Previous news story    Next news story

Lytro CEO admits layoffs, promises 'breakthrough' products in 2014

By dpreview staff on Aug 12, 2013 at 19:34 GMT

Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal has acknowledged that the company made a 'small number' of layoffs earlier this year and that there are some 'kinks' to be worked out with its unique 'light field' camera. Meanwhile, according to an article by tech blog SFGate, industry sources report that the Lytro camera 'isn't selling well so far', due to its price and lack of appeal to professional photographers. Rosenthal is, however, bullish on the future of the company, promising 'multiple [...] breakthrough products' in 2014. 

According to Brian Blau of market research firm Gartner, some of the challenges faced by the company include its high price point and that 'people think the product is interesting, but it might not meeting their needs in terms of what a camera is today'. Lytro received $50 million in venture capital and secured placement for its Light Field camera models at many top-tier retailers.

Six months ago, the company laid off a 'small number of employees' and shortly thereafter, brought in Jason Rosenthal, who replaced Lytro founder Ren Ng as CEO. Speaking to SFGate's James Temple, Rosenthal compares the original Light Field Camera to the Tesla Roadster, saying that Lytro is working on their 'Model S' (which received Consumer Reports highest rating ever). He hints that Lytro has a 'packed product roadmap for next year'.

Meanwhile, Margit Wennmachers of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (which supplied the company with that $50 million in funding), hints that one of the future Lytro products would have features that would appeal to professional photographers. 

Click the source link for additional information about Lytro's future.

Source: SFGate
8
I own it
9
I want it
1
I had it
Discuss in the forums
9
I own it
17
I want it
1
I had it
Discuss in the forums

Comments

Total comments: 84
453C
By 453C (2 months ago)

We're well into 2014.

Where's the "breakthrough products", Lebowski?

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
datadump
By datadump (5 months ago)

this stuff needs to exist on CELL PHONES and thats it. create some IC for mobile phones. i'll buy the first phone with this tech

0 upvotes
Father Anderson
By Father Anderson (8 months ago)

Sell it to the Chinese and next year they will be selling like "hot-cakes" for $9.99....as a key chain....remember the old "peep-show" keychains.

Good Luck Lytro

2 upvotes
MrDams
By MrDams (8 months ago)

" the Lytro camera 'isn't selling well so far', due to its price and lack of appeal to professional photographers."

And crap picture quality, and too small, and not yours because you can only share where THEY want you to share.

0 upvotes
infosky
By infosky (8 months ago)

The next Lytro is designed for professional use?

The company should realize the professional photographers knows what they want to focus with certain DOF when they press the shutter buttons. This is the skill that professional photographers are trained to have.

How do I compose a picture if I don't envision where the focus will be? And, I only can focus the picture when I upload the file to a computer?

This is just asking too much for no clear benefit.

4 upvotes
Tal Shachar
By Tal Shachar (8 months ago)

The reason Lytro is not popular it's because all cameras have LCD LED etc. so you can see the picture after you take them and see if there was any problem and then shoot another picture.
The Lytro is usable in cases when you cannot view the picture after you take it, for example security cameras, voyeurism, hidden cameras etc.

0 upvotes
Franka T.L.
By Franka T.L. (8 months ago)

Yeah, there will be features that appeals to Professional photographers. Sorry, but Professional Photographer do not work with gear that just appeal to them. They work with gears that deliver for them instead ...

ANd to be fair the real big market is in the hobbyist and speaking of that, why can'y Lytro just license someone's mount and give us a lytro mirrorless so to speak . or something of that fashion. Do we really need everything re-invented

0 upvotes
Digitall
By Digitall (8 months ago)

I can see people cheerful and full of happiness holding a Lytro and taking photos.

0 upvotes
ljclark
By ljclark (8 months ago)

One year ago today my Lytro camera arrived. A few days later it was being returned for a refund.

http://www.ljclark.com/blog/?p=1075

Lytro solves a problem that doesn't exist, in a way that makes solving that "problem" as difficult as possible.

Lytro should just vanish.

4 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (8 months ago)

(1) one has to be a fool to think Lytro is cool.
then Lytro may have tryed to do the the right thing,
that the best business is selling stupid things to stupid customers.

(2) DOF may be considered as one of image qualities.
that deeper the DOF, less (other) image qualities (like SNR).
Lytro can be considered as DOF in the broad sense,
funny or not it costs huge in terms of image quality,
for something people get tired with quickly.

Comment edited 6 times, last edit 14 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
nonuniform
By nonuniform (8 months ago)

I thought it was a cool idea wrapped in a bad execution. I also think you'd have to embrace the Hipstamatic/Instagram concept to understand why this camera was cool.

1 upvote
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (8 months ago)

One Lytro problem is that the plenoptic effect can be used only via a Facebook link with proprietary restrictions.

3 upvotes
tomatoketchup
By tomatoketchup (8 months ago)

Lesson 1: if it's a one megapixel camera, say publicly it's a one megapixel camera. Don't make up nonsensical garbage about megarays, play the elusive card, and force the potential buyer to scour the internet to find out the true output resolution of the device.

7 upvotes
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (8 months ago)

Hasselbad thinks this was a bad idea.

6 upvotes
jubilatu
By jubilatu (8 months ago)

Maybe they will soon come up with a Lunar-lytro at 5000$.

0 upvotes
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (8 months ago)

This was the answer to the question that nobody asked. It was a great product without a real purpose.

9 upvotes
JamesInCA
By JamesInCA (8 months ago)

I'd say that's half right....

1 upvote
jubilatu
By jubilatu (8 months ago)

Indeed, just the part with "without a real purpose" seems to be truth.

0 upvotes
Johannes Zander
By Johannes Zander (8 months ago)

Would sell better with a Hasselblad grip.

1 upvote
reginalddwight
By reginalddwight (8 months ago)

The major problem facing venture capitalists isn't the lack of innovative products to invest in but knowing which ones.

To most, this Lytro product was DOA.

.

3 upvotes
Robert Gordon Wallace
By Robert Gordon Wallace (8 months ago)

My younger son a research scientist working on a different part of the electro magnetic spectrum was informing my wife, elder son and myself over a celebratory dinner that optical camera technology would be overtaken.
In a slightly heated discussion with elder son about optical zooming he spoke of differential diffraction grids and some random processes which would capture all the information you need to produce a high quality image. Wonder if this product is a first step?

0 upvotes
HeyItsJoel
By HeyItsJoel (8 months ago)

Waaaaaaaaat?!

2 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (8 months ago)

Next step: As Colin Clive, playing Victor Frankenstein, screamed: "It's alive! It's alive!"

0 upvotes
Andrew Booth
By Andrew Booth (8 months ago)

A bad implementation of something consumers don't need.

5 upvotes
wildbild
By wildbild (8 months ago)

The Lytro is not a consumer product.
It is still this great technology that hasn't found it's purpose, yet.

0 upvotes
rallyfan
By rallyfan (8 months ago)

If it's not a consumer product why do users have to go through the silly hoops of sending their images to a third party server and deal with... Facebook logins and such rubbish?

Do you send your images offsite during your normal work flow?

So, it seems they've not targeted serious use (yet?), they've targeted novelty use. Except nobody paid money for what looks like a talcum container and does everything except, well, take actual usable pictures now, today, right this instant -- what people actually want, in other words.

If they're targeting non-casual users, they need to get off the "our servers" model. It's not that kind of party.

0 upvotes
realityChecker
By realityChecker (8 months ago)

Of course it's a consumer product. The general public are the only ones gullible-enough to buy something on hype alone. For industrial purposes, there's great glass design and F32....and I can't think of a reason you'd need a blur-filter there if you need-it captured sharply for data acquisition.

I mean let's get real now...you're telling me that a technology with NO purpose is EXCITING!!!!!...c'mon man, tell me how many did you guys sell?...1000 tops?...with 800 returns and the rest either lost or floating around on ebay for $100?

Comment edited 34 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Artak Hambarian
By Artak Hambarian (8 months ago)

Rallyfan mention something very interesting. Why Lytro does not advertise the capability of creating a one shot stacked focus pictures? That is an amazing feature. It may be realised both in camera and via post processing. One shot means that you have perfect set of pictures to focus stack.

1 upvote
Joseph S Wisniewski
By Joseph S Wisniewski (8 months ago)

Because it can't focus stack beyond the DOF of the decimated image, and you can get that same DOF in a conventional camera simply by stopping down to that DOF.

If you have an f2 Lytro with 4:1 decimation, the best deep DOF you can get is f8. You'd get the same thing just by stopping down to f8.

3 upvotes
Erik Magnuson
By Erik Magnuson (8 months ago)

Probably because a shot with everything in focus looks a lot like any small sensor camera stopped down to f/8 and resized down to Lytro dimensions. Refocusability is at least unique - pan focus at low resolution is not.

1 upvote
Artak Hambarian
By Artak Hambarian (8 months ago)

"The fact that these capabilities scale linearly with directional resolution allows the design to be gradually adopted as the march of VLSI provides excess sensor resolution that may be allocated to directional sampling. We believe that through this mechanism the design of every lens-based digital imaging system could use fully converge to some parameterization of the lightfield camera paradigm." This is from Ng et. al., eg at http://graphics.stanford.edu/papers/lfcamera/lfcamera-150dpi.pdf.

0 upvotes
Artak Hambarian
By Artak Hambarian (8 months ago)

Try to look into future. I personally am sure that with current rate of technological development, when it is already a fact that sensor resolution is higher than the optics affords, lightfield technology, along e.g. with foveon type technology will come into reality much faster than many think. We'll see.

0 upvotes
noirdesir
By noirdesir (8 months ago)

Does a focus-stacked Lytro image have less diffraction softening compared with stopping the lens down in the first place?

0 upvotes
Artak Hambarian
By Artak Hambarian (8 months ago)

Rallyfan mention something very interesting. Why Lytro does not advertise the capability of creating a one shot stacked focus pictures? That is an amazing feature. It may be realised both in camera and via post processing. One shot means that you have perfect set of pictures to facus stack.

0 upvotes
mpetersson
By mpetersson (8 months ago)

They had an interesting idea and an innovative technology, then they used it to build an overpriced toy with horrible ergonomics. I think that the idea could have worked quite well, but implementation was awful.

2 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (8 months ago)

there is neither interesting idea nor innovation. though some who don't have basic training in physics may find it new to their limited knowledge.

this may not even be an idea to attract consumers, just a trick to fool venture capitalists.

Comment edited 35 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (8 months ago)

Like the Tesla Loop?

1 upvote
yabokkie
By yabokkie (8 months ago)

I don't know much about Telsa but it may be very dangerous around the Pacific and West-Central Asia, where a small earthquake can send all passengers to heaven (you should be able to stop the car in say 10-30 seconds).

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 9 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
thx1138
By thx1138 (8 months ago)

I'm surprised to see so many having a laugh at Lytro. Clearly most people don't understand what they have done, and actually capturing more than just the image intensity and capturing the directional light vectors impinging on the sensor is a big deal. Sure the product at this stage is very limited in scope, but this whole field of computational photography is about to explode and has uses that will be very welcome down the track. Let us say it's an active research field.

2 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (8 months ago)

Hydrogen fusion has been an active research field for over 50 years. But, after an explosive start, has not yielded any returns to venture capital or public utilites. On the other hand, cancer research has yielded some capital returns, and select instances of "success," but without altering the median survival rates much.

0 upvotes
gotak
By gotak (8 months ago)

We'll stop laughing when one of the large firms makes a usable computational camera. Till then we'll roll on the floor as much as we like. ;)

What you don't get is that people are not laughing at the technology. They are laughing at the idiots who thinks this alpha version would sell.

3 upvotes
JamesInCA
By JamesInCA (8 months ago)

@gotak - Precisely. The technology may be good for something, but the product isn't.

1 upvote
beeguy956
By beeguy956 (8 months ago)

Moreover, it may be good for something - security cameras maybe? - but not for consumer-grade cameras, even with the horrible implementation fixed.

0 upvotes
vFunct
By vFunct (8 months ago)

lol. god this was the worst product idea ever.. "FOCUSING IS SOOO HARD!"

There are far too many Venture Capitalists with too much money and not enough brains.

3 upvotes
Craig49
By Craig49 (8 months ago)

Is anyone, besides Lytro, surprised?

4 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (8 months ago)

I am.

that someone had to actually do it to know the result.

3 upvotes
VadymA
By VadymA (8 months ago)

A sad story of creating a product that nobody needs. Hope their patents will find the way in some industry, if not in consumer photography. And I have a feel that all this talk about exciting new products is just a smokescreen to save their faces in front of investors...

5 upvotes
Michal59
By Michal59 (8 months ago)

Lightfield technology is not new and was surely not invented by Ng.There are companies with success in industry and science which fields -IMHO - are better target for this technology.
See http://raytrix.de/ for instance.

0 upvotes
Joseph S Wisniewski
By Joseph S Wisniewski (8 months ago)

I don't think I've ever seen anyone use "raytrix" and "success" in the same paragraph before.

1 upvote
CaseyComo
By CaseyComo (8 months ago)

I was interested (a little) in this when it first came out. And then, I had a big fat case of "meh."

2 upvotes
kdaphoto
By kdaphoto (8 months ago)

If they have a real product in 2014 they should offer a generous upgrade path for those who purchased the original. It is a novelty and targeted for early adoptors (like me) to play with. But yes, in the end it wasn't very useful and it has been a pretty blue paper weight for quite a while.

Of course, my first if is a big if. We'll see.

1 upvote
TTLstalker
By TTLstalker (8 months ago)

I guess the Lytro camera, as novel as it might be, is a solution looking for a problem. Just because you can make something new doesn't mean people have a need for it. I think they needed to consult with a photographer.lol

1 upvote
rallyfan
By rallyfan (8 months ago)

I tend to agree as I can't figure out what use this thing would have in the real world to justify the price. In the image above (taken with a Lytro, I wonder?) the sole use of the tech would be to bring the guy grinning like an idiot into focus. Hurray.

2 upvotes
Neeneko
By Neeneko (8 months ago)

I am kinda saddened at people taking so much glee in a product failing. Lytro at least took a chance and did something different rather then the 'go faster stripes' that DSLR manufacturers have been putting out lately.

I suspect the problem is less that it did not appeal to professionals, and more it was not a good status symbol for 'prosumers', too many of whom seemed to have an emotional stake in the technology not catching on.

I doubt professionals cared too much one way or the other. They are generally too busy actually getting work done.

2 upvotes
rallyfan
By rallyfan (8 months ago)

If you are saddened, buy more product or buy some stock in the company.

How many Lytro cameras did you buy? Why?

1 upvote
Erik Magnuson
By Erik Magnuson (8 months ago)

Because even at the beginning, the hype far exceeded the reality. Creating images that are interesting with multiple focal planes is difficult - even more so with the limitations of this device which required a lot of relative depth difference. It just did not match how or what people shoot. Perhaps if they'd made it more "selfie" friendly then they might have had something. A viewer could then refocus on the photo-bomber or detritus in the background. Each selfie would have become a defacto scavenger hunt!

1 upvote
JamesInCA
By JamesInCA (8 months ago)

It's not so much glee as throwing our hands up in the air and saying, "Really? Wasn't this this obvious outcome two years ago?"

As for "go faster stripes," I'm seeing plenty of positive developments in sensor sizes and form factors putting unheard-of quality in handheld cameras, with or without interchangeable lenses, all of which contribute infinitely more to producing beautiful and useful images than Lytro's product.

0 upvotes
Robert Schambach
By Robert Schambach (8 months ago)

It's a gimmick

1 upvote
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (8 months ago)

The company should put out a CONTEST with great prizes with the theme:

Best 5 uses of the Lytro Camera:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

.

5 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (8 months ago)

4 Lytro cameras to make a small stool for the kids.

2 upvotes
billybones1918
By billybones1918 (8 months ago)

No, these are the RESULTS of that contest

3 upvotes
jubilatu
By jubilatu (8 months ago)

May be they will implement a vibrate function. then you will have the 6. reason

0 upvotes
KariIceland
By KariIceland (8 months ago)

"an article by tech blog SFGate, industry sources report that the Lytro camera 'isn't selling well so far', due to its price and lack of appeal to professional photographers."

Gee, I wonder why (sarcasm)

"'small number of employees' "
Also known as 49% of it's employees

"Meanwhile, Margit Wennmachers of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (which supplied the company with that $50 million in funding), hints that one of the future Lytro products would have features that would appeal to professional photographers. "

Yes I believe that product is called a DSLR and that it will be delivered in 50 years or so.

3 upvotes
Vladik
By Vladik (8 months ago)

I think the problem is that it's 1 megapixel and they only look good on the tinny little screen of that Litro itself. There is a lot that they could have done before simply throwing that barely finished product on the market. For 350 bucks I can get a Panny LX7, which is an awesome little cam.

3 upvotes
Mssimo
By Mssimo (8 months ago)

I wonder what camera was used to take the promotional image above.

3 upvotes
Astrotripper
By Astrotripper (8 months ago)

Hope they can make it. What I would expect from this technology is a perfect point and shoot camera. No worrying about focusing, depth of field and so on. That would be a killer for street photography.

Current Lytro cameras are neat gadgets, but don't deliver that. Live refocusing is nice and all, but still just a gimmick. It pretty much fails as a camera, because it can't output a picture at resolutions matching even a smartphone cameras.

Ability to set focus during RAW development would be fine for 99% of use cases. Make live refocusing a secondary, cool feature, not the center point of the whole thing.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, as I really like the underlying idea and would love to see an ultimate point and shoot camera.

2 upvotes
AngryCorgi
By AngryCorgi (8 months ago)

Lemme guess...Will the next Lytro camera take photos LARGER than 0.26MP of the original? Because 512x512 shots = useless.

Oh, and the "square flashlight" ergonomics are just a bad idea.

5 upvotes
Neeneko
By Neeneko (8 months ago)

Sadly, yeah, the 'square flashlight' frame was probably a bad idea. It looks good to people into machine vision, but lacks the sexieness of a status symbol.

1 upvote
Northgrove
By Northgrove (8 months ago)

I like the idea, but they have problems with the execution. For one, I can't shoot with something like that! There's no usability whatsoever in holding a tiny square thing. Make it a camera that I can grip, give it the basic feature set and WiFi, and we'll talk.

2 upvotes
primeshooter
By primeshooter (8 months ago)

Pointless.

3 upvotes
Vlad S
By Vlad S (8 months ago)

"Rosenthal is, however, bullish on the future of the company, promising 'multiple [...] breakthrough products' in 2014."

Of course he is, he would not be worth anything as a CEO if he was not bullish, and he will be until he leaves the company or it goes bust. CEO being bullish does not mean squat.

Comment edited 54 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Doug Frost
By Doug Frost (8 months ago)

It was never more than a gimmick. Interesting, but not particularly useful for anything beyond being able to impress your friends with it for about 5 minutes.

10 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (8 months ago)

So far, more like Nimslo than Tesla.

1 upvote
Jonne Ollakka
By Jonne Ollakka (8 months ago)

Large sensor, so the light field tech actually is useful. Higher resolution, comes with a larger sensor and good post processing software. Then I'm interested.

3 upvotes
babalu
By babalu (8 months ago)

If technically possible, what I think will interest potential enthusiast clients would
be a feature whereby a macro shot with different sharpness levels can
be combined in-camera to produce one picture with greater DOF than what
can be done today with affordable macro lenses .

5 upvotes
WayneHuangPhoto
By WayneHuangPhoto (8 months ago)

I would buy that.

1 upvote
jubilatu
By jubilatu (8 months ago)

just another BS marketing. Any modern smartphone (HTC one 4Mpx included) is better as a camera.

3 upvotes
jjl
By jjl (8 months ago)

They should have targeted microscopy & other technical fields first. This technology could be really helpful in technical applications where depth of field is a big issue - mostly in extreme macro situations. Imagine looking at photos of bacteria or plankton with this?

But as a consumer product, there just isn't an easy way to view/share the images, and after refocusing an image a couple times, it's like.. ok, that's pretty cool, but what's the point exactly?

13 upvotes
Raist3d
By Raist3d (8 months ago)

Yes, yes & yes.

1 upvote
rallyfan
By rallyfan (8 months ago)

Confocal microscopy allows stacking of images from different planes (fields of view) at the subcellular level. Although out-of-plane images are specifically excluded from the end-product "stack," the number of included images is such that a 3D visualization of the observed structure is feasible. The optics used are not unconventional, and the technology dates back decades now. In fact this was among my initial exposures to digital photography.

There are "3d" techniques available with other optical scopes as well.

To access the scientific market this company would have to partner with a hardware/software firm already established in the field.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
rallyfan
By rallyfan (8 months ago)

Now, if Lytro come up with a way for me to generate in-focus images of an object ranging from, say, 15 to 1000 kg and moving at, say, 5 kph to 300 kph as a series of sharp photos taken from a distance of 20m to 50m, I'd be buying -- but they'd have to be cheaper than the current dSLR bodies and lenese, lighter, more resilient, and I'd want it yesterday. A lightweight, high efficiency and connected rig to shoot animals and sports including motorsport would be useful

The rest is hippy talk and vapourware.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Neeneko
By Neeneko (8 months ago)

That would probably have been wise. Reading their stuff it seems obvious the company has a strong machine-vision bend to it, so they did what they thought was cool. It did not translate well unfortunately.

0 upvotes
rallyfan
By rallyfan (8 months ago)

I can't think of a single use for this camera and I suspect I'm not alone. If there were something I could use it for I might buy it I suppose.

0 upvotes
Raist3d
By Raist3d (8 months ago)

Here's one for a start Lytro- don't make me have to upload *my* photos to *your* website to share them or show them.

Also get rid of this tag line in your website: "The Lytro camera lets you create and share living pictures that you and your friends can endlessly refocus after you take them."

Nobody wants to look at photos "endlessly refocusing them." That's just nonsense. You should re-package is as the ability to modify focus as a post process operation- with the idea of *still baking it into a final product*, or say produce two-three interesting shots out of one capture by different *baked final selections of focus*.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
16 upvotes
Total comments: 84