Lytro Illum Review - Image Quality and Verdict Review

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Lytro Illum – Issues

One of the most serious practical issues with the Lytro Illum is quite how long your files take to process. It seems a very processor-intensive task.

With a high-spec MacBook Pro, importing 24 images takes eight minutes, while the same task took an interminable 38 minutes on a lower-spec Windows 8.1 Ultrabook. Just exporting a 4-megapixel final image file took longer than a minute on the Windows machine.

We found the waiting pretty frustrating, and can’t imagine many being willing to put up with this on a particularly regular basis.

Where the hardware tries to offer an experience that’ll satisfy experienced photographers, with fair manual control, a 2.5mm remote shutter socket and the option of USB battery charging as well as a proprietary charger, the software demands too much patience. 

Lytro Illum – Image Quality and Software

There are also questions over whether the quality of images really makes the effort and expenditure worthwhile. The most obvious is resolution.

While the Lytro Illum’s 4-megapixel images are far better than the 1.2-megapixel ones of the original Lytro light field camera, you’re still heavily limited by the resolution. We’d say you could get away with 7×5-inch prints off its images, but anything greater and the lack of detail will become too apparent.


Image quality issues aside, the effects on offer are great

You need to manage your expectations, and you simply cannot compare its image quality to a standard CSC or DSLR camera, let alone one of a similar price. We noted fairly frequent image quality issues, such as jagged edges appearing in straight lines and artefacts in fine details. These tend to phase in and out of animations, which can look very awkward.

There are also other image quality limitations that are to be expected when you consider the actual sensor of the Lytro Illum only measures 1/1.2 of an inch. That’s smaller than those of some advanced compacts, and you can now even get the full-frame Sony Alpha A7 for less than the cost of the Illum.


Here’s noise at ISO 1600

Thanks to the small sensor, high ISO performance isn’t too hot. The native ISO range is 80-3200, and by 1600 your images will be very noisy, only getting worse at ISO 3200. Before getting too excited about the creative potential the Illum offers, consider that it’s also rather limited in some more conventional respects.

Should I buy the Lytro Illum?

The Lytro Illum is a great camera to mess about with, and for those who will have some use for its creative potential, it offers much more than its toy-like predecessor. Better-quality images, more control and a versatile focal range make it a much more convincing demo of why this tech is interesting.

But is it the future? We don’t think so, unless it makes some major steps forward in the next model.

Image quality is still pretty limited, and while the Illum genuinely lets you do things you couldn’t achieve with a conventional camera, we’d only consider it as an occasional-use partner to a normal camera, not a replacement for one.

Thanks to its high price, it’s a tough sell in such a role. And unless you have an extremely fast computer, you’ll need to be rich in patience as well as cash to get on with editing its images.

Verdict

The Lytro Illum is a much better demo of light field tech than Lytro’s original camera, but the high price and image quality problems still see it consigned to a niche.

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