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Lytro gets serious with the $1,599 Illum light-field camera, full specs announced

Update June 20, 2014: The lens is one important component that makes up the Illum. Lytro’s Graham Myhre and Dave Evans has written more about the lens’ construction, which you can read about here. In short, they write: “Lytro Illum features the first lens specifically built and designed to harness the power of light field software. With Lytro Illum’s unique lens, much of the work traditionally accomplished by glass elements in conventional lenses is replaced by pure computational power. Unlike a traditional digital camera lens, a light field lens does not focus all of the light from the aperture to a single point, but instead breaks it up into smaller bundles of light that are focused onto multiple points on the sensor. This allows the light field lens to accurately sample the entire light field as 3D data as opposed to a flat 2D scene. To make sense of the data, Lytro Illum uses computational processes to reconstruct the light field. As the number of a samples (megarays) increase, more elements of the lens can be replaced by computation, removing lens aberrations.”

Update June 8, 2014: Lytro announced the full specs for its upcoming Illum camera. They can be found below.

Well, here it is: Lytro has been promising that something awesome is on its way, and today it finally delivered – two years after introducing its first product. The company has revealed the Illum, a high-powered, pro-level camera that combines performance with its revolutionary light-field technology that lets you refocus an image after it has been shot (and more). Lytro says the Illum has a sensor that’s four times the size of the previous Lytro Camera, with tablet-level computational power. In fact, if the original Lytro Camera was a basic introduction to light-field photography, the Illum is the next, huge step.

“In capturing the color, intensity and direction of every light ray flowing into the camera, Lytro Illum provides a massive amount of visual information that allows photographers to recreate sights and scenes on a truly experiential canvas,” the company says. The camera gives “serious” photographers a new way to express their creativity, in an interactive manner that goes beyond 2D.

Weighing 2 pounds, the Illum has a more familiar camera shape, due to the custom, large fixed 8x optical zoom lens (30mm-250mm equivalent, with a constant f/2.0 aperture throughout the entire focal range), but the sleek, wedge-shaped body suggests it’s anything but traditional (it has a design that’s reminiscent of Blackmagic’s 4K camera). It uses a proprietary 40-megaray light-field sensor that allows for “extreme close-focus macro.” Shutter speed is up to a high 1/4000th of a second (letting users capture action scenes), and there are a few physical buttons and an articulating 4-inch touchscreen with a smartphone-like interface. There’s also a hot-shoe, shutter-release port, tripod mount, and SD card slot.

Lytro describes the Illum as a camera that “creates ‘living pictures’ by bringing the power of 3D computer graphics to photography and enabling new avenues for visual storytelling.” It’s kinda mumbo jumbo, but it’s obvious that the Illum blends the best aspects of a high-end camera, smartphone ease-of-use, and Lytro’s unique hardware and software technologies, to create something different.

As for the software, users can readjust a photo’s aperture focus, perspective, and tilt control in post-processing – that Lytro “trick” of letting you change the focus after it’s been shot, and much more. While Lytro’s refocusing ability has always been the star feature in the original camera – one that we loved using, and picked as our 2012 Camera of the Year – image quality has been so-so. While it’s early to say, it’s clear the Illum aims to deliver greater image quality (Lytro even says it could one day rival current digital and film photography). Lytro’s light-field technology has the ability to shoot in 3D, and it’s able to output 3D photos to compatible devices.

Lytro photo workflows are also compatible with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, and Apple Aperture photo-editing software. Other features include integration with popular social media networks, interactive depth-of-field assist (a Lytro button that shows the relative focus of all objects, shown on the display, letting you compose in 3D; it also shows what objects can be refocused later), and drag-and-drop cinematic animations that can be added, in-camera, to photos (pan, zoom, focus, and perspective shift).

Some things that aren’t mentioned include Wi-Fi or video capture. With social media integration via the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and that the original Lytro Camera has Wi-Fi, we assume that the Illum also has it built-in. For now, it looks like the Illum is purely a tool for photography, but Lytro has the ability to turn on new features via firmware updates (as it did with the Lytro Camera), so it’s possible that, down the road, more could be added.

Lytro will ship the Illum in September (projected), and will cost $1,599. That’s high-end DSLR territory, close to entry-level full-frame. But it shows what Lytro is thinking, that this is a high-caliber camera. There’s no way for consumers to try one out yet (no retail partners have been announced, but don’t be surprised if it shows up at Apple Stores, where the Lytro Camera is sold), but early adopters can pre-order one at $1,499, with a $250 deposit; pre-order customers will get a limited edition camera engraving and strap, premium customer support plus two-year warranty, an extra 20-percent discount if you own an original Lytro Camera, and chance to win something called “The Ultimate Lytro Photo Experience,” an exclusive photo-shoot with a prominent photographer.

We’ve been looking forward to seeing what Lytro will come out with next, but we’ve also had our doubts, wondering if the company was a one-trick pony. (Also, many new smartphones are incorporating the refocusing technique into their cameras, through software manipulation, which somewhat steals the thunder from Lytro.) CEO Jason Rosenthal said last year that Lytro will ship products akin to a Tesla S automobile. Like a Tesla, the Illum looks and sounds impressive (and pricey, to boot), but could it really change photography or is it another pricey gimmick? We’re hoping for the former, and from the trailer we’ve seen so far, there’s lots of potential. Rosenthal also said there’d be more than one product, so the Illum may just be the beginning.

Official specifications

Dimensions 86mm x 145 mm x 166 mm
Weight 940 grams / 33.15 oz / 2.07 lbs
Body Magnesium and Aluminum
Grip and lens rings Silicone
Focal Length 9.5 – 77.8 mm (30 – 250 mm equivalent)
Crop Factor 3.19
Zoom 8x
Lens Aperture Constant f/2.0
Macro Focus to 0 mm from lens front
Macro Ratio 1 : 3
Image Sensor
Sensor Type CMOS
Light Field Resolution 40 Megaray
Processor Snapdragon® processor by QUALCOMM® Incorporated
Format Light Field Picture
Aspect Ratio 3 : 2
2D export resolution 4MP peak output
Custom White Balance Yes
File/Picture Storage SD memory card slot (SD card not included)
Shutter Type Focal plane
Fastest Shutter Speed 1/4000 sec
Continuous Shooting Options Single or Continuous
Self-Timer Yes
Exposure Metering System Scene Evaluative
Exposure Histogram In Live View and Playback
Exposure Modes Program, ISO Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual
Exposure Compensation Yes
Exposure Bracketing Yes
Exposure Lock Yes
Clipping Warning Yes
Focus / Autofocus
Auto-focus Modes Region AF
Touchscreen Yes
Screen Size 4″ LCD rear screen
Screen Resolution 480 x 800
Screen Angle of View Up to 80 degrees
Adjustable Brightness Yes
Screen Type back-lit LCD
Articulated Angles -10 to +90
Articulated LCD Dual hinge tilting
Live view Yes
In Camera Picture Review Yes
Light Field Playback function Refocus
Menus / Interface
Customizable Buttons Yes
Battery Removable Li-Ion battery
Battery Charging Standalone wall charger and USB
Hot-shoe ISO compatible hot shoe with center pin sync manual and Lytro-TTL
Tripod Socket Standard 1/4″-20
Cable Shutter Release Compatible Yes
USB Micro USB 3.0
Technology Lytro Light Field Sensor and Lytro Light Field Engine 2.0
Wireless Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/ac enabled
Software Includes a free desktop application for importing, processing and interacting with living pictures from the camera. Software requires Mac OS 10.8.5 or higher or Windows 7 or 64-bit Windows 8.
E-Waste RoHS certified
Les Shu
Former Digital Trends Contributor
I am formerly a senior editor at Digital Trends. I bring with me more than a decade of tech and lifestyle journalism…
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