The Lytro light-field camera is different to most of the products we review here at PC Pro. Most are refinements of an existing idea – laptops with faster processors, tablets with higher-resolution displays, cameras with better low-light handling.
The Lytro, however, represents a huge leap forward, and introduces a completely new technology for capturing images: a new type of sensor called the “light-field” sensor, which is capable of snapping photos not only in a flat plane, with one point of focus, but at multiple focal lengths simultaneously, allowing the photographer to change the focus point after a picture has been taken.
With a standard camera, if you’ve focused on the wrong point by accident, there’s nothing you can do to rescue it; with the Lytro, once you’ve imported your images into the Lytro desktop software, you simply click the area you want to bring into focus, and it’s sharp as a tack.
Click anywhere in the frame above to refocus the image. To see the perspective shift effect in action, click and hold, then move your mouse around.
The desktop software also allows you to convert photographs after they’ve been imported to give a perspective shift view, whereby the whole photo remains in focus. We’ve embedded a shot above so you can see it in action. We’ve used code provided by the Lytro website, where images can be posted, viewed and shared in their full glory.
This is seriously clever technology, and it works by dint of an extra layer of microlenses, placed in front of a standard CMOS, which allow the camera to measure not only the intensity of light, but also the angle of incidence of the light rays hitting the microlenses. The camera uses this extra information to work out where the light would have fallen had the camera been focused on a different point.
From a technological standpoint it’s a thrilling development. And in the Lytro it works astonishingly well. In the camera’s default Everyday mode, you can simply point and shoot without having to worry about focus. It doesn’t give you unlimited depth of field, however – according to a Lytro spokesperson, it’s the equivalent of setting a compact camera to f/20.
The hidden advantage of light-field photography is that the Lytro’s aperture of f/2 remains wide open when shooting, all the way through the camera’s 8x optical zoom range, delivering impressive light-gathering capabilities, plus the ability to blur the foreground and background smoothly when focusing on different points.
There’s a manual mode for those who want to be creative, allowing the adjustment of sensitivity between ISO 80 and 3200, and the shutter speed between 1/250sec and 8sec. You can set the focus point as well, with a tap to the rear touchscreen, and coupled with the camera’s ability to focus at a millimetre away from the lens, it’s possible to produce dramatic macro images.
|Camera megapixel rating||11-megarays|
|Camera screen size||1.5in|
|Camera optical zoom range||8x|
|Camera maximum resolution||1,080 x 1,080|
Weight and dimensions
|Dimensions||41 x 112 x 41mm (WDH)|
|Battery type included||Li-ion|
|Aperture range||f2 - f2|
|Camera minimum focus distance||0.00m|
|Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent)||35|
|Longest focal length (35mm equivalent)||280|
|Minimum (fastest) shutter speed||1/250|
|Maximum (slowest) shutter speed||8s|
|Bulb exposure mode?||no|
|RAW recording mode?||yes|
|Exposure compensation range||N/A|
|ISO range||80 - 3200|
|Selectable white balance settings?||no|
|Manual/user preset white balane?||no|
|Progam auto mode?||no|
|Shutter priority mode?||yes|
|Aperture priority mode?||no|
|Fully auto mode?||yes|
|Burst frame rate||N/A|
|Secondary LCD display?||no|
|Tripod mounting thread?||no|
|Data connector type||Micro-USB|
Manual, software and accessories
|Software supplied||Lytro Desktop|
|Accessories supplied||Wrist strap, lens cap|