Lytro Announces Illum with 1-inch Sensor

Lytro Illum front

We generally are not Lytro fans, but Lytro are still at it, and the new version does look impressive, but I still have some reservations, especially one which I will come to in a bit. The new Illum is a far more conventional affair, looking more like a camera than the hard-to-handle tube form factor of the first camera. It also has more impressive specifications, with a 1″ sensor with a 30-250mm equivalent f/2 lens. The LCD screen now is a proper one: 4″ diagonal size with 800×480 resolution, and it tilts too! Full manual controls will be available. There is even a hotshoe with TTL contacts, though no word on what flashes it will be compatible with. Those specifications alone make it interesting, regardless of the light field sensor.

Lytro Illum rear

That of course, remains the problem. Never mind if the gimmick is useful or not: This likely means a resolution of around 1 megapixel, assuming a sensor as dense as that of the Nokia 808 is used. While the 1″ sensor will mean a marked improvement over the tiny affair used in the first camera and was clearly overworked to implement the light field technology, I am not sure if this will be adopted, which leads to my other reservation, the price.

The Illum is set to go on sale in July for US$1,600. $1,600! You can buy a 35mm sensor DSLR. You can buy a competent and complete mirrorless system. Given that choice, I am certain all but the most curious will adopt this camera. Let us see if I am wrong come July.

CK: I wrote about my thoughts on the earlier Lytro on my own blog some time ago. Back then, it was a rather gimmicky affair, and from what I’ve seen around the net, the Lytro didn’t really take off. The new version does look interesting, with a much larger sensor and a more conventional form factor and all, but it remains to be seen if there are enough people who can be bothered with (re)selecting focus points on all the photos they take. At least the larger sensor means that the differences in the focus areas will be much more noticeable than in the older Lytro.

I’ve also got reservations about the asking price. Lytro doesn’t list megapixels so we don’t know how this will compare to the contemporary cameras having 16-24 megapixels. If the earlier Lytro is anything to go by, it might end up being a rather low resolution affair, never mind all the benefits a light field camera can potentially bring. Yes, I am skeptical about it and would love to be proven wrong. Let’s all wait and see.

David: I think it’s great there’s some brand new re-thinking of the concept of camera and photography as a whole, though as an old school photographer in so many ways, I personally wouldn’t dabble with Lytro’s light field concept. BUT, this company deserves a pat on the back for daring to try new things, first introducing the light field photography concept, and secondly, taking the original design and revamping it, improving every single aspect from sensor size, to handling, to adding new useful and marketable features like a constant f2 long zoom, while keeping the gestalt of the Lytro light field photography concept. That alone warrants the admittedly high asking price, I have to admit. I wonder though if the camera can be used conventionally – that 1″ sensor combined with a constant f2 zoom lens might have some possibilities, price not withstanding.

YS: Hey, you are happy with overpriced cameras anyway, right?

David: Price is different from value, and if the value can be justified then price becomes much less of a concern. But I think that’s an interesting topic for another time!

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