Lytro ups its aspirations, introduces Illum light field camera for $1,599

Lytro makes light field cameras, devices that work in an entirely different way to normal digital cameras: captured results be refocused after shooting and only displayed digitally. Now the company has announced the Illum, a camera with greater aspirations. Better controls, larger output, an apparent new aspect ratio and, inevitably, a bigger price tag. All $1,599 of it.

The Illum looks like a far more user friendly device than the original, making some crucial changes. Firstly it has a 4-inch touchscreen to make it easier to use, not a tiny and ill-responsive square one as found on the original Lytro.

Secondly the Illum's 8x optical zoom lens might offer no more relative zoom than the original model, but its 30-250mm f/2.0 equivalent view onto the world is different. The Lytro Illum preview page also exhibits some sample shots in a 5:3 aspect ratio, not just the 1:1 square offering of the original.

Unlike the original Lytro, which had an 11 "megaray" sensor, the Illum has a 40 "megaray" sensor. Don't confuse this with megapixels, though, as the two are entirely different. Lytro images can only exist in the digital space. So what does this mean in reality?

Having not seen one, we can only speculate based on specification and Lytro's provided sample image gallery. According to the official Illum specification the maximum 2D output is 4MP. Which, given the camera's available aspect ratio, means shots could theoretically offer a long edge of approximately 2,600 pixels at the 5:3 ratio. We've also seen square format shots which are an apparent 1,700 pixels wide when zoomed in to the maximum. More megarays are one thing, but it's the on-screen scale that we're interested in, and it appears the Illum does one better than the 1080 x 1080 pixel (1.2MP) output of the original Lytro.

Other specs include a maximum 1/4000th sec shutter speed, a hotshoe for flash support, and an updated software platform.

It's an improvement and we have to doff our hats to Lytro for changing the face of what photography can mean. But in a world where the likes of Nokia Refocus, Google Lens Blur and more have since adopted different techniques to mimic Lytro's post-shooting concept, is the Illum little more than a $1,600 toy for digital-only images?

The Lytro Illum will be available from July. It can be pre-ordered at the reduced price of $1,499 Stateside, with no further information on UK pricing and availability.