Lytro's Light Field Cam Gets a Sequel: the $1600 Illum

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Mo' megarays, mo' money.

Back in 2012, a company called Lytro released one of the first consumer-ready light field cameras. The original Lytro camera, a project which began as a Ph.D. thesis by the company's founder Ren Ng while he was at Stanford, let users snap a photo with one unique trait: you could move the point of focus after you took your shot.

While we had serious reservations about the original Lytro camera, the company is now back with a new, improved, and more expensive sequel: the Illum. With an entirely new body style, a massive lens, and what the company claims is "tablet-level computational power" the Lytro Illum looks to shake up the photography world once again.

Like the original Lytro light field camera, the Illum uses a standard image sensor with a sheet of microlenses placed over it. Using advanced mathematics the sensor can capture not just the intensity of the incoming light (like traditional cameras) but the angle of the incoming ray. This lets the camera record an entire scene, including the angle of incoming light, opening up new kinds of photography. The most obvious benefit is the fact that an entire light field can be reconstructed, allowing you to refocus an image or even provide a small amount of 3D parallax.

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The Lytro Illum has a larger 8x zoom lens and, as a result, opts for a more traditional body design to give you better control.

You can see the images for yourself here. The new Illum's most significant improvement is simply raw resolution. The Illum uses a 1-inch CMOS image sensor capable of capturing 40 megarays, outputting larger images than the original Lytro.

A close second to the new sensor is an improved lens, with an 8x optical zoom range (30-250mm 35mm equivalent) and an f/2.0 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range. The camera also comes with a 4-inch, 480x800 pixel touchscreen LCD and the ability to display various areas of the frame in different colors, letting you know exactly which points in the scene you'll be able to refocus on later.

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The Lytro Illum uses a 4-inch touchscreen as the primary point of control, letting you view your shots after you've taken them.

The body itself resembles something like a high-end mirrorless camera like Sony's NEX-7 or the Samsung NX300, except that the lens is fixed and the number of controls is severely pared down. While we haven't gotten any hands-on time with the new Lytro camera just yet, the initial reports suggest that the user experience is simple, as it was with the original Lytro light field camera.

Also like the original, actually displaying these photos requires the use of the Lytro app on a tablet or computer. You can also upload them to Lytro.com, where they can be stored subject to Lytro's terms of use. We imagine you'll still be able to print off stills made form light field images using Lytro's software, but it's unclear what kind of output resolution will be available.

The Lytro Illum will hit retail in July for $1,599, though those pre-ordering the camera prior to July 15th can get it for just $1,499 with an extended two-year warranty. Lytro's release also promises "ground-floor insight and training from the Lytro team" for those early adopters, as well as the opportunity to earn a spot on an all-expenses paid photo shoot later on.