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Lytro lights up the camera market

The company's first pro light field camera and software platform offer new dimensions of creativity to professionals and photography enthusiasts alike.

gadgets Updated: Apr 23, 2014 17:34 IST

The company's first pro light field camera and software platform offer new dimensions of creativity to professionals and photography enthusiasts alike.

The Lytro Illum allows anyone with $1,599 to spare the ability to capture true "living" three-dimensional images that can be played with endlessly after they've been captured. Zoom can be adjusted, perspective tilted, depth of field and focus changed.

That might sound like a lot of money, especially when the same effects are now available on a host of top-end smartphones -- such as the Nokia Lumia 1020 for example -- but the difference is that those handsets use a bit of software trickery, whereas Lytro's products do it "for real" and Lytro is the company that brought the concept to the market in the first place with its first light field camera back in 2012 (a device that took 20 years to develop).

Unlike "normal" digital cameras, the sensor inside Lytro's devices captures the color, intensity and direction of every ray of light streaming into the camera. So while some companies talk about megapixels, Lytro talks about megarays -- 40 million to be precise.

Lytro Illum. Photo: AFP

The Illum also has an 8x optical zoom range, a constant f/2.0 aperture and a high-speed shutter. And once images have been snapped, the new supporting software platform will let users view the images in 3D as well as reshape them in every dimension and create animations. The platform also makes it simple to convert pictures into standard formats such as jpeg and to share living images with others. And, perhaps best of all, it is compatible with existing photo manipulation applications such as Adobe Photoshop.

"With Lytro Illum, creative pioneers -- ranging from artistic amateurs to experienced professionals -- will tap into a new wave of graphical storytelling. Now artist and audience alike can share an equally intimate connection with the imagery, and, in a sense, jointly participate in the magic of its creation," said Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal. "By combining a novel hardware array with tremendous computational horsepower, this camera opens up unprecedented possibilities to push the boundaries of creativity beyond the limits inherent in digital or film photography."

Rosenthal and company founder Dr. Ren Ng believe that the new camera -- which is incredibly light to carry (it weighs 940g) and intuitive to use, yet is as powerful as a DSLR or even a medium format camera -- could usher in another photographic revolution.

The camera goes on sale in July and while its price tag may put some consumers off, it shouldn't be viewed as a novelty device or a gadget but as a camera on a performance par with most mid-to-high spec DSLRs offered by Nikon or Canon, yet in a much smaller and package.

Lytro has already posted a gallery of living images to give consumers some idea of the camera's capabilities.