Lytro Camera Is Now Here and Not What I Expected.
by Peter Zack
Some time ago, I posted about this new technology. The Lytro Camera. It certainly seemed very interesting and I posted some conjecture that it was a trick of software. Well now we can see for ourselves. It’s now available to buy and shipping in January 2012. See company web site below.
First impression is, wow this thing is small. How they pack this interesting evolution in cameras in such a small unit is impressive. Second thought was, I do hope this is available in some sort of SLR. They are clearly directing this toward the P&S shooter at this time. They comment a few times, about “Shutter Lag” claiming that it’s an issue of auto focus lag, which of course it isn’t. Focus lag (or focus time) certainly can slow your ability to get the shot you want but shutter lag is a P&S issue with the sensor turning on and off to capture the photo. Shutter lag isn’t an issue with a DSLR. Focus speed can be at times of course and add to the time it takes to capture the image.
On thing I very curious about is how do I create a shot that has a large DOF (depth of field)? It’s great that the user can choose what’s in focus but all the samples demonstrate this limited focus feature. Narrow DOF shoots are great but if I want to print the family shot taken at the annual summer gathering and I can only focus on one person, then the shot is pretty much useless for prints. We can only assume that multiple focus points can be combined in the software to create the large DOF shot where everything (near and far) is in focus.
If this is available as a “DSLR styled” camera, with interchangeable lenses and the ability to add a flash, remote wireless triggers and other add-on accessories at some point, this will be the end on DSLR’s as we know them. A big consideration for putting this camera engine in a DSLR would be the ability to use removable storage media. I feel a big limit with this camera is it only has internal storage and you have to download the photos off the camera once it’s full via USB to your computer. So are you going to carry a netbook or other computer with you on vacation to keep the memory available for more photos? Most won’t like this limitation.
As it stands now, the camera has very few controls, a slider zoom on the top, a shutter button, USB connection port and a power switch. The rear LCD is a touch screen that allows some viewing of images but due to the small size, won’t be something you would want to use to really see your shots. One missing feature for many P&S shooters is they do not mention video. Can this thing shoot video clips? Seems no at this point.
There’s a lot we don’t know. Can we stop the lens down somehow? What about close up (macro) shooting? How is this in low light is a big one. There are no specifications for ISO on their page. In fact if low light capture is processed in some new way or measured differently, they don’t mention a way to compare against today’s camera units. If you are taking pictures of the kids on Christmas morning with only the tree lights, will extra light be needed or a flash? It’s notable that no flash is built in. The web site is very sparse in details and that still makes me suspicious how good this camera is.
Another consideration is how these photos can be processed. Can Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom or the large number of Freeware programs edit these photos? They have a “3D” nature to them and I don’t know if it would be possible to edit them in conventional software. If all you can do is edit in their own software, then this camera will be fairly limited to the higher end user. The video above doesn’t tell us much about what the software does. It only mentions that you can choose the subject that will be in focus. Maybe you do that, then save the shot to be edited in other types of software. Also note that the images are square unlike the conventional 2:3 ratio of today’s cameras.
Will this replace today’s DSLR’s? No not yet by a long shot (pardon the pun). Will it draw in the P&S shooter, most certainly for some. If this gets broad acceptance and they develop or partner (I hope) with a DSLR/MILC maker who already has the accessories and lenses, then this could turn the camera market completely on it’s head. Imagine this in Fuji’s new X10? Now that would be a cool camera.
Oh and a note to the DSLR makers, if you are thinking of getting in a partnership with these guys, the one that does (all this assumes that this camera engine is everything they claim), will own the DSLR/MILC market. Until we understand the software and the other issues, much of where this will go is still speculation.
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Tags: Lytro camera, New Camera, News Lytro, Photography