. It’s about collecting very rich information about the world.”

Will this be a true game-changer? We’ll just have to wait and see.

The Lytro Illum will be available starting July 15 for $1,600, but you can save yourself $100 and get access to special updates if you pre-order from the Lytro site. For more information or if you’d like to pull the trigger and pre-order yours already, head over to the Lytro website by clicking here.

  • bob cooley

    You hit it on the head Matt – and some snapshots can be great; but we’re paid for being able to reliably produce a compelling image, not for being lucky (well, not most of the time, at least :) )

  • bob cooley

    Some do – but most still care about good imagery.

  • ganv

    I agree that it is odd that they are marketing this as an art camera for still life images. It must be that fairly long exposures are needed. Basically you need to get enough light on 40 Megapixels to have low noise on each and then you get a 4 Megapixel image. I am interested in the machine vision applications. For us, a key parameter that I don’t see specified is the frame rate.

  • Bruce

    It look like I’m the only Bruce who posted here bug I can’t say you were responding to me since you did not reply to my post and did not quote what I actually said. And I don’t think I sounded mad!

  • Scott F

    If the camera is that great why did they shoot the product shots on a Hasselblad and not an actual lytro?

  • Scott F

    The real Ken Rockwell would never ask that question, he already knows everything about every camera ever….

  • William Owyong

    I think it’s funny hearing the resistance to the concepts Lytro is bringing to the photography field. Sounds awfully familiar to when digital cameras were being introduced and film was king. Or people’s initial thoughts on mirrorless cameras. Film and digital now coexist. Mirrorless cameras have found their niche. So too will 2D and 3D – just like how sculpture and painting have coexisted for millennia.

    Don’t for a minute think this will make photography easier just because focusing has been made dynamic. Not being able to change ISO on the fly with film photography doesn’t make it any easier..and it doesn’t operate itself. The photographer’s “eye” will always be an influencing factor. It has however introduced a new way of approaching “capturing an image” which throws existing photographic processes a curve ball.

    Going from 2D to 3D is going to be an interesting journey. With 3D printers and holography technology progressing the expansion , not replacement, of photography to 3D is inevitable.

  • Jan Krynický

    The point is this allows YOU to postpone at least part of the selecting until you’ve got more time. Sometimes the subject you selected waits for you to choose all those options and focus exactly what you want to be focused. Other times the subject moves too much and you’ve only got one shot.
    You don’t have to let the user play around with focal points, you can do that yourself. Part of being a photographer, just doing it a little later.

  • nerdbomber

    Looked at the specs… 2D export resolution = 4MP peak output.

    No thanks.

  • Vin Weathermon

    Again I was underwhelmed by the “output” of this camera even though I wanted to be wowed. It just isn’t good enough to replace a very good photograph (forget composition for this topic.) A smallish representation that I have to view on a web page to even see….I just don’t see the attraction. Perhaps in advertising where you are trying to add some gimmick to your product shot or something but I can’t see a practical use for the output even with the major upgrades this new device brings.

    This is not 3D. It is “navigatable stacked images”.

    You could be right about this being just the tip of the technology iceburg that will will revolutionize photography but for now it is just “cool – ish” in my opinion.

  • Aaron Steele

    This (as did the first one) offers some very intriguing solutions for my work in Art Conservation photography. While we have used focus stacking with microscopes to get multi height details in artwork, or just plain old shooting tons of different heights, but this allows for a nice new solution that is much more handheld and could be used for much more 3d items that allows the conservators a much easier way to look at an item when not in front of it. I would love to get one of these to apply to the field and see what it could offer. High resolution is important too, so it all remains to be seen how effective it could be but it at least seems like it is moving in the right direction.

  • 11

    so you would see the lens of the camera itself? is this the point?

  • nemomen

    I was really excited when digital came along and got a few digital cameras. It was pretty clear to me that CCD/CMOS would follow the trend of microelectronics. I wasn’t actually all that fond of film, though, I was happy to see it go.

    When mirror less came along I was really tempted to jump from a DSLR to a MFT that was lighter, and really drawn to those beautiful Fuji X-*. But I like shooting birds most of all, and other things secondarily, and in birding DSLR is still king for now. (Micro 4/3 telephotos aren’t there yet). And for macro work I love, love, love my Sigma 105mm f/2.8. The glass matters most, and DSLR still is tops for beautiful lenses.

    All that being said, this looks like a solution looking for a problem. A focus stack can do the same thing, but give you better images and let you use better glass and much more control. If you are such an amateur that you can’t figure out how to focus, you won’t be able to figure out how to use their software.

    You are getting 10x the data, so monster file sizes, for low res, mediocre, low contrast, diffracted images.

    Crap output, pointless tech, and most importantly, I have yet to see any image from a Lytro that made me want to get one.

    Their BS marketing claptrap about “light fields” and “megarays” also is a huge turnoff. This smells like Silicon Valley hype, not a new generation of anything with legs.