Lytro Illum Review

December 10, 2014 | Gavin Stoker |


While the more cautious and cynical might harbour a suspicion that this thus-far-unique device could turn out to be an expensive toy for someone – the photographer who has everything perhaps - its territory feels so uncharted that in truth we ran the full gamut of emotions playing with this second generation Lytro. Like, do we really need one? Well that of course wholly depends on whether we can justify the investment, and what use we feel we’ll get out of it...

So, who would be best off buying a Lytro Illum, and what for? Well, with its ability to produce a three-dimensional ‘living image’ – namely one for which depth of field, perspective and point of focus can be altered after the fact, and not via Photoshop but within the camera itself or supplied software – for most of us it would make sense as a second camera. In no way is it a straight replacement for our DSLRs or bridge cameras – unless, that is, we started off with a very specific purpose and imagined an end result that was ever only going to be viewed via a screen. However we can imagine the possibilities for those with the desire to show off images with real depth as a promotional tool – perhaps estate agents and hoteliers wanting to virtually ‘walk you around’ a property or room, highlighting (or rather focusing and re-focusing on) various aspects of the space and its features, in turn. Perhaps such a target market wouldn’t baulk at the idea of spending £1299 either, if said purchase could be folded into the business accounts.

There’s also wedding and social photographers who might view the Lytro Illum as another tool to add to their arsenal, a way to get ahead of the competition. Forward-thinking image-makers in this sector are already including QR codes with printed albums, that allow their clients to access video clips via their smartphones or tablets, alongside the flat 2D prints. Why not provide such a link to a gallery of ‘living’ Lytro shots, as an additional visual?

Ultimately this is a concept and a product that is quite hard to describe merely with words however, so you’ll want to explore the image examples available here and online. Even after a couple of weeks spent in its company we were still discovering new features and aspects to it, so it also isn’t really a device you can just pick up and expect the best from straightaway. In fact, if ever there was a camera that you needed to try for yourself to see and believe, and in turn get excited by, then perhaps more than any other we’ve played with in the past 15 years (since digital photography made its mark in the world) that camera is the Lytro Illum.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 3
Image quality 4
Value for money 3.5