May 092012
 

The Lytro Light Field Camera  - It’s slick, it’s fun and it’s a $400 toy!

So I just received my very own Lytro light field camera today! A few months ago when this crazy tube like camera was announced I pre-ordered one immediately as I am a sucker for new technology and the whole Lytro story sounded so cool.  I mean, this camera/gizmo had gotten so much press it went viral and everyone was raving how this WAS the future! Yep, the future of photography as we know it…being able to focus your shot AFTER you take it. Wow, think of the possibilities.

No more needing to focus at all because the sensor records it ALL. After you shoot the image you can easily set your focus point and like magic, the image changes before your eyes.

But I did not realize the limitations this thing would have with only 1 megapixel of resolution, the need to use proprietary software to properly view the images, and the not so hot low light performance. It appeared my phone would take better images so why would I plop down $400 for one of these? It all seemed so gimmicky and toy like.

So after reading more about it and how it was pretty much just a gimmick I decided to cancel my pre-order. Only problem is, I ended up getting so busy with life in general that I forgot to cancel! So about 10 minutes before I was set to leave for my Berlin trip the big brown UPS truck  shows up at the door with a box and when I opened it up, what was inside? An electric blue 8GB Lytro light field camera! Yep, my bank account was debited $427 for this thing and now I had it. What to do?

I had to open it up and try it..I do write a camera review blog after all.

I decided to go ahead and try it out because how could I resist? The apple like box and packaging looked so tempting so I packed it into my carry on bag and took it with me on the trip. I figured..why not document my journey with this little guy and hope for the best? Lol..of course I also brought along some real cameras :)

You can mess with the focus point of any of these Lytro images, which are hosted at lytro.com

This is a cool ass gadget, but not worth $400

The price you pay for new technology. This very 1st Lytro camera is simple, basic, and the build and feel of this  thing is quality. Like I said before, it feels very “Apple” in the way it was designed, packaged and even the “designed in California” print on the box and the camera itself. But how is the little camera in use?

Well, the good news is that is that it is FAST. Powers up almost instantaneously when pressing the power button on the bottom of the camera. When you press the embedded shutter button the camera makes a quiet click and snaps the shot. The super low quality LCD on the back is pretty bad quality. Move away from center and forget it, you can’t see it. When you do see what is on the screen the quality is really low.

When playing back images you do so via touch. Swipe to scroll, etc. Much like the iPhone.

To play back the images you hook up the camera to your USB port on you MAC (not yet compatible with Windows) and the camera will install the Lytro software you your machine the 1st time you hook it up. After that is completed it will start to unload all of the images into the software, and it takes a while. Even 30 pictures can take many minutes. This is also how you charge the camera.

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The reasons why you should not buy one of these…

Well, at $400 it is about $300 overpriced. Yes, it is cool. Yes, it is a conversation starter. There will not even be  many who will have one. BUT… it is $400. You can buy quite a few cool things for $400. My iPhone takes better quality images than this Lytro which is basically a 1MP camera. A bare bones 1MP camera. No B&W, no color choices, no ISO choices. Nope, its only claim to fame is the design and the “focus after the fact” technology, which is a gimmick.

To view the images with the ability to change the focus requires you to upload  the images to Lytro servers so they can serve the image for your social media sharing. Basically, it is limited to Facebook or embedding in blogs. You can also share via twitter which send everyone to the Lytro site.

You CAN export to JPEG but you then lose the focus feature and what you have is a very low res, low quality JPEG. Back to the stone age of digital.

I have been having some fun with this Lytro today and if it came in at $99 I would keep it. $400 is just way too high for what you get. The refocus feature is cool at first, but gets tiring. I can see a future with this technology in real cameras once they can make larger higher resolution sensors that can actually give you good IQ but for this 1st version of the Lytro camera…ummm…NO.

Like I said, the design is cool and it is c conversation starter but the quality of the images is pretty bad. Forget detail or crispness. Forget high Dynamic Range. Forget decent color (unless you are in the perfect light) and forget about shooting things at a distance as they will be mush.

The only thing this camera is good for is taking close up shots or close up portraits for Facebook. Like I said, at $99 these would sell huge. At $400, I don’t think so.

So while I wished I would have canceled the order for this, I am glad I didn’t as I can now tell everyone the real deal about this device. Mine is going back and I already have my RA#.

A Lytro exported JPEG – click it for the FULL resolution file

Why you MIGHT want one of these

Well, some may enjoy this camera because it has cool and unique written all over it. It is small so you can slide it in your pocket (but you will lose the magnetic lens cap). It is quick to start and shoot so those who truly want to take a camera with you anywhere will enjoy something like this and if you do not like using y our phone to do so, you can look uber cool shooting the Lytro.

Girls may like it as well as it will fit in a purse and be ready. There are no menus, no difficulties, and it is the easiest thing in the world to use. Turn it on, aim it… and press the shutter. Easy squeezy. If you are a Facebook person, this could be cool to use as well as Lytro makes it easy to share on Facebook (not from the device though, must be done from your computer)

Finally, you might like it if you know NOTHING about photography and could care less about quality. :)

Pros

  • cool design and great build quality
  • cool colors
  • Fast operation, touch screen works well
  • Fast shot to shot time and no focusing required
  • Fast f/2 lens built-in, and its a zoom
  • Built in memory makes it easy, no cards

Cons

  • Bad image quality, reminds me of the 1st Sony Mavica floppy disc 1MP cameras, maybe worse
  • Poor Dynamic Range
  • Very noisy in low light
  • Must use Lytro.com to upload your images if you want to share with focus features
  • Battery last for about 200-250 shots
  • Takes a long time to unload the camera to your drive via USB
  • PRICE IS WAY HIGH!
  • No detail in images
  • Color quality of the images lack
  • Only 1 Megapixel quality
  • Mac only, no windows support

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Nov 292011
 

The LYTRO Camera, 11 megarays of fun – What are YOUR thoughts?

So this little Lytro camera is now available to pre-order on Lytro.com. This square tube like device made big news a few months back mainly for its ability to take a picture and give you the ability to focus your shot AFTER you take it. It was getting all kinds of press..big press. It was hailed as the next big thing and the future of photography, and it very well may be… one day. This little device can be taken with you everywhere. Aim and shoot. No shutter, no lag, no AF to wait for. Just aim it like a gun and fire away. Sounds like the perfect snapshot camera doesn’t it?

After you shoot and when you get home to check out your images you download what you shot to your mac (not available for windows at this time) and using the software provided you can change your focus point and even create shallow depth of field. It’s a crazy concept but one that has been around for a long time. It’s just that now it is available in your pocket.

The cameras are not cheap so to those who were complaining that the Nikon V1 was expensive at $850 better steer clear, lol. The little Lytro 8GB (hold 350 images) will run you $399 plus shipping. So $409 for a little cylinder that will give you square format low res images. If it was not for its ability to refocus your shot, this thing would be dead in the water. The main draw is this feature but is it something that is merely a gimmick? I think it kind of is, FOR NOW. BUT one day down the road if this technology makes it in to a more serious camera then maybe we will have something.

I am toying with the idea of ordering one in Electric Blue so I can review it. Lytro says it is shipping in April-May of 2012 so it will be a while it seems. From what I have seen so far, and the sample images it is sort of like a high tech toy but at the same time it is pretty hip and cool. A real camera? Naaa, but something for the select crowd who are obsessed with cool factor. I can see this thing being a huge hit at the Apple store.

When searching for details  all I can see is that it has 11 megarays of “light field resolution”, internal storage, and 8X optical zoom and a constant f/2 lens. All they say is that it produces “HD Living Pictures”.  When I browse their samples I see low res square images that you can refocus anywhere in the frame. Nothing blowing me away and it makes me as why I would pay $400 for this when I can slip a real camera in my pocket when I go out. When I take a shot with a real camera I CHOOSE the focus at the moment of the capture. Do I really need a device that lets me change that? One that gives me low res images? No, I do not but I admit it is pretty cool.

After thinking more about it just sitting here at my desk I do not think I will be ordering a Lytro as it is just not something I can see myself seriously using. Like I said though, this will be a hit with the hip crowd, the tech crowd who will soon get bored with it and yes, even the social networking crowd. I can see it now…It will be great for all of those teen girls taking 10 self portraits a day for their Facebook profile. They can focus on their face OR their cleavage, how convenient. :)

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