Last summer, the new Lytro light field camera was announced and the prototype demoed. (I’m not going to explain light field photography. Read about it at the website.) In October, the company started taking pre-orders. They started shipping the 1st of the month, and mine arrived late last Friday. Was it worth the wait and the $399 price tag? I think it was. Is it perfect? No, but it will improve with time. Some are calling this a novelty, a one-trick pony that will fade away, but I don’t see it that way. I see it as something to set your creativity free. Can’t tell you how many great photo opps went by the wayside while I tried to make a fast call calculating f-stop and shutter speed, or waiting for the autofocus to focus in on my target. This camera will change that.
Is this camera for everyone? Of course not. But, consider the new parents who want a shot of baby’s first whatever. Grab the camera, tap the power-on or shutter button, then frame it and shoot. Don’t worry about focus. You’ll do that later in the computer. How many photos have you taken, only to find later that there’s someone or something else in the background (out of focus, of course) that would have been a priceless shot. With the Lytro, no problem. Refocus all you like.
Photos, once you’ve set the focal point, can be exported to jpeg format. Be aware that you will only have 1080 x 1080 pixels at 72 dpi, so you won’t have any poster size photos. Give it time, folks. You’ll have it eventually. Besides, today most photos never see print. They’re posted on websites or Facebook, emailed to family and friends, and most are viewed by passing around a smart phone or tablet. If you are showing off your photos on an iPad or iPhone, don’t worry about exporting to jpeg. Accessing them from your Lytro account on an iPad is a breeze, and the results are gorgeous.
I haven’t had much time to play with my Lytro, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to start from scratch and put aside most of the things I’ve learned over the years. I can go back to the days when I used a simple box camera and gave all my thought to content and composition. I’m starting to think in terms of framing for multiple focal points.
Here are a couple of examples of live photos. (Sorry that they are linked and not embedded in this post. Can’t get embedding to work at the moment. Not sure if it’s my browser or something I’m doing wrong, although it works with my Blogger account.)
Here are exported jpeg files with different focal points, along with the stats for this photo.
Thoughts on the camera and software — the camera is heavier than I expected, but comfortable to hold and very well balanced. Some have complained about the shape and size, that it should be more like a DSLR. It’s nothing like a DSLR, so get over it. The controls are simple and easy to use. The view screen is miserable to use in bright sunlight, but no worse that any digital point & shoot. The actual downloading of photos from camera to computer is fairly fast, but it takes about 20 seconds per photo for the software to process each frame once downloaded. You start with gray thumbnails, that turn to full color as each photo is processed.
If you enjoy posting photos on your Facebook page, it can be done at the same time you are posting to your Lytro account. Photos that you wish to share later — well, Safari on my iMac doesn’t seem to want to cooperate, but Safari on my iPad has had no problems. I’m still sorting this stuff out, so expect me to write more about it in the future.
If you want to see a Lytro up close, I’ll have it at the MacGroup meeting this coming Sunday. Come see me at the Genius Table.