Lytro 'light field' cameras launch nationwide, adds new controls

The Lytro 'light field' camera now allows users to toggle a range of manual settings, including shutter speed and ISO sensitivity. 

An image captured with a Lytro camera. Lytro released a new firmware update today, which gives users control over a range of manual settings.

Last year, a small Mountain View company called Lytro unveiled the first-ever light field camera – a device that allows users to focus and manipulate images long after the lens has already snapped. As the Monitor's Chris Gaylord noted at the time, Lytro lists the specs of its cameras not in megapixels, but in megarays, a unit defined by Lytro as the number of rays that are captured in every picture. 

"It represents a really big shift in cameras – in capturing an entirely new kind of data," Ren Ng, Lytro's founder and chief executive, told the Monitor. 

Now, Lytro is finally launching in the US and abroad, both through the Lytro online store and at Amazon, Target, and BestBuy locations. Meanwhile, Lytro has released a firmware update that will allow users to manually control a range of camera settings, including shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, and neutral density filters. 

"Manual controls give Lytro photographers the opportunity to take control of the exposure in a scene," Eric Cheng, Lytro’s director of photography, said in a statement. "We introduced these features as a result of feedback from our most creative camera owners, who are capturing things like subjects in motion or experimenting with artistic styles like light painting. With manual controls, they now have more flexibility as they push the boundaries of the light field." 

So does the new firmware really improve the quality of Lytro photos? Well, yes, opines CNET's Joshua Goldman, who says the control over ISO vastly improves photo resolution and color. 

"This is a nice start and the update should give early adopters something to be excited about playing with," Goldman writes. "However, if the camera still doesn't have the features you're after, there's always a chance the next update will. Or maybe not, which is part of the problem with buying any unfinished evolving product." 

Lytro cameras start at $399, for an 8GB model; the 16GB model will set you back $499.

Got a Lytro? Drop us a line in the comments section. And to receive regular updates on how technology intersects daily life, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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