Lytro hints at new camera, shows that “focus later” is more than just an effect

Ever since Lytro first showed the world the power of a Lightfield sensor and what its “focus later” technology could do, we’ve seen phone companies try to recreate it. Toshiba developed a sensor for phones, Nokia added the feature to its PureView smartphones, and Samsung and HTC both included the concept in each of their respective flagship phones for 2014.

But none of these devices really rely on the same sort of “focus later” technology Lytro uses, which basically captures slices of a moment in time at every depth plane.

Rather, these other technologies tend to fire several shots and choose the focus between them, or use mathematics and an algorithm to work out the depth between elements and blurring things. That’s not the same concept, not by a long shot, and Lytro plans to bring its technology to keen photographers tired of dealing with one focus plane and providing the option of many with even more control.

A follow-up to 2012’s original that closely resembled an oversized rectangular tube of lipstick, the Illum is Lytro’s next generation next generation camera, and if that sounds like I’m just repeating words for the sake of it, let us explain: currently, no other digital camera uses a sensor quite as futuristic as the Lightfield sensor, so while Lytro already had the next generation camera, it’s about to release a newer generation of that next generation camera.

Confused yet?

Called Illum, the new camera reminds us of a single lens reflex camera, only it’s less likely to have a mirror-box or any reflex action, firing the image to a new Lightfield sensor taking in 40 Megarays, or roughly 40 million light rays.

To put that into perspective, the first Lytro camera used an 11 Megaray sensor, which technically produced an image of around 1 to 2 megapixels, a term Lytro doesn’t apply to its camera sensors, even if we do. Based on this, it’s conceivable to expect that the 40 Megaray sensor in the Illum is at least 4 megapixels, but depending on how Lytro has configured the sensor, we could see more megapixels out of it.

That said, megapixels aren’t the important part of the camera technology, but rather composing the images with multiple focus points, creating a new style of art.

Lytro’s Illum looks to make images like this with even more control than the first generation, offering ISO, shutter speed, histogram, and more on a 4 inch touchscreen, with a Lytro button that will even tell you which elements in your view are able to be focused individually later on using colour coding.

Unlike the previous model, more elements will be replaceable, such as the memory which relies on an SD card slot, and a battery which can be removed. The shutter can even be triggered remotely thanks to a release port, and there’s even a tripod mount and a hot shoe, like a real camera.

Pricing for this one looks to be a wee bit different from the original Lytro, which landed in Australia for $499 for 8GB and $599 for 16GB, with the Illum starting at an “introductory price of $1,499,” and that’s US dollars.

Currently, Lytro hasn’t officially announced this in Australia, so we have no idea quite what it’ll cost when it lands, or if it will at all. Stay tuned.