Lytro Illum Review: The Camera that Creates Living Pictures

The groundbreaking design of the Lytro Illum introduces a new way in which to capture those special moments in everyday life. While the first-generation Lytro Light Field camera was certainly unique and fun to use, it was oddly shaped and hard to handle, not quite up to par in general, and more or less a novelty item.

Although not a replacement for a DSLR by any means, the Lytro Illum, however, makes a clear statement on where the future of photography may very well be headed. Stay tuned for our Lytro Illum review to learn more about the specs, features, performance, and pricing of this interesting camera.

Lytro Illum Specs

Lytro Illum product photo

  • 40 Megaray 1/1.2-inch Light Field CMOS Sensor;
  • 8x Optical Zoom Lens (30 to 250mm Equivalent);
  • Light Field Engine 2.0 & Snapdragon 801;
  • 4.0-inch 384k-Dot Backlit Tilting Rear LCD Touchscreen;
  • Constant Aperture of f/2.0;
  • 1/4000 Second Maximum Shutter Speed;
  • ISO Ability Ranges from 80 to 3200;
  • Manual, Program, Shutter Priority, and Sensitivity Priority Exposure Modes;
  • Custom White Balance Modes;
  • Focus Range Spans from 0mm to Infinity;
  • Adjusts Focus and Perspective After Image Capture;
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Functionality;
  • SD / SDHC / SDXC Memory Card Compatibility;
  • External Flash Connection via Hot Shoe;
  • Available USB 3.0 Port;
  • Measures 5.7 by 3.4 by 6.5-Inches;
  • Weighs 2.07 Pounds.

Lytro Illum Features and Performance

Before we begin our Lytro Illum review, it’s important to explain what makes this particular camera special. This light field camera creates “living images” by switching focus from one section of the frame to another after the initial photo has been snapped. The way in which this camera captures and then melds these still images together somehow turns them into an animation of sorts.

Build and Buttons

While not the most eye-catching of designs, the Lytro Illum’s construction is that of magnesium and aluminum with a sort of angular look. Two essential pieces have been combined to form this unit — a slanted camera body and a large lens. The lens is what makes up for much of the weight. Note that due to the overall bulk of the Lytro Illum, two-handed use is the only option. Two rings, both of which are rubberized to prevent slippage, grace the surface of the lens barrel. While the thinner lens ring adjusts the focus, the wider lens ring activates the internal zoom mechanism.

The highlight of the camera’s right side is the generously sized rubberized grip, which aids nicely in terms of handling. On top of the grip sits the control wheel inset, the shutter release button, and the “Lytro button.” The Lytro button brings up blue and orange zones to help the user set up the shot; blue shows the foreground while orange shows the background. On the top right of the backplate sits another control wheel that adjusts shutter speed, ISO, and exposure. Underneath this wheel are four buttons for more image adjustment. These four controls consist of an autofocus button, auto lock exposure button, infinity focus button, and a function button that brings you to image playback mode unless customized otherwise.

Display and Functions

Lytro Illum display and side view

Equipped with a 4.0-inch 384k-Dot backlit tilting rear LCD touchscreen, the Lytro Illum makes it easy to shoot photos from both high and low angles. The screen has proven to be reasonably bright and is usable while outside, unlike some LCD screens. Use the touchscreen to quickly adjust various settings like shooting mode, drive mode, white balance, and self-timer. Menu settings can also be adjusted solely from the touchscreen with no other buttons required. Overall, the LCD is of course an incredible asset to the Lytro Illum and its ease of use makes it self-explanatory.

Sensor, Resolution, and Zoom

The Lytro Illum features a 40 megaray 1/1.2-inch light field CMOS sensor with an 8x optical zoom lens (30 to 250mm equivalent). Image quality on this camera is inferior when compared to a DSLR — but it is an entirely different species and in fact shouldn’t and truly can’t be compared to a DSLR. The Lytro Illum produces 4-megapixel images and due to the small size of the sensor, ISO performance can be sketchy at higher levels. The ISO ranges from 80 to 3200 but images become noisy by ISO 1600, so staying within that range and below is recommended.

Something else to note in this Lytro Illum review is that the camera doesn’t capture regular image files — instead it produces LRF images that contain pieces of data the camera captures. Unlike regular photos, editing is a necessity with the Lytro Illum because that’s how you get to see the true magic. Simply download the Lytro editing software (available on both Mac and PC), upload your images, and edit to your heart’s content. Once you have everything exactly as desired, you can export some fun and pretty impressive animations.

image taken with Lytro Illum photo camera

Image taken with Lytro Illum (Image Source: LightField Forum)

Wi-Fi Capabilities

Of course, we can’t wrap up our Lytro Illum review without mentioning the built-in Wi-Fi, which is certainly a plus when it comes to any camera — that being said, on this unit, the Wi-Fi’s overall functionality is limited. The best use of the Wi-Fi is the ability to transfer images from the camera to an iOS app. However, the transfer speed isn’t quite up to par as each photo takes approximately ten seconds to load even when switching back and forth between previously viewed images. Another useful function is the sharing ability provided via Wi-Fi. With this feature, you can easily upload your photos so that other users can view and interact with them via your galleries on Lytro’s website. From the website, you can then share your works of art to various social media platforms.

Pricing

The Lytro Illum is available at this time from various online vendors and typically sells for around $469. This configuration includes all that you need to get up and running from right out of the box.

Verdict

As you have gathered from this Lytro Illum review, the camera itself is perhaps best viewed as something that can surely be fun to mess around with, a novelty of sorts. That being said, using the Lytro Illum is incredibly fun and truly does produce unique “living images” or animations. No other product on the market right now matches the inventiveness of this unit.

We hope that our Lytro Illum review has been helpful and allowed you to get a better idea of the creative capabilities this camera provides. Do you have the Lytro Illum or are you thinking about getting your hands on one just out of curiosity? If so, leave a comment below and let us know what you think.