Today, Lytro has announced that its plenoptic consumer camera will now offer manual controls to its user. The camera, introduced this past summer, has been a controversial device for photographers: While it’s putting light field photography into users’ hands – something that’s never been done before – its first iteration status and lack of shutter and exposure control has led plenty of critics to call it a novelty.
For those who’ve missed the Lytro hype, the best way to describe the device is to talk about its focus-and-refocus feature. Lytro uses its megaray technology and untraditional build to take all of the light coming from every direction of the scene you’re shooting, which later means you can physically click on the photo when you’re viewing it via Lytro software to change the point of focus. The effect is riveting and sort of magical, but of course photography purists are going to point out that the inability to control settings means quality is sacrificed.
Now, Lytro is addressing those concerns with its firmware update. “Manual controls give Lytro photographers the opportunity to take control of the exposure in a scene,” Lytro director of photography Eric Cheng says. “We introduced these feature as a result of feedback from our most creative camera owners, who are capturing things like subjects in motion or experimenting with artistic styles like light painting. With manual controls, they now have more flexibility as they push the boundaries of the light field.”
Users will now be able to adjust shutter speed (max is 8 seconds, minimum is 1/250 of second), ISO (range is 80-3200), apply the neutral density filter in bright settings, as well as the auto exposure lock.
Lytro provided us with some examples of images using these settings, and when compared with the samples we took when testing the camera (the top two photos are with the old version, the bottom two with the updated firmware), you can see there’s an obvious improvement – just don’t expect the results to rival those of Micro Four Thirds or DSLRs.
In addition to the firmware update, Lytro has also announced its added two new colors to the lineup: Moxie pink and seaglass.
The innovative camera company is iterating fast, and we already know there’s more in the pipeline from the team. A Wi-Fi enabled version of Lytro is on the way, although it’s unclear if this will be a firmware update or a new model altogether. In the meantime, we’ll have to be pacified with the new manual controls.