The Lytro Illum takes photos using a specially developed lens and sensor that essentially captures all focal lengths and multiple angles of a scene simultaneously, and lets the photographer recompose and refocus a photo after it’s been shot. It’s an incredible new technology, and essentially adds a whole new element to the post-processing creative possibilities of digital photography. With traditional digital photography, exposure, color balance, and light levels can be tweaked and edited after the photo has been taken. Now with the Lytro Illum, focus is added to the creative possibilities.
Shooting with the Illum
While the Illum was an interesting camera to shoot with, after snapping multi thousands of photos with it, and editing a countless number, I can say that it’s not really the best camera I’ve ever shot with. Sure, the perspective shift and focus shift features are really neat and enable more creative possibilities – but besides these neat tricks, the photos the camera makes is just not that great quality. When looking at just the flat photos it takes, I’m underwhelmed, and was constantly wishing I had my RX100m3 in my hand instead, to just take a great quality version of the same scene, even without the re-focusability. So I’m definitely a fan of the Lytro Illum for it’s extremely innovative new features and unlocking of new photographic realms. However, I don’t feel like these new capabilities really added anything substantial and long lasting to my photos, once the novelty of clicking around in the custom viewer wore off.
Holding the Illum
The Illum is a cool looking camera. It’s futuristic and sleep, representing an SLR from the far future. However, its actual physical functionality is extremely limited, compared with the functionality of a similarly sized and shaped standard DSLR camera, for example any Canon Digital SLR, from a Rebel on upwards. The buttons just weren’t as responsive as the could have been, the screen not as bright and clear as it could have been, and the touch screen interface is just not great. For in-the-field, from-the-hip shooting, you need to have your physical controls dialed in perfectly, easily adjustable, and to a point where there’s absolutely no time needing to be spent waiting or dealing with the interface. The Illum wasn’t there yet.
The Illum is an interesting proof of concept camera, and a valiant effort to make it appealing the pro photogs. It was fun shooting with it and learning the quirks – but I’m still looking forward to the next advance.