April 2014

A Light Field Camera for the Creative Pioneer

When in 2011 Lytro introduced its first Light Field camera, media proclaimed that photography is changed forever. When Lytro approached Artefact to collaborate on Lytro Illum, the next generation of its light field camera, we were thrilled.

Lytro is the first company to bring an entirely new category, Light Field Photography, to the consumer and professional markets, enabling a richer set of image data compared to conventional digital or film cameras. Built to harness the full power of the light field, the professional-grade Lytro Illum will give photographers a new medium capable of capturing visual experiences in their purest form — not as a static cross-section of reality but an authentic, interactive window into their world. In search for a design partner that could manage a high degree of complexity and deliver a breakthrough product, while truly collaborating with the engineering team, Lytro approached Artefact.

To enable such rich, layered compositions, Lytro Illum delivers unparalleled optical versatility by merging custom-built hardware with a powerful software platform. The camera offers a 40-megaray light field sensor, 8x optical zoom range, constant f/2.0 aperture and a high-speed shutter capable of freezing motion under a wide variety of conditions. After image capture, the innovative software platform empowers photographers to adjust aspects of images that were previously fixed, such as focus, tilt, perspective shift and depth of field, which allows the photographer to create images that will resonate for the viewer not just in one dimension, but in every dimension.
We took a pragmatic approach to the hardware design, looking to achieve balance between the traditional and the new, what is needed and what could be eliminated. The design of Lytro Illum offers the perfect combination of highly functional tools, a unique stance and an iconic appearance.

Re-interpreted, not re-invented

Lytro Illum is a professional-grade camera that paves the way for an immersive brand of storytelling in which images can be brought to life in multiple dimensions. At the same time while the technology and output of Lytro Illum are very new, many of the traditional conventions still hold, and define user expectations.

Photographers consider themselves artists and the ability to control their tools is important to their craft. Lytro Illum is designed to give creative pioneers sufficient manual control over the capture experience and thus helps to capture great images and enable powerful visual storytelling. While the design had to communicate the innovation that Lytro Illum brings to the photography market, it also had to be familiar to experienced photographers.

A smarter angle

Traditional cameras with optical viewfinders press the camera up to the photographer’s face. Yet with the emergence of screens on digital cameras and mobile phones, today’s capturing posture is one with the viewfinder at eye-level, about one foot away from the photographer’s eye. The heft that comes with Illum’s high quality optics would make it uncomfortable to hold the camera in such a position, so we designed the product to facilitate an entirely unique posture. Illum’s signature angle is the pure expression of the act of shooting digital media and represents a milestone not only for light field photography but for the design of any digital camera.

While the tilted display is the right neutral angle, it does not cover all use cases. A simple push on the lower edge of the screen flips the display to a purely vertical orientation, which is what you’d want for portrait mode.

Form, meet function

Today’s camera designs prioritize either ergonomics or a minimalist appearance. In the former case, the resulting products often lack visual appeal, whereas cameras with simple geometry need to be accessorized to make up for their shortcomings in the areas of usability and handling. Lytro Illum manages to balance these two aspects, resulting in an elegant, distinctive and timeless product that is delightful to use and a pleasure to look at.

Interested in learning more? Visit lytro.com or the project page at artefactgroup.com.

Photo credit: Doug Evans

So, what do you think?