Lytro – A Look Back at the Illum

a look back at lytro… and a look forward at lytro… just… a look in general i guess…


If you can’t read that image;
It’s a screen-capture of an page showing the price of the Lytro Illum falling from $1563.02 on December 12, 2014 to $324.99 on September 18, 2016… a 79% drop in the price.

That’s sad… in about two years time, Lytro cameras went from being a new and possibly wonderful addition to the art world to becoming what is essentially a photography toy.

There doesn’t seem to be any one reason the Lytro Illum camera never seemed to burst onto the photography scene… People had software problems, the resolution ended up being minuscule, and price concerns were constant for most of the beginning days of the camera.

I picked out a couple of reviews that should make it clear the Lytro Illum was / is a niche camera more than anything else…

A number of reviewers have written about this camera’s shortcomings; low (4 MP) equivalent resolution, quirky desktop software, and the limited use case for this camera. All of these are, in fact, issues. At its original price of $1,600, I couldn’t justify buying it. But at $329, it seemed worth trying and I’m glad I bought it. I have only had it a few days and am still figuring out the best way to use its multi-focus technology, but I am very impressed with the underlying technology.


Another one…

The quality is s***


And to finish the reviews off… Picture size issues again…

This camera is great for what it is designed for and it has amazing looks to it, but I could never recommend it to a beginner looking for a step up from a point and shoot. There are just too many quirks and limitations to do so. Why:
– Maximum printing size of 5×7 (sure you can make a larger on, but not a good one according to the manual) as file sizes are limited to this when exporting. This is of no consequence really if you are only concerned about digital images, but some people might want a print larger than 5×7. This is something that is important and not made clear in any manner by anybody else.
– No HD video
-Must be familiar with gamut warnings and histograms to really utilize the camera

I would give this product 4 starts if some of the specs were better – honestly if it could generate an 8×10 printable image, that would do it. I own one and as a photographer, I will be able to use it for many of my digital projects. It has a lot of unique features and the price drop makes it hard to resist buying.


Honestly, when you look at all of the real world limitations of the Lytro Illum camera it’s a tad shocking that Lytro thought $1600 was an acceptable price for their camera.

I remember when they initially cut the price from $1600 to $1000… people still didn’t want to buy it as a professional piece of equipment. The word seemed to be out that despite what Lytro had said about light field technology being revolutionary, the software and the technical aspects just weren’t there compared to other cameras you could get for $1000.

Only now, when it is essentially priced as a photography toy, does it seem to be in a price zone that at the least makes sense to people. It’s all a little sad. We were promised an expansion in our technical capabilities as photographers and yet we haven’t had anybody deliver.


The Illum will probably go down in photography history as an over hyped toy camera that failed to deliver on its “revolutionary technology” promises.

The Business of Art – Lytro Equipment Currently

Lytro seems to have called it quits on consumer camera technology. They seem to be solely focusing on Virtual Reality and frankly I don’t see them coming out with another consumer camera body… ever. When you go to Lytro’s website, the only thing you will find under Lytro Imaging is the Lytro illum. Which as you know ^ is not exactly a prime piece of photography equipment.


If you can’t read the image it says:


Lytro Cinema is the first system able to produce a Light Field Master by capturing and processing the entire high resolution Light Field. This enables multiple render options – including IMAX®, RealD®, Dolby Vision, ACES and HFR.


755 RAW Megapixels

Up to 300 fps

Up to 16 stops of Dynamic Range

Integrated High Res Active Scanning Systems


Light Field data storage and processing on set and in the cloud


Light Field plug-ins for existing visual effects tools


Multiple render options, including stereoscopic and variable high frame rates


Lytro’s “Cinema” and “Immerge” products seem to be their sole focus… and even then factual (rather than hyping) information is limited.

Whether or not either of those products will be valuable or revolutionary… we’ll just have to wait and see.

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