Lytro Introduces 'Illum,' A Professional Light-Field Camera

The light-field photography engineers at Lytro unveiled their next innovation: a professional DSLR-like camera called "Illum."

Lytro Introduces 'Illum,' A Professional Light-Field Camera

Lytro, the pioneer of light-field photography, practically invented the genre in 2011. Now, it's back to challenge professionals with its magic "Illum" camera.

"It's not made to be seen in a magazine; it's not made to be seen in 2-D. … It's made for an interactive experience." (Via YouTube / Lytro)

The Illum light-field camera is the bigger, polished brother to Lytro's original colorful consumer model. The jet-black DSLR-like camera sports an eight-times zoom lens with a fixed 2.0 aperture and shutter speeds up to 1/4000th of a second. Images are captured in 40 million light rays, more than three times its predecessor. But like the original, Illum's sensor captures an entire scene in one snap and allows you to change the subject in focus after the fact.

It's no surprise the hardware boasts an upgrade, but the Illum's interface is more intuitive as well — allowing professionals to better preview their light-field creations.

Its newest feature? The Lytro button. Lytro's original model was more like a game of trial and error when it came to composition. Now on the Illum's backside, a 4-inch touch screen previews different areas of focus with colored outlines — in real time — before hitting the shutter and manipulating the image in post.

And after taking a photo, Lytro has extended its desktop software with new creative tools like Light Field Animations, which offers a unique way of playing back the image and refocusing with a Ken Burns-like effect.

So, is it worth your money? That depends on how much you love being on the cutting edge. The Illum doesn't ship until July, and it'll sell with a fairly expensive price tag of $1,599, but reports from Wired, Time and Engadget agree Lytro is looking for early adopters with money to burn.

"They're aiming for a group of people they're calling 'creative pioneers.' These are people who've embraced the original Lytro for its unique capabilities … but also folks who are willing to take a chance at a new way of looking at photos." (Via Engadget)

Let's flip the question: Is this camera worth Lytro's money? VentureBeat believes the Illum is a "big gamble," noting the company sank $100 million in funding to develop it.

​But others say Lytro needed to spend the money to stay the leader of the pack. Even though the company sets the standard for light-field photography, smartphones like the Galaxy S5 and apps are rapidly creating their own pseudo focus-altering systems. 

Time reports: "By pushing the Lytro Illum so far up the photographic food chain, the company answers the challenge from smartphone apps by pretty much avoiding it. Judging from Lytro's samples, nobody will look at Illum photos and say 'My phone can do that.'"

On top of that, Lytro's founder told several news outlets there are even more consumer-friendly models in the works. There's even rumor of a Lytro video camera. For those looking to experiment with Lytro but not break the bank, the original Lytro camera will now sell for $199.