There’s a new toy on sale now that’s had gadget nerds going crazy for the past few months.
It’s called the Lytro; it’s a very expensive digital camera that lets you refocus images after you take them. You can also post photos using Lytro’s software and let people play around with them afterwards.
The photos look like this:
Click around and you can change the focus. It’s pretty neat.
You can check out a bunch of other Lytro images here >
There’s a lot of fancy tech behind the Lytro, but I won’t go into what makes it tick. What’s important are the results and how easy (or hard) it is to use.
Lytro didn’t send me a camera to review, so here’s what some other reviewers are saying:
- Walt Mossberg, All Things D: “But the main drawback to the Lytro I discovered is that it takes a while to learn how to spot and frame pictures that show off the camera’s refocusing abilities.”
- The New York Times: “The effect makes photography almost like cinematography, revealing things vividly in the foreground and background. Refocusing a Lytro image, I felt like one of those C.I.A. agents in the movies who is looking at satellite images and asks some technician to “enhance” the picture until Carlos the Jackal comes into focus.”
- The Verge on why the Lytro only works well in optimal lighting conditions: “Lighting quickly reaches a point where the focusing effect doesn’t work that well either, and photos are so noisy as to be unusable even at small sizes.”
- Mashable: “You also should have a sense of what this camera is for. This is not a camera for pros or science nerds interested in mining light fields. This is primarily a camera for casual photographers — people who probably take most of their pictures on a mobile phone or a Flip camera. It’s simple to use, and the photos are clearly crafted for sharing.”
I can’t imagine a situation where someone would choose the Lytro over a traditional point-and-shoot or smartphone camera. It seems more like a cool feature that should be a part of a “normal” camera, not an extra gizmo.
Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad if the Lytro wasn’t so expensive. You’ll have to pay a whopping $399 for the 8 GB (holds about 350 photos) model and $499 for the 16 GB (holds about 750 photos) model. That’s a lot to pay for a one-trick pony. Based on what I’ve read about the Lytro, it’s not the optimal replacement for your regular digital camera or DSLR.
You’re also stuck using Lytro’s software and web plug-in to share photos. That’s pretty limiting.
Yes, the Lytro is an impressive bit of technology. One day, I hope to see it squeezed into a smartphone or DSLR. But right now, it’s just an expensive and gimmicky companion for your normal point-and-shoot.