Lytro finally shows off and launches its light field camera

Lytro 1 Lytro finally shows off and launches its light field camera

The first pictures taken using Lytro's light field technology appeared on the web a few months back and stirred up quite a lot of interest in what kind of camera the company could be working on, as it all seemed a little bit too good to be true and there weren't a whole lot of details to go on. Now the company has finally launched its first product which is simply called the Lytro light field camera and it doesn't look like any camera we've ever seen before.

The first pictures taken using Lytro's light field technology appeared on the web a few months back and stirred up quite a lot of interest in what kind of camera the company could be working on, as it all seemed a little bit too good to be true and there weren't a whole lot of details to go on. Now the company has finally launched its first product which is simply called the Lytro light field camera and it doesn't look like any camera we've ever seen before.

If anything, the Lytro light field camera looks a bit like a CCTV camera in terms of design, albeit like a smaller designer version. The rectangular body houses a lens at the front and a comparatively tiny 1.46-inch glass covered LCD touch screen at the back. It only has two buttons, power and shutter, as well as a small touch sensitive surface on the top which is used for zooming with the lens. There's also a micro USB 2.0 port hidden under a flap at the bottom. There's a built-in rechargeable battery, but there's no mention as to how many pictures it's good for. One very questionable design decision from Lytro is the fact that the company decided to go with built in memory and as such you get to make do with either 8 or 16GB of storage space.

Lytro 1 Lytro finally shows off and launches its light field camera

The lens sports 8x optical zoom and appears to have 10 or 11 lens elements. The f/2 aperture is constant across the entire zoom range which is photographically an impressive feature, but it also helps explain why the camera is 112mm long, although it only measures 41mm square. Behind the lens is the light field sensor which sports ”11Megarays” as the company calls it, although they don't seem to be too keen to say what this compares to in traditional Megapixles. It's pretty clear that the Lytro camera doesn't shoot super high resolution pictures, as in various videos from the launch event company representatives are talking HD video resolution and images with sides of 1080 pixels. It's possible that this is a limitation of the technology at the moment and it's also worth noting that the camera takes square pictures.

Lytro 2 Lytro finally shows off and launches its light field camera

Despite the peculiar camera design and somewhat disappointing specifications, the technology behind the pictures you take is mind blowing. Not only can you re-focus and zoom your pictures after taking them, but you can even adjust the parallax of the images, something that has never been possible to do before. On top of that all the pictures you take with the Lytro camera are 3D compatible and the company even claims that the pictures will be compatible with future display technology such as holographic displays if they're ever made. As such quite a lot of data is saved per image, the company recons each image is about 16MB in size, similar to RAW images out of high-end digital cameras or DSLRs. What isn't so great, at least in its current state, is that you can't seem to get the entire image in focus the way you can by stopping down a traditional camera lens, but hopefully this is something that will be added in the future.

Lytro 3 Lytro finally shows off and launches its light field camera

The bad news is that currently the Lytro camera only comes with software for Mac, although the company has promised to deliver Windows software sometime next year. On top of that all images are saved in a proprietary lfp file format and it doesn't appear to be possible to export the images to standard formats if you'd want to. This makes it impossible to edit the images and it also makes them fairly useless for any kind of professional use. That said, Lytro seems to be targeting the consumer market with its first camera as the company is offering a free, unlimited image hosting service that will allow the pictures to be shared to various other services such as Facebook or Twitter. It should also be pointed out that the company is only talking about online sharing of the pictures and there really seems to be little else you can do with them. This is again disappointing considering the otherwise impressive technology.

With so many pros and cons you'll have to be a true gadget lover or an experimental photographer to invest in one of Lytro's cameras, as they don't come cheap. The 8GB models will be available in electric blue and graphite for US$399 (S$509) whit the 16GB red hot model will be going for US$499 (S$639). We don't want to be overly pessimistic here, as we haven't actually played with one of the cameras, but it feels like Lytro has created a camera with very limited appeal despite its obvious technological advantages over a traditional digital camera.

Source: Lytro, for some more examples of Lytro's images, please check out their image gallery

VR-Zone is a leading online technology news publication reporting on bleeding edge trends in PC and mobile gadgets, with in-depth reviews and commentaries.