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Lytro has made the next step in the evolution of light field photography, with the announcement of its new Illum Light Field Digital Camera. The first, most notable difference between the Illum and the previous Lytro camera is that the Illum looks and handles like a traditional camera, complete with a chassis with a large handgrip, tubular lens barrel, hot-shoe mount and a 4" tilt-touch LCD monitor. As opposed to the block-like scope design of the first-generation light field cameras, this new form factor will do a lot to pique the interest of many photographers; however, it’s the optical and performance improvements of the Illum that may bring these incredible cameras out of the novelty basket and into the hands of serious image-capture enthusiasts.
The CMOS sensor on the Illum captures 40 megarays, as opposed to the previous model’s 11 megarays, improving the resolution, contrast, and color accuracy of the final image. The light field sensor itself, with its micro lens array, records the color, intensity, and direction of light and utilizes the integrated Snapdragon 801 image processor along with Lytro’s proprietary software to create “living pictures” in which the focus point, depth of field, and perspective can be continuously adjusted after the image has been shot. The light field image should not be considered in the terms used for “traditional” digital still images and, certainly, printing on paper is not a primary part of its project. However, for the sake of convenient comparison, a converted 2D Illum image is approximately 4MP.
In addition to the megaray increase, the new Lytro provides better control over where the focus is placed, with smoother transitions and advanced 3D viewing potential. Focus control is achievable on the camera’s LCD touch monitor, as well as on your computer or iOS mobile device when using the applicable software. Once images are uploaded to the Lytro web gallery with a special plug-in, they can also be manipulated by other people. Once the focus has been adjusted, images can be sent to Lightroom, Photoshop, or Apple’s Aperture for further image manipulation.
With the Lytro Mobile App and the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi, images can be sent wirelessly to the Lytro web gallery. Lytro Mobile also lets you share living pictures to Twitter or Facebook via your iOS smart device, or save them as animated GIFs to send to your friends and family.
"In addition to the megaray increase, the new Lytro provides better control over where the focus is placed, with smoother transitions and advanced 3D viewing potential."
The aspects of the Illum, which clearly improve upon the first-generation Lytro, are what you might call the “camera” elements. For starters, the lens offers 8x zoom with the 35mm focal length equivalence of 30-250mm and a constant f/2.0 maximum aperture. The Illum provides a focusing range from 0mm to infinity, literally enabling focus on a subject touching the lens. And with an aluminum lens barrel with soft rubber zoom and focusing rings, both autofocus and manual focus capabilities are supported. Although the focus is adjusted after the shot is taken, the depth-of-field range is important to realize so as to be within an adjustable range. The Lytro Button located next to the shutter release provides a color-coded overlay of the depth of field, making it easy to see in real time the “re-focusable range.”
The Illum features Program, ISO Priority, Shutter Priority, and manual exposure control, and its focal plane shutter with 1/4000-second maximum shutter speed is effective for shooting sports and other fast-moving subjects. Single and continuous shooting modes are supported, as is a timer. In addition, it is compatible with a cable shutter release and provides a 1/4"-20 tripod socket. A manual and Lytro-TTL enabled hot-shoe mount with center pin sync is featured on the camera’s top plate.
Like its minimalist design, the camera’s physical controls are few. In addition to the shutter release and “Lytro” button, there is a command dial, two adjustable customizable buttons, and AE/AF lock buttons. The rest of the camera’s adjustments are made on the 4" rear back-lit LCD screen. With dual-hinge tilting, it can be maneuvered down 10° or up 90° for odd-angle shooting. Live view composition and playback with post-capture focus adjustment are provided by the LCD, as is a very intuitive touch-and-swipe menu navigation control. The camera body itself is designed with a sleek, angled pitch, so even when the LCD is flat against the camera it is still visible when shooting at waist level.
A micro USB 3.0 port and SD card slot are provided on the camera’s side compartment and it’s powered by a removable rechargeable lithium-ion battery. As mentioned, the form factor is particularly impressive with a simplified, stylish body made from aluminum and magnesium alloys with a silicone rubber outer layer and large comfortable grip.
As Lytro’s second-generation light field camera, the Illum has taken serious strides to be favored by those photographers who can utilize its improved feature set to create adjustable focus and perspective images that will further elevate and improve this remarkable, still new, imaging technology.