Neat, but niche: Lytro’s refocus camera reviewed

The future of printing

There are a few people out there who will be quick to criticise the Lytro, and the fact that its 1.1 megapixel images are hardly enough to print a 4×6 picture, let alone be useful for an A4 photo.

Printing, however, is far from what the Lytro has been designed for, with the interactive world of the internet making this technology truly cool.

It’s not enough to just stare at an image, because with Lytro, you can communicate with the image.

From a picture taking perspective, regular people never have to worry about taking an out-of-focus shot again, and photographers can plan scenes in a way where there are extra meanings or more things going on than initially seen.

But you need a computer, a phone, or a tablet to see the results, because the medium is entirely interactive, your mouse or finger clicking on the spot where focus should be changed to.

Printing is technically a thing of the past with this style of digital camera, but given how many pictures we shoot on a regular basis compared with how many we print, that’s probably not as much an issue as you might think.

Changing focus is something you can't do on a regular image.

How many pictures do you take yearly?

All up, I would imagine I shoot around 20 to 30,000 images annually, on smartphones, compacts, and interchangeable lens cameras, and I may print 20 or 30 of these.

Most of the images we take go online, on photo sharing websites such as Flickr and Smugmug, on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and uploaded to our personal blogs where we can share more than just our images, but also our words and videos.

With just 0.001 percent of the images printed, and usually only around a holiday for greeting cards and the sort – people don’t do a whole lot of printing for fun, not like when we all used film – worrying that a camera isn’t designed for hard physical copies isn’t as big a deal as you might imagine.

Conclusion

Almost a year after it was first released in America, the Lytro camera has finally arrived in Australia, delivering this next-generation refocusing technology to consumers keen to partake in a glimpse of the future.

At this point, you’re buying into a photographic technology that is so new, it’s hard not to acknowledge that you’re essentially paying an early adopter’s fee for something that isn’t yet commonplace.

The concept is very cool, and while it still has a way to go – and will probably be amazing five or ten years from now – is certainly worth checking out.

As for whether or not you’ll use it long term, that remains to be seen. You can certainly get better quality images with a compact or mirror-less camera – hell, even a premium smartphone offers more resolution – but you do get the awesome multiple fields of focus concept, and that’s a gimmick that we can’t quite get over.

The Lytro could end up being the new Lomo, though, a niche that appeals to a select group of hipsters keen to take advantage of its snazzy uses that make them seem more special.

We like the Lytro a lot, but at around $500, it’s hard to recommend to anyone outside of the geek and enthusiastic photographic spectrum, because while the interactive picture side of things is awesome, you’re unlikely to carry a bulky camera that does one thing when you already have a smartphone or camera that takes better pictures.

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