If you haven’t heard about the Lytro, start with our introduction to the camera.
As a refresher, the Lytro is a digital camera like no other. Instead of merely capturing “flat” light – colour and brightness – the camera’s sensors are capable of measuring the trajectory of the light itself. The big advantage to this is that the whole notion of what is in focus at the time you take the photo becomes irrelevant as focal distances can be decided after-the-fact and altered using software to suit your needs.
When the company announced its first product last year, it was clear from the beginning that they were onto something huge. Their demo “living photos” were very impressive displays of what the technology could do, and the cameras themselves were as different in their design when compared to traditional cameras as their photos were.
But as with any new technology, the truest test is how it fares when put through its paces by reviewers out in the real world.
The Lytro seems to have passed the test – though not without a few caveats.
In The Verge’s review, David Pierce notes that “the effect is amazing but the photos aren’t.” His experience with the Lytro shows that while the camera definitely does what is says it can do, it can’t do it reliably under all shooting conditions, with low-light being an especially challenging scenario.
There are some minor quibbles with the overall design of the Lytro itself, but Pierce reserves his biggest criticism for the camera’s screen which he deems too small and “kind of terrible.”
Walt Mossberg over at All Things D, is equally upbeat about the Lytro’s technology but doesn’t seem as concerned as Pierce when it comes to the camera’s physical attributes. He does however make the point that there is a learning curve when it comes to taking good photos with the Lytro – words to remember for those who are eager to get their hands on one.
Both reviewers note that the engineers behind the Lytro plan to release software updates in the future that will further enhance the camera’s capabilities without necessitating a hardware upgrade which should be comforting for those looking to be first in line for the ground-breaking device.
What Lytro’s debut proves more than anything is that the technology is real, it works and it’s the most amazing advance in photography since the beginning of photography itself. And, as with any technology, there is plenty of room for improvement. With any luck, Lytro will succeed in licensing its innovations to major manufacturers and in the future we’ll all be snapping “living photos” regardless which camera we happen to choose.