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Meet the Illum, Lytro's futuristic new light-field camera

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Lytro's first camera came out more than two years ago, a kaleidoscope of a device that was a lot of fun to shoot with but not particularly impressive. It let you focus and refocus a shot after you took it, a remarkable party trick that's since been copied and re-branded by every smartphone manufacturer on the planet. But for all the cool things it could do — and it learned to do more over time, with software updates — the Lytro didn't take very good pictures.

That changes today. Lytro is announcing the Illum (which ships in July), a new high-end camera that's designed to help professional photographers see the potential of light-field photography. The $1,599 Illum produces photos that are more than four times the size of the previous shots from its 1-inch sensor, collecting far more data before stitching together a photo. Its shutter goes as fast as 1/4000th of a second, plenty fast for action or sports shooting. It has a Snapdragon 800 processor, Qualcomm's latest tablet-level chip with plenty of power to spare. There's a 4-inch touchscreen on the back, and an incredible zoom lens that goes from 30-250mm at f/2.0 throughout, and can focus on things close enough to be touching the glass. The camera has a hot shoe for accessories and flashes, and supports Photoshop and other image editing software. It's a far more powerful, far more capable camera — and the photos I've seen so far look fantastic.

Read our exclusive look at the Illum, and Lytro's plans to change the world

Of course, the Illum's entire raison d'etre is the microlens array, Lytro's innovative way of capturing a complete, 3D "light field" version of a scene instead of just quickly snapping a 2D photograph. It's what lets you refocus a picture after the fact, or convert it to 3D, or subtly shift the perspective of the shot without ever having moved the camera. The new model comes with a real-time mapping tool called the Lytro Button, which shows you exactly how to frame a shot to maximize the depth effect.

For the exclusive inside story of Lytro and how it plans to change the course of photography forever, be sure to read our in-depth feature. The Illum is the first realization of that future, one company's idea of what our next camera might look like. It's a sight to behold.

Lytro Illum pictures


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