Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lytro Illum Features 40 Megaray Sensor

Lytro announces its second generation lightfield camera having DSLR look and featuring a new, custom-designed 40 Megaray image sensor (vs 11 Megaray in the 1st generation). As with the 1st Lytro generation, the number of pixels in the final image has not been disclosed.

Lytro Illum sensor

Venture Beat publishes a video interview with Lytro Founder Ren Ng explaining the features of the new camera:

DPReview publishes a Q&A session with Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal and Ren Ng. Few quotes:

Q: "What's new about the sensor? It's listed at 40 megarays, but how would you explain that in terms that are more relatable to stills photographers?"

Rosenthal: "It's basically a 4x step up in terms of both number of pixels and underlying resolution, as well as sensor area size ... The sensor in the previous camera was 1/3", essentially a mobile sensor. This is a 1" sensor with an [underlying] 40-megapixel resolution."


  1. Imaging-resource says the stills it generates are about 5 megapixels. That's still not enough to get many serious photogs to adopt, and the $1600 price tag will probably chase off prosumers. I think this article's quote says it pretty well: "For the general consumer, while being a fun toy, the technology doesn't really have any purpose. And as we saw with the original Lytro camera, the fascination with the refocusing (and now added perspective shifting) technology quickly wears off."


  2. I feel there's a parallel to draw with the Foveon sensor, in terms of marketing. Both use big numbers in order to avoid talking about actual megapixels. Though the comparison ends here: the now Sigma sensor actually delivers (at least at low ISO).

    There definitely is potential to this tech, but not with these specs and at this price. And I'm not even talking about the workflow...

    I can't believe they came up with such a high price tag. The way I see it, it's closest competitor in terms of lens specs, sensor size, body size, target users and price is obviously Sony's DSC-RX10. Which already is a niche product in itself. How does Lytro justify the 300$ premium over the Sony? Its exclusive technology? Sure, why not. Except it has a four time lower resolution, an inferior (though relatively okay) body ergonomics, and a better-spec'ed-on-the-paper but yet-to-bet-proven lens. And that's just for the hardware.

    Lytro should by all means continue to push its technology, but this will fail until they dramatically lower their price or drastically review their business model.

  3. ~40Mpixel, snapdragon, touchscreen - this sound suspiciously close to a Nokia phone. Does anybody know if this is based on the Nokia 41 Mpixel sensor? And the same snapdragon processor as the nokia 808? 1020? Sounds almost like they put the nokia smartphone reference design into a different package.
    Does the lytro camera run the Windows Phone OS?

  4. I found this interesting:

    DPReview:This is a very versatile lens - a bright, constant aperture, lots of zoom, and 13 elements, which is relatively few for a design like this. How are you able to create something like this?

    Rosenthal: We designed it in-house and worked with a Japanese partner to build it ... This plays directly into one of the cooler parts of light field, which is this ability to use the additional data that we capture to get breakthrough hardware performances. There’s no lens on the market that’s equivalent to this.

    The reason is that, in the conventional sense, you would’t be able to deal with the aberration correction you’d need across that long a zoom and that wide an aperture. The typical way you’d deal with aberration correction is with glass elements - traditional optics. Since we capture all of the directional data within the light field, we’re able to do aberration correction in software and computation. It’s the first big example of us trading out physical components of the camera and replacing those with software and computation to give the market something you just couldn’t do conventionally.

    Meanwhile, anyone know anything about the actual sales of the first Lytro camera which Lytro calls a success? I still have not seen a single one being used by someone.

    1. I have a Lytro camera on my shelf along with all the other Silicon Valley gadgets that were cool technical ideas but failed in the market.

    2. Yeah I think this is a great observation: you can correct Coma or certain types of aberration in software. I am not sure how big a deal this is. Any lens designers care to comment?

  5. They claim their lens is a 30 to 250 mm with a very wide f/2 aperture across it, with ONLY 13 pieces of glass. That' s because their sensor allows software light aberration correction which is not possible with conventional DSLR sensors [source: Engadget].

    In addition to the refocusing capabilities, a much lighter lens doesn't sound that bad to me provided that their claims are verified...

  6. Points I find confusing or maybe need more information on:
    Most of us know what a 1" sensor will cost as realestate/yield/margin. Typically in a high performance camera a significant BOM cost item. Tough argument for a higher price tag on a competing product.

    Processing may be more complex, but how much of a hit on the BOM? Enough to justify high price tag?

    If the lens has fewer elements, and assuming quality glass/coatings, lens should be cheaper?
    From my days of freelance photography, my recollection is that most lens have a sweet spot between f8-f11 in terms of overall sharpness, minimum distortions etc. Maybe a lens expert here can break that down for us, as I recall it is derived from a number of things such as element alignments, etc.

    Due to my ignorance I'll ask the question- would a wider depth of field other than that achieved at minimum aperture number (wide open lens) require less processing? Or produce a better result for "all in focus shots"?

    For those that do a lot of balancing of natural light and fill in flash, there may be limitations placed on the perfect balance of exposure time/aperture with a fixed f/2 setting. For most of us I doubt that would be an issue.

    1. By no means a lens expert, but usually the sweet spot is around f/5.6. From f/11 on, diffraction kicks in.
      All this goes for consumer (as opposed to industrial) cameras, full frame or APS-C sensors.


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