Lytro's shoot-first, focus-later digital camera caused plenty of head-scratching in the photography world when it was announced last year, and with early reviews landing today it seems that sense of confusion has carried through. The concept of the Lytro is simple, even if the camera's technology is not; it captures not only light hitting the sensor but the angle at which it hits, and with that data stored you can subsequently refocus on different parts of the image. That's great, reviewers say, but there are also plenty of downsides to the Lytro package. Check out everything you need to know after the cut.
"Lytro is no miracle worker" USA Today says, "the skill and creativity (or lack thereof) that a photographer brings still very much matters." Learning how to take good shots takes time, and the best images are those which include plenty of 3D depth to them, not just good 2D spacing.
AllThingsD describes the final shots as having "some fun variability" while the WSJ's Walt Mossberg goes further and claims it's "a revolution in consumer photography, with more benefits to come"; however, Mossberg also suggests it's still more of a second camera for most people, with obvious omissions such as a flash. That's also cited by the Washington Post, which criticizes low-light performance and the design of the camera, the odd shape of which can apparently make framing shots troublesome.
The refocusing magic is addictive, Wired says, though the design comes in for further critique with the tiny 1.5-inch screen being a noted drawback. Popular Science has positive things to say about the build quality, particularly praising the magnetic lens cover, though still thinks it's a one-trick-pony albeit with an impressive trick to show. The best shots, they found come from macros.
Bloomberg echoes the comments about the rough edges, with Lytro not yet offering a Windows client, only Mac, as well as not supporting video. The relatively small choice of sharing options is also a frustration, with Facebook and Lytro's own gallery the only place where the refocus shots can be seen in their full glory; everywhere else just offers a link back to the latter site.
Arch-geek Robert Scoble shelled out his own cash for a Lytro, and came away impressed but with plenty of caveats. He describes the camera as disappointing in low-light performance, image sharpness, portability and shutter speeds, and argues that the quality isn't even up to what you'd get from a smartphone; however, it's also a guaranteed crowd-pleaser and is an impressively flexible camera.
The takeaway is that this is a very interesting, if somewhat niche first-gen product, with plenty of appeal for gadget-lovers and those wanting a unique take in their photography, but also with its fair share of flaws. Many reviewers suggested that the technology would be far more compelling if integrated into a smartphone, rather than offered on a standalone camera with only USB connectivity (WiFi and Bluetooth are onboard in hardware form, but not yet activated). Still, with word that Steve Jobs met with the Lytro team to discuss potential integration of the technology into a future iPhone, it's likely that version 2.0 will be worth waiting for.
[Image credits: Wired/Lytro/PopSci/Robert Scoble]