Neat, but niche: Lytro’s refocus camera reviewed

The not-so-awesome

While a very new technology, the feeling you get from playing with the Lytro is that it’s a very cool technology, and it probably won’t be long before every camera company in the world starts trying to integrate this into its photographic products.

The concept is brilliant: who wouldn’t want to focus after they’ve taken the shot? It’s an idea that makes a lot of sense, but at the moment, there are things stopping it from being truly amazing.

One of these is quality, and while the whole “11 megaray” thing seems like a lot, in real life the first-generation Lytro only exports a 1.1 megapixel square image.

An export from the software is just over a megapixel.

That’s lower than any smartphone has had for years, and while the quality from that one whole megapixel isn’t bad, it’s not enough to make you give up either your dedicated camera or five, eight, or twelve megapixel smartphone. Not nearly.

Video is also missing too, and images can only be export in one megapixel JPEGs from the software or viewed as interactive multi-plane images that can be hosted on Lytro’s site.

That last bit actually is another con, because while you own the images, you can’t share them with friends without hosting them on Lytro.

For the moment, image hosting is free, and while we don’t expect this to change, you can’t upload them to your own site or Facebook and keep the interactivity, so if Lytro ever goes under and disappears, good luck with that whole sharing thing.

On a Mac – which is where we tested the Lytro – you can find the images by heading to your “photos” section and exploring the package contents of the Lytro app, which stores each image in the “LFP” file format, each file roughly translating to a 16.1 megabyte file.

This at least means you can backup your full Lytro images, and potentially import them to other computers, but sharing remains something that is entirely reliant – at least when they’re interactive – on Lytro’s servers.

The LCD on the back is also a touch disappointing, offering low quality and poor resolution. It’s not a terrible screen – we’ve certainly seen worse – but the viewing angles certainly leave a lot to be desired.

In fact, we actually got used to using the Lytro on its side because the horizontal viewing angles were stronger than the vertical ones, meaning that if you were using it the right way – with the shutter button on top – you were actually looking down at washed out colours and a faded image that was near impossible to see.

One other downside we recognised stemmed from its design, which is obviously not like any camera you’ve seen prior.

With a rectangular prism design that closely resembles a cubic kaleidoscope, it’s not one of those cameras you can easily throw in your pocket, and even a jacket pocket feels a little burdened with this inside.