on October 10, 2012
I've owned a Lytro for about 5-6 months now, after eagerly pre-ordering it last October. I am big into taking pictures of my 2 kids (4 and 6) and am starting to do more photos of insects, birds, nature stuff I notice... I am not anywhere near a "professional" photographer, or even a very proficient. I take a lof of pictures with Canon sx230HS, but I got very impressed with the new opportunities when I read about LYTRO technology. The ability to refocus, hence have "multiple pictures in one", the possibility to unlock new possibilities with the future software releases (like 3D, "allinfocus"), as well as adding functionality to the camera with firmware updates, like just added manual settings mode - the technology seemed very exciting. This is something that has never been done before.
I do get frustrated sometimes with the light glare on the LCD, and the inability to really evaluate the images on the camera due to the small LCD. Also the processing time required on a PC can be annoying at times... but this is a new way of thinking and an opportunity to be a part of something groundbreaking.
The quality of pictures, as compared to digital photography of even point-and-shoot cameras, is certainly not there, as you can only get a static image of 1080x1080.. but that is NOT the point of LYTRO.. The point of it is to "tell a story in a different way". Once you get over that and actually think in the way Lytro enables you too, the fact that the images can be shared only through Lytro's website (which you get access to, and storage on, when you get the camera), as well as the "insufficient" megapixels, and noticeable grain in the images when lighting is not perfect... that all dissolves when you adjust your thinking - but only then. It's really not even about the initial "wow" effect of the abilities of the camera.. it's more about the "image revolution" that this device may create in the photography world.
I am actually learning about photography and becoming more interested in it because of this camera.
Being able to take part in few Beta evaluations for Lytro was quite an experience as well.. and simply keeps showing me that comparing it to, or attempting to replace a current camera with this one, is not the goal here.. Which seems to confuse a lot of users who were considering or even ordered the camera and then decided to return it due to image quality or just not meeting their expectations...
Also realize you HAVE to have a MAC with certain level of OS or a Windows7 64bit PC to use the software. The memory is not expandable, the battery not replaceable... cannot attach filters and lenses "as is". There are more and more accessories, like a tripod mount, wall charger, people have made "LED lights" for it... so the market "around it" is growing.
So make sure and look through Lytro's web site - support forums, knowledge articles, how tos, galleries, whether Lytro is right for you! But, if you decide you want to try it, you will probably not be disappointed. If however the photo size and the quality are huge for you - hold off till the future hardware releases - in case they do manage to put a larger CCD in there and add other hardware improvements.
Definitely DO NOT buy it blindly only reading the Amazon description and specs.. that will not give you the full picture of what you are getting and may skewed your expectations big time!
Oh, and if you get it, prepare for a relatively high learning curve.. that goes for the way of thinking even more than the actual skill to use the camera in a "technical" sense of the world... although, that is a part of it too ;)
I hope this review is helpful to you, and that if you do get the camera - you will enjoy it!
Happy decision making and have fun if you get it!
on November 17, 2012
I really wanted to rate the Lytro camera highly based on how neat and innovative the idea behind it is, but in the end I just can't figure out how this camera is something other than a novelty. This camera is essentially a cute 3D-Instagram-camera, and it can post nifty 3D photos to Facebook, and that's about it. However, the product is still in development so it at least looks promising that future software updates could do a lot to improve the experience. It is clear that the camera captures much more information in the 3D-lightfield than the current software setup is capable of processing or making use of.
The Lytro camera captures 3D light information, and this 3D-image is processed by using computationally intensive software (it takes several minutes per photo), generating a "living picture" in which you can refocus the image at will on your computer. The final image is only 1080x1080 pixels. Your images also must be viewed in either a web-browser or in the included software through a smallish 500x500 pixel window. The desktop software currently has no image editing capabilities other than rotate 90°, and does not have the ability to adjust white balance, contrast or brightness.
The software does include the ability to export a refocused image to JPG format, but the JPG compression leads to some blurring. The software currently lacks the ability to output to any other file format options. It is possible the developers will have future updates addressing this issue.
Another limitation that is noteworthy is that the fastest shutter speed is 1/250sec, which means that it can be difficult to get sharp photos by hand-holding the device.
In the end, I sent the camera back. I think it's a really innovative idea, but the software really isn't ready for the masses and the product doesn't yet have the right features that would make it worth the expensive price tag. I really wanted to like this product, and I tried to like it, but it's clearly not for me. Maybe I'll try again if they come out with a pro version.
on October 26, 2012
When I read about the Lytro its coolness factor made it a "must have" addition to my hobbiest photo bag. As another reviewer pointed out, when you point this red rectangle at subjects in public you attract attention. The non-photographers glaze over quickly -- it's often difficult to see the refocusing effect on the viewfinder, and they just don't get it. But I've also heard "you mean the light field camera exists? I thought it was just theory!" and "you've got one! Can I see it?"
The Lytro is not an easy camera to be successful with. Go skim the public gallery at [...] and be amazed at the depth-of-field tricks. Then try to duplicate those fantastic images. Keep trying. Try different subjects. As someone else said, you have to change your composition thought process for this camera. You have to look at everything, and look for contrasts. My impulse is to shoot rows of similar things -- a row of terra cotta warrior statues, a bush covered in flowers. But many of the more striking images are of contrast -- the thing in the foreground provides commentary on the surprising thing in the distance, once you refocus. That kind of composition is much harder. Also, what about the lighting conditions? When it's bright, the Lytro can capture everything in sharp focus at once -- at least that's my experience.
Originally in this review I had said that you can't export your images to a common, "flat" format. It turns out you can: In the desktop software (not on the Lytro web site), pick a focal point in an image, return to the library view, and right click to select Export JPG. Unfortunately, the resulting image is not very big -- about 3.5 x 3.5 inches at 300 dpi. You won't be able to make a big, beautiful print to frame. But it's suitable for social media and email.
So what's the problem? You're going to lose the lens cap. It's this totally cool magnetized rubber square that falls off at the slightest nudge. An A+ for sleek design. An F for utility. Check the support forums -- you'll see that so many early buyers complained of this, Lytro sent out free replacements. Lytro says they'll do a redesign, but we early buyers can try a piece of duct tape along the bottom edge of the cap folded onto the camera. Then it can flap down for shooting. Effective, if ugly. Or put a lens cap leash on it (and use some extra strong glue, because the stick-um comes detached from the rubber).
That negativity out of the way, I'll conclude that I love this thing for making me look at things differently. It's always with me, even when I leave the big Nikon behind.
on October 25, 2012
I have a Nikon D-90 that I never expected to replace my my Lytro. I also have an Olympus Z1 mirror-less SLR that I thought would be replaced by my Lytro, but not really.
After the fact focus is a nice feature and works perfectly, with kids at home, every now and then you miss that perfect photo because the camera auto focus feature selected the wrong spot and that is it, not only did you lose a few seconds before the photo, but by the time you realize the problem the kids are gone. With Lytro you can take pictures in less than a second and be confident you can fix the focus later.
Unfortunately, that is all the camera does. Even though Lytro claims the camera does not have a flash and can handle several light conditions, that is not true. The camera just takes extremely grainy pictures inside and if the subject moves a little, you'll probably have a blurry image.
For outdoors, the camera tends to work well, but of course, since you do not have a flash, you cannot compensate for light backgrounds, so the limits what you can do a little.
If that was all, I'd still be happy with the camera, knowing it is for outdoor use only. But there is more, you can only download the pictures to the Lytro software (which is reasonable since you still have to adjust the focus), but you have no editing capabilities on that software. But that is still not a huge issue since you'd still probably export the images after you set the focus to put them together with your photo library and share them in your TV or iPad.
And here is the major problem with Lytro, it exports a low resolution (1080x1080) JPEG with a lot of compression (each picture takes around 100k) which makes the photos pretty useless, you cannot print them, you cannot show them on your iPad, the most you can do is post them on facebook, but most cell phone photos will look better than yours. Add to that the fact that the Lytro program doesn't let you batch export the photos or batch delete them and you will have a lot of headaches.
The camera is well build (the display is too small) but the form factor does not make it nice to carry in your pocket for instance, and pretty much everyone has lost the magnetic lens cover at least once (but the very nice people for Lytro support have replaced them for free).
But I still use my Lytro a lot, because it is so simple. I'd give it four stars if the final resolution of the exported images were better and five stars if it had a flash (which does not seem to be an easy thing, since the camera does not focus on the image, it does not know the subject distance and therefore cannot set the flash intensity), but I'd still like to have a flash, even if I had to set the focus before shooting in that case.
on October 25, 2012
Light field cameras are the future of the camera. That is no question in my mind. Take photo first, focus later. You don't need to think. Just take photos. It is great!
1. You don't need to focus. Just think about the subject and layout, then shoot. Super easy.
2. No focus, so it is quick.
3. Great macro shots, very sharp.
4. Good picture quality for still subjects in bright sunny day.
5. Lytro desktop updates.
6. Camera firmware updates.
1. Picture size 1024x1024 is too small.
2. Poor high sensitivity performance. ISO 400 is super noisy.
3. Slow shutter speed: can't stop moving subject.
4. Low LCD quality: small size and low resolution. not so bright. difficult to see.
5. Zooming slider doesn't work well.
6. The size of light field it can capture is small. This is maybe a software issue.
7. Physical size is rather bulky.
8. No 3D output. Lytro desktop has no picture editing functions.
I love my Lytro. Light field cameras are the future of the camera! But this 1st-gen Lytro needs a lot of improvements. This Lytro is not for everybody. This is for people who love photography. This is for people who love to take creative photos.
on July 19, 2014
The light field or plenoptic camera is not a new idea, having first been proposed in 1908 by Gabriel Lippmann, however, the Lytro is the first consumer-grade offering. The main feature is its ability to focus after a photo is taken, which sounds like a gimmick, which it is. The first rule of photographic composition that everyone learns is to decide what your subject is, so the ability to change focus on different parts of the final image while viewing it doesn't really make sense. It's not as if Diane Arbus' iconic photo of the boy in Central Park with the hand grenade would be improved by changing the focus to the foliage behind him or the woman with the baby carriage in the upper right. Other cameras, like my first one, an Ansco Shur Shot from the late 1940s, solves the problem by having everything in focus from four feet to infinity. Because of their small sensors, many digital cameras have huge depth of field, and to obtain a shallow DOF, it's necessary to either shell out for a DSLR and telephoto lens, or artificially defocus the background in post-processing.
The idea isn't to take photos quickly without bothering to focus, then focusing them later - the Lytro is intended to encourage a different kind of photography with several potential points of interest in the same photo. The software also allows several interesting effects, for example, one called "crayon" that desaturates the portions of the image furthest from the selected focus point. However, the Lytro images can't be shared with anyone who doesn't have the necessary software, unless the images are posted to the Lytro website. Exporting an image "freezes" it in whatever configuration it is in at the time, and ends up reducing it to a plain, old one megapixel square.
Because the Lytro doesn't focus the image in camera, but rather collects data on the direction of the light entering it, it's able to produce images of subjects as close as the surface of the front lens, so it's great for macro shots. The zoom feature maintains the same fast 2.0 f-stop throughout its 8 power range, however, it's actuated by rubbing a strip, and at least on my unit, is frustratingly slow. Other controls, like shutter speed and ISO (aperture is fixed) are accessed through the touchscreen, like the camera on a cell phone, a frustrating setup for someone like me who bought a Canon G16 partly for its mechanical controls.
One thing I liked about my old Canon s90 was that it looked like a low-end point-and-shoot without hinting at its other capabilities, so it was less intimidating than a huge DSLR. The Lytro goes one better with its unusual form factor that to someone unfamiliar with it, doesn't look like a camera at all, but maybe a designer flashlight or some kind of instrument like a handheld geiger counter or helium leak tester. While this definitely establishes it as a different kind of camera, despite its small size, it's not as pocketable as a conventional cigarette-pack shaped point-and-shoot, as it is thicker than any comparable camera. The custom case is awful - it's so tight as to make removal of the camera challenging, and precludes use of the innovative magnetic lens cap. I found that a padded SLR lens case works much better. The lens cap itself has no provision for a string to attach it to the camera unless an unsightly one with adhesive pads on each end is used, although it's not difficult to palm or pocket it while taking photos.
When the Lytro came out a few years ago, it cost around $400, but I was able to pick up a refurbished one for $120. "Barely used" or "like new" ones are available on eBay for around $100, leading one to suspect that these are being sold by people who bought new ones, played around with them a few times, then sold them after realizing that they weren't going be taking advantage of the Lytro's unique features. This reception casts doubt on the viability of the market for Lytro's new "Illum," aimed at a "professional" audience. For $1500, you can get a pretty decent DSLR with a few lenses, so I'm skeptical if many people are going to spend that much on a fixed-lens camera, regardless of its light field capabilities or other features. Also, the Illum retains the original Lytro's touchscreen controls, which means no professional will consider it a "real" camera. The reason people pay four times more for a Nikon 800 than a Nikon 3200 isn't because the picture quality is four times better - it isn't - but because the 800 has manual controls for more functions. This saves time since you can turn a knob to make changes instantly instead of having to root through a menu. None of this really applies to the Lytro - unless you're using it to take snapshots without having to worry about focusing, the capability of having multiple points of interest in a composition means that the photographer will be taking as much time as he needs to set up his shot. In this way, the Lytro is more like a view camera than a DSLR.
The Lytro isn't even a true light field camera, which would have the capability of capturing a true 3-D image of a subject from all angles, Maybe future software will include the ability to stitch multiple images that would allow this. Nevertheless, the Lytro company gets credit for coming out with a unique and interesting camera that allows a different approach to photography.
on April 17, 2015
This camera is a Light Field Camera, if you don't know what that means then you probably don't want it. Research it first at www.lytro.com first.
That being said I ordered this camera a couple days ago because I've been curious about Light Field Cameras for awhile and Amazon had it at an amazing price. I got it last night and so far I've been a little bit frustrated by it. So, to save you some frustration here is what I ended up doing:
1. Plug it in and forget about for about it overnight. It was 4 hours before it even started to register a charge.
2. Do NOT install the software that comes on the camera
3. Go to www.lytro.com, scroll to the bottom of the page to the gray box and click on Support.
4. In the search box type in "need to download 3.1.1"
The first item under Knowledge Base should be "Lytro Desktop - Need to download 3.1.1?"
Click on it.
5. Select and download the either Windows or Mac software (whichever you use)
6. Install the 3.1.1 Lytro Software on your computer. DO NOT skip ahead to the Desktop 4 software.
7. After you've installed the 3.1.1 software connect the camera to the computer and start the Lytro Desktop software.
8. The software will (I hope) recognize your camera and should inform you that there is a firmware update.
9. Install the firmware
10 After you have installed the firmware update you may install the Lytro Desktop 4 software if you want.
Lytro Desktop 4 would not recognize my camera or the photos taken with it because it needed a firmware update. The software that came with the camera would not do a firmware update. So after installing and uninstalling software and then chasing around Lytro's Support site for about an hour this morning I was able to update the camera's firmware using Lytro Desktop 3.1.1 and then update the Desktop software to 4.
As for a review of the actual Light Field Camera I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but I thought I'd post this in case someone else has the same frustrations as I did and doesn't think to check Lytro's support site.
If you're looking for a point and shoot camera and not a Light Field Camera I love my Nikon COOLPIX P530. As soon
on March 30, 2015
After reading about this camera for years, I was elated when, a year ago, I was able to purchase a new camera (engraved with my name!) in Sea Foam Green, with power supply, for what seemed like a good price.
Using it, I found it to an extremely limited-use "techno-toy". The images are relatively low resolution. The "infinite focus" is actually about four or five zones, even with images composed to take advantage of the Light Field photo system.
And, one can only "display" the photos on your own computer, on the Lytro site, or on Facebook -- that's it. So much for sharing the "Joy of Light Field Photography".
So, unlike my professional cameras I use for my work every day, this camera hasn't gotten much use.
I had an idea that I wanted to try out with it today, and found that the battery was down. So, I plugged it into the Rapid Charger -- and now, five hours later, it's a dead battery. I've had it plugged into a USB port for three hours -- still has "0% Charge".
So, I looks like I now have a Sea Foam Green, $200 paperweight. Good luck if you're thinking of buying their "professional" camera.
on April 25, 2015
I love the function and results of this camera. Amazing photos. However, it has a fatal flaw. The camera is useless without the Lytro software and the Lytro software is useless without the camera. Highly proprietary with little support from the open source community or otherwise. It didn't take me long to have problems with firmware/software issues. Right now, I can't access any new photos on the camera because the software doesn't sense that it is connected to my computer. Also, the software will not install on 32 bit systems or iPad 2 or less. When it all works, it's brilliant.
on November 9, 2012
Bought this camera but then returned after a few days. I was attracted to the camera by the reviews and the galleries on its website. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make the camera do the wonder it said it would. It could totally be me --- being busy and impatient and so on. Nevertheless, Lytro is far from being "aim-shoot-and-wow". For example, I could only get multiple focus effect if the objects were sufficiently far apart AND at least one of the them was fairly close (less than 3 feet away). Even the best Lytro pictures, they lack of the clarify (resolution), contrast, color saturation that I expect from mainstream aim-and-shoot cameras. And the image quality deteriorates fast when lighting condition is subpar. For example, a picture taken in a cloudy afternoon in a sunroom turned out very grainy. All in all, I may not talk people out of buying if they are interested in new toys. But I won't recommend it to friends who are looking for a every-day camera (with a spark)