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
Photography

How Huawei and Leica made a camera phone so good, we ditched our DSLR

What makes the Leica-designed Huawei P20 Pro camera so good? We traveled to Leica’s HQ in Wetzlar, Germany to hear it from the source. In short, it took a lot of experience, technology, and passion.
Photography

Fujifilm announces ultra-wide 8-16mm f/2.8 and massive 200mm f/2 lenses

Two new premium lenses have joined Fujifilm's X Series, an ultra-wide zoom for landscapes and astrophotography and a fast telephoto prime for low-light sports and wildlife. At $2,000 and $6,000, both are decidedly made for professionals.
Photography

When you're ready to shoot seriously, these are the best DSLRs you can buy

For many photographers the DSLR is the go-to camera. With large selection of lenses, great low-light performance, and battery endurance, these DSLRs deliver terrific image quality for stills and videos.
Photography

What does this button do? A quick guide to understanding your camera’s controls

Most DSLR cameras are user-friendly, but that doesn't mean you can make sense of every button on your own. Thankfully, our quick-hit guide will help you better acquaint yourself with your camera's operation.
Photography

What is portrait mode? How tech helps smartphones capture a better you

Several years ago, portrait modes started showing up on phones and quickly became one of the most popular ways to capture selfies, profile pics, and more. But how does portrait mode work, and how much difference does it make?
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

The top-selling digital photography book can be yours for free now

To celebrate their YouTube channel reaching a million subscribers, popular photography vloggers Tony and Chelsea Northrup have launched a limited-time free offer for their top-selling book.
Emerging Tech

New light-emitting implant zaps cancer tumors with incredible precision

Researchers from Japan's Waseda University have developed a light-emitting, NFC-powered implant which could help battle cancer in sensitive parts of the body by emitting light. Here's how.
Photography

6 pro tips for taking amazing portrait photos with the Huawei P10

To really show us what the P10's Leica camera and its Portrait mode can do, a pro-photographer taught us how to use it. We learned plenty. Here are the best tips for perfect portraits and selfies.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

The magic hour creates magic photos. Here’s how to capture dreamy stunners

The golden hour, a.k.a. the magic hour, is a special time for photographers that happens twice a day. Here are some simple tips for making the most of this time to capture stunning portraits, landscapes, and the like.
Emerging Tech

These ‘tentacular’ jellyfish lamps bring the deep sea to the surface

A German designer has created a a stunning lamp that mimics the appearance and movement of jellyfish. The Jellyfish Motion Lights are part lamp, part installation, and completely captivating.
Smart Home

The Brava Oven uses light – and seemingly magic – to cook. It changes everything.

The creators of the Brava Oven knew that there had to be a better, more efficient way of cooking, and they set out to find it. The Brava, which cooks with light, was born, and their invention will turn everything we know about cooking…
Emerging Tech

New VR horror game gets scarier if your heart rate isn’t fast enough

In new VR game Bring to Light, players can strap on a heart rate monitor to personalize the fear factor. Get too comfortable, and the game’s A.I. will know to ramp up the terror.
Product Review

The Moto Z3 Play packs a lot of juice with its included battery mod

Motorola’s latest phone is the mid-range Moto Z3 Play. It costs $500, so why wouldn’t you just get the OnePlus 6? The answer isn’t so simple. There’s a lot to like here, and the phone comes with a battery mod that extends its life…
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

With flip-out lenses, the Vuze XR transforms from 360- to 180-degree VR camera

The Vuze XR is a compact, dual-lens camera with an integrated handle and a neat party trick: The back-to-back lenses can flip forward to transition from 360-degree two-dimensional video, to 180-degree three-dimensional video.
Mobile

Here’s how to turn off camera shutter sound on your Android phone

That clicking shutter sound on your Android phone can get annoying if you like to take lots of pictures. Fortunately, you can disable it. We will walk you through how to turn off the camera shutter sound on your Android phone.
Photography

Ditch the smartphone, this is the camera you want in your pocket

Fujifilm's XF10 offers premium image quality in a portable form factor that may just be enough to get smartphone shooters to pick up a real camera. It's also Fujifilm's cheapest premium compact yet, at $500.
Photography

Brother’s new INKvestment Tank printer is made for people who hate buying ink cartridges

With a new ink cartridge design, Brother's new INKvestment Tank printer can run for up to a year before the cartridges need replacing -- ideal for users who want convenience and cost-savings.