Lytro Illum Review

December 10, 2014 | Gavin Stoker | |
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Image Quality

The Lytro Illum has been described as bringing the power of computer 3D graphics to photography, which is an interesting take, and, if you choose the right subject and results turn out well, there is the real wow factor of it being a more immersive experience than can be gained from a flat 2D print. As we’ve noted, it’s not really designed to give us printed stills as the end result. You have to use the supplied Lytro desktop software on a reasonably powerful computer to be able to get at your results, whereupon colours and detail are impressively rich, white balance spot-on. That said, obviously how much punch is delivered is partly down to whichever screen or display you choose to view them on. And, at the same time, in using this camera it becomes clear that it is a case of horses for courses; just because you can re-focus points and areas within an image and thus create 3D like transitions post capture, does every subject suit or warrant such treatment? You have to be quite careful about the subjects you choose and you have to think differently about what you’re capturing, so setting up a shot – not to mention getting familiar with the camera’s quirks – can be time consuming.

As indicated in the main section of the review text, light sensitivity stretches from ISO80 to ISO3200, and from our own test shots it appears it was sensible to cap it at that, as grain/image noise noticeably intrudes to quite a ‘gritty’ degree from ISO2000 upwards, visible across the entirety of the frame, so we’d advise sticking at ISO1600 and below in the vast majority of circumstances. Thus, though the Lytro Illum costs as much as a semi pro DSLR, you’d be better off with sticking with said DSLR if you wanted a jack of all trades device for delivering the best possible flat image quality. But it does offer itself up as an exciting option for a second camera for those photographers who want to explore an avenue less tried and tested.

Another slight caveat as regards the Lytro’s images is that, as with anything that is thrilling initially, you have to wonder how long it is before the thrill wears off and whether the wow factor will diminish with repetition. Still, early adopters and those who feel they have to have the latest and greatest kit, will undoubtedly love it and after two weeks of using the chunky camera the novelty hadn’t yet worn off for us.