Things Look Brighter the Second Time Round

Breakdown: Lytro Illum

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Back in 2011 when Lytro introduced the Light Field, critics gasped in amazement at the camera’s ability to refocus pictures after the shutter snap…and in horror at its angular, boxy, toy-like design. Although consumers wanted the new-fangled sensor technology, they balked at the shape, and very few sold. But for all intents and purposes, Lytro released the Light Field as a technical exercise — a way to shout, “Hey, look what we can do!” The company’s second attempt, the Illum ($1,495), packages an updated version of the Light Field’s technology inside a more traditional form. Because of its unique sensor, the camera’s resolution can’t be conveyed in megapixels; instead, Lytro lists “megarays”, which sounds like what would happen if Ray Romano were bitten by a radioactive spider, but is actually the amount of light rays that the camera captures divided by one million. At 40 megarays, the Illum captures almost four times the light as the Light Field, which topped out at 11 megarays. When it debuts in July, the powerful Illum will represent Lytro’s first real foray into the consumer market, and the only way to take advantage of portable light field technology.