Lytro Camera: Why You Should Wait For v2.0

According to the company's website, the Lytro camera has a light field sensor that captures 11 million light rays. This basically means that it captures all light traveling in every direction. Sophisticated software then allows you to do all sorts of things with the photos as a result. You can change the perspective, refocus, and supposedly even switch between 2D to 3D.

Even to a non-scientist like me, this technology is pretty amazing. But advertised as a simple point-and-shoot with additional refocusing capabilities, this camera comes up short.

Minimalistic Design
Depending on your preference, you can either consider the Lytro's design as sleek and stylish or bare-bones and plain. 

With the Lytro, it almost looks like you're pointing a flashlight. But hey, maybe that's a good thing if you're trying to take photos incognito. It's definitely small enough to fit in your pocket and even hide in your hand.

Unfortunately, its small size doesn't make the screen easy to see. The screen resolution is only 128x128, not to mention that it washes out if you're not looking at it straight on. Very often you have to guess that you've composed the picture correctly and confirm it later when you download it.

The lens cap also only attaches with only a magnet so it's not very secure. It often falls off in the camera bag (Kelvin's pet peeve). Worse is if the cap falls off outside the bag without your knowledge and it's gone for good.

The Lytro has an Everyday mode and a Creative mode. With the Everyday mode, you can pretty much point and shoot, and you can zoom up to 3.5x. Creative mode gives you slightly more flexibility. Zoom goes up to 8x. You can also take macro shots with a shallower depth of field.

If you're a professional photographer, you may feel limited in the Lytro's lack of functionality. But that's the point, right? You can concentrate on composing your photos and worry about the correct focus later. Of course, that goes against the grain of many pros who want the perfect shot with the camera, not a perfect shot after a lot of post-processing.

Of course, the simple design and limited functions means this camera is easy to use. Like I said already, point and shoot. The speed is pretty fast--not like a DSLR, of course--but probably as fast or faster than most point-and-shoots and definitely faster than a smartphone camera.

Image Quality
None of the advantages means beans if the picture quality is poor. The Lytro shoots pictures with 1080x1080 resolution, good enough for 5x7 prints, according to Engadget. Photos look pretty decent if the shots are well-lit and you have layers of focus. But don't try to take landscape shots with this camera; you won't get much detail in them other than noise.

The camera saves pictures in "Light field picture" file, or .lfp. Lytro's accompanying software lets you perform some basic editing, which really only involves clicking on different parts of the picture to change the focus.

The software also has social media sharing capabilities, but the pictures will upload as .lfp if you upload through the software. If you want your regular .jpg file, right click on the photos.

In General
This camera looks cool, so if you want something new and hip to take pictures with, and the $399 price tag is not a budget buster, then have at it. But if you want more functionality with better quality photos, get a DSLR. If you want better quality photos at a cheaper price, get a regular point-and-shoot. It's not hard to vote against the Lytro camera in its current form. The potential of the technology is nothing short of amazing, but until we can get more functionality out of it, then the technology is only going to sound good on paper.

Here are some of the pictures taken by our own Lytro camera. Click on different parts of the picture to change the focus. Interactive and fun!

By: Elaine Yue |

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