Lytro plenoptic camera gets new features, wider availability


posted Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 8:00 PM EDT


There's a pretty impressive "Wow!" factor to the Lytro light field camera's ability to refocus images after capture. If you've played with an image from a Lytro--the world's first plenoptic cameras aimed at consumers--you'll doubtless agree. Lytro also has a bright fixed-aperture zoom lens, and can create a depth map from the captured image which lets it provide a limited 3D effect, as demonstrated on the company's blog. And without the need to focus, by all accounts it's pretty speedy.

In other areas, though, the Lytro light field camera has lagged even many entry-level consumer cameras. Beyond its hardware limitations--low 1.2 megapixel resolution; tiny, low-res LCD monitor; limited ergonomics--the Lytro has until now lacked basic features we take for granted on many cameras. Manual control over shutter speed and ISO sensitivity weren't available, and you couldn't even lock the exposure before reframing your scene.


You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but the reverse, it seems, isn't true. A firmware update from Lytro provides accesses to those old-school tricks that have until now been missing.


You can set either the shutter speed or ISO sensitivity manually, or dial both in at once if you like. You can lock exposure and reframe. You can even manually control the Lytro's neutral density filter, so long as you're controlling both shutter speed and ISO sensitivity. (Aperture is fixed, remember.) And if you do control both variables, the Lytro camera will also give you an exposure level indication to tell you if it thinks your exposure is in the ballpark.

Of course, the fundamental hardware limitations should apply, but regardless, the changes above will go some way to helping the Lytro fulfil its promise as a creative tool. But counterbalancing that, it still has the refocusing "Wow!" factor gunning for it.

Alongside the new firmware, Lytro has also made its light field camera more widely available, placing it in US retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, and Target. The latter will also get a special color unique to its stores: "Moxie Pink".


And for Lytro's own store--until now the only place to get your camera--there's another new color, "Seaglass". Some customers overseas should also start finding the Lytro at retail soon, as the camera will be available in Canada (Future Shop), Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore from mid-October. And with the camera being easier to get, Lytro is also offering two new accessories: a camera case, and a camera sleeve. Both are made from coated canvas with a microfiber lining.

Pricing for the Lytro camera is around US$400, while the camera case is US$60, and the sleeve is US$30.