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Lytro Light Field Camera Digital Camera Review$399.00
Lens & Sensor
The Lytro has an impressive lens. It's entirely internal—it doesn't extend out of the body at all. The aperture is fixed at a bright f/2 throughout the 8x optical zoom range. (The zoom range is limited to about 3.5x in standard mode, but extends to a full 8x in Creative Mode.) It starts with a pretty narrow field of view—43mm equivalent, though that helps it stretch out at the telephoto end.
Lytro doesn't readily provide information about the sensor in their camera, but they told us that it's a 1/2.3-inch chip—a regular ol' point-and-shoot sensor. Rather than megapixels, they measure its resolution capabilities in "megarays" (11 of them in this case), referencing the number of light rays that it can record.
More important that the sensor is the microlens array. It sits in front of the sensor and helps to record the direction that light is traveling in, rather than just the color and intensity of the light, like most cameras do. This extra layer of information is the secret sauce that allows the Lytro and its Light Field Engine to focus and refocus shots after they've been captured.
It's obviously much more complicated than we can describe here, but Lytro goes into more detail on their website. If you're really ambitious, you can check out Lytro founder Ren Ng's dissertation on light field photography.
Arguably the weakest aspect of its design, the Lytro has a tiny 1.46-inch square LCD. The viewing angles are shallow and it washes out in moderate sunlight. Sometimes, you'll just be shooting blind. It's a touchscreen, too—more responsive than most camera touchscreens, but it's way too small to comfortably support a touch interface.
The Lytro does not have a flash, and does not support add-on flashes. We never ran into any instances where we wish we had one, probably because the f/2 lens is bright enough to work in most reasonable lighting situations.
A micro-USB port is the Lytro's lone connection to the outside world. It's the transfer point as well as the charging down.