The Lytro camera: Too little for too much

By Mark Gibbs, Network World |  Personal Tech, cameras, Lytro

I won't bother explaining how the menus work -- that's all covered quite well by Lytro's Web site.

So, the design is great but what of the results? In a word, disappointing.

The pictures are generally not very high resolution and display obvious "jaggies" and aliasing of dark objects in front of bright backgrounds as well as "fringing" under anything other than good lighting conditions.

Moreover, photos are not always in focus at all and refocusing on a specific area doesn't always produce significantly better results. In pretty much anything less than almost full daylight the noise level (visible as colored "graininess") is very noticeable. The company claims "By using all of the available light in a scene, the Lytro performs well in lowlight environments without the use of a flash." This is simply not true.

The software (it currently only runs on OS X) allows you to download and manage images from the Lytro camera (these are in a proprietary format) over USB, select what part of the photo is to be in focus, and upload images to the Lytro site where they can be refocussed dynamically by people viewing your work. You can also select the focal point in a Lytro image and export it to JPEG format though this feature is fairly clumsy.

Add to that the software is slow for almost every task (when it comes to exporting links to Facebook, painfully slow).

In fact, when it comes to pretty much everything a user really cares about in photography, the Lytro camera underwhelms.

One thing that really bothers me is that when you look at the images on the Lytro Web site you'd think that those are typical of what you're going to get -- clear, sharp, and "alive". The reality is far from what those images promise to the extent that I consider them to be false advertising.

So, bottom line; technically, conceptually, and physical design-wise, the Lytro camera is terrific, but the results -- the stuff users will really care about -- are, given the pricing ($399 for the 8GB, 350 picture model and $499 for the 16GB, 750 picture version), simply not worth it when you consider what you can get from a conventional camera for a lot less money. I'm giving the Lytro camera a rating of 2 out of 5 with a "nice try."

Light field technology will become a huge and redefining force in camera technology over the next few years. The Lytro camera is perhaps ahead of its time and delivers too little for too much. I'm sending mine back for a refund.

Gibbs is underwhelmed in Ventura, Calif. Your snaps to gearhead@gibbs.com and follow him on Twitter (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).


Originally published on Network World |  Click here to read the original story.
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