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
Lens
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
Image
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
Shutter Type Focal plane
Fastest Shutter Speed 1/4000 sec
Continuous Shooting Options Single or Continuous
Self-Timer Yes
Exposure
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
Screen
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
Playback
In Camera Picture Review Yes
Light Field Playback function Refocus
Menus / Interface
Customizable Buttons Yes
Power
Battery Removable Li-Ion battery
Battery Charging Standalone wall charger and USB
External
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
Miscellaneous
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
Product Review

Honor schools other phone makers on design with the hole-punch View 20

The Honor View 20 is Honor’s best phone to date. Why? Just look at the punch hole screen, the striking design, and the exciting 48-megapixel camera for evidence. Here’s our review.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus photo leaks with dual front-facing camera

It won't be long now; With 2019 underway, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is almost here. Before it arrives, here's absolutely everything you need to know about all three of Samsung's next flagships.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Photography

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…
Photography

Sony crams its best camera tech into the new $900 A6400

Love Sony's autofocus, but can't stomach the full-frame price? The Sony A6400 mirrorless camera uses some of the same autofocus technology and the processor of the A9 in a compact, more affordable crop-sensor camera.
Photography

GoPro bumps resolution on Fusion 360 cam to 5.6K with new firmware

Currently available in public beta, Fusion firmware version 2.0 offers a new 5.8K mode that results in 5.6K output when the 360 camera's two hemispheres are stitched together. It also adds support for 24 fps video and RAW time-lapse…
Photography

With 5-stop optical stabilization, Fujifilm GF 100-200mm is ready for adventure

Fujifilm revealed a new lens designed to deliver on the GFX system's promise of adventure-ready medium-format photography. The GF 100-200mm F5.6 R is a weather resistant, relatively lightweight, 2x telephoto with impressive stabilization.
Photography

Olympus teaser shares glimpse of OM-D camera that’s good for more than sports

Is Olympus about to release a new mirrorless camera geared toward sports photographers? The latest teaser offers a glimpse of an upcoming OM-D camera set to launch on January 24, and by the looks of the teasers, it's capable for landscapes…
Photography

Nikon A1000, B600 pack big zooms into compact, budget-friendly cameras

The new Nikon Coolpix A1000 packs in a 35x zoom lens, 4K video, and an optical viewfinder, while Nikon's B600 brings a 60x zoom lens to the table. The cameras are modest updates to Nikon's budget-friendly zoom models.
Social Media

Nearly a million Facebook users followed these fake Russian accounts

Facebook purged two separate groups behind more than 500 fake accounts with Russian ties. One group had ties to Russian news agency Sputnik, while the other had behavior similar to the Internet Research Agency's midterm actions.
Photography

From DIY to AAA, here's how to take a passport photo in 6 different ways

If you're applying for a passport or renewing one, you need to submit a photo in your official application. There are strict guidelines, but fortunately, it's something you can do at home. Here's how to take a passport photo.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world will take your breath away

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

Photography news: Careful, self-driving cars can ruin your camera sensor

In this week's photography news, learn how self-driving cars destroyed a digital camera via lasers. Find out how many patents Canon filed for in 2018. Read about what Tamron lenses are available for the Nikon Z6.
Photography

Here are 8 GoPro tips to get the most out of your action cam

There's more to your GoPro camera than just mounting it to your skateboard. Whether it's finding the best accessories or understanding the settings more thoroughly, learn to shoot video like a pro with these simple GoPro tips and tricks.