Camera of the year: The Lytro

lytro camera technology of 2012 best tech

Anybody who has ever used a camera – whether it’s an analog SLR of yore or the one built into your phone – knows that the most important part to taking a photo is making sure the shot is in focus. But what if there were a magical camera that eliminated the need for focusing? All you have to worry about is composing your shot, and you can change the focus point anywhere on the picture after it has been taken, readjusting the depth of field at home. This implausible-sounding device actually exists and it’s called Lytro, our pick for the best new camera technology of 2012.

Calling a first-generation, unproven product a “best of” anything is highly risky. In the world of tech we see many promising new ideas that only end up crashing and burning, either because consumers never accepted them or they just plain sucked when used. We pitted the Lytro camera against another “first” for the title, Android-based cameras like Samsung’s Galaxy. But putting a mobile phone OS into a camera is only a natural evolution; existing camera user interfaces are pretty lousy, so it’s a no-brainer to incorporate an intuitive UI more than 70 percent of smart phone users are familiar with (depending on which market analysis you subscribe to). The Lytro, however, can truly be called innovative.

In an industry that, year-after-year, continues to tout higher megapixels and longer zooms as advancements, there hasn’t been as much excitement in cameras since perhaps the introduction of mirrorless technology. Lytro’s light-field camera has a feature that’s not only groundbreaking and convenient, but goes against everything we have learned in photography school. Before you wag your finger at us, we are well aware of the many drawbacks: The camera itself is not convenient to use, in particular the small display and zoom, and picture quality is average. There were times when the refocusing didn’t work with some images we took, but when it did, it was truly compelling. 

The Lytro is expensive, but first-generation products are never cheap. Headed by a Stanford light-field photography researcher with funding from Silicon Valley VCs, Lytro surely has plenty more up its sleeves, and we’re excited to see where the company goes next. (If you can’t afford a Lytro right now, there’s a hack that lets you manipulate Lytro-like depth of field using a DSLR; traditional camera companies should pay attention.) The established camera manufacturers are adding evolutionary features like Wi-Fi, GPS, and 3D, but it’s enriching products like Lytro’s that will resonate with users. As analyst Christopher Chute of IDC told us, it’s start-ups like Lytro that can offer unique value to the customer, not major companies that only seek to satisfy shareholders.

Photography

2018 was a terrific year for new cameras. Here are our favorites

This year, we saw the unveiling of several exciting new cameras. We look back at our favorite models -- each delivering something unique, yet all are powerful and feature-rich. Camera fans, rejoice!
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Photography

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.
Photography

Photographers can now customize the layout of Lightroom Classic controls

Tired of scrolling past Lightroom tools that you don't use? Adobe Lightroom Classic now allows users to reorganize the Develop panel. The update comes along with new sharing options in Lightroom CC, and updates to the mobile Lightroom app.
Social Media

Instagram could be making a special type of account for influencers

Instagram influencers fall somewhere between a business profile and a typical Instagram, so the company is working on developing a type of account just for creators. The new account type would give creators more access to analytical data.
Mobile

Leave the laptop at home, the iPad Pro is the travel buddy to take on vacay

The iPad Pro is a powerful tablet that's perfect for creatives and professionals. How does it fare when traveling with it as a laptop replacement? We took it on a two week trek in Japan to find out.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Photography

These are the best action cameras money can buy

Action cameras are great tools for capturing videos of your everyday activities, whether it's a birthday party or the steepest slope you've ever descended on your snowboard. These are the best money can buy.
Photography

Canon holiday sale features the Rebel T6 2-lens kit for just $449

If you have a budding photographer in your life in need of a real camera, the Canon EOS Rebel T6 could make the perfect gift. Canon is currently offering the camera in a two-lens bundle for just $449 through December 29.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.
Social Media

Instagram’s 2018 year in review shines a light on where our hearts are

What did Instagram users share the most in 2018? A lot of heart emojis, heart face filters, and heart GIFs. The platform recently shared the year's top trends, including hashtags like #fortnite and #metoo along with a few surprises.
Deals

Want a fun, affordable instant camera? The Fujifilm Instax Mini 7S is just $49

Instant cameras have had a surprising resurgence of late, and no brand is better recognized in the instant photo space today than Fujifilm Instax. Walmart is currently offering the Instax Mini 7S for just $49.
Photography

Not just for Lightroom anymore, Loupedeck+ now works with Photoshop

Loupedeck+ can now help photographers edit in Photoshop too, thanks to physical controls for swapping tools, running actions, and more. The photo-editing console expanded to include Photoshop in the list of compatible editing programs.