Lytro Light Field Camera
Body & Design
The Lytro LFC is an unconventional in appearance as it is in the way it works. We previously suggested Lytro had looked to Apple when embarking on its product design and we'd stand by that. The strange, oversized lipstick design isn't as awkward to hold or use as you might think, but it does present a fairly predictable limitation - it drastically limits the size of the preview screen.
There are very few physical controls on the Lytro - there's an On button, a shutter button and a zoom slider - everything else is controlled via the camera's touch screen interface. This means that, most of the time you'll be simply pointing the lens end of the camera at your subject and pressing the shutter button.
Zooming is achieved by stroking your finger across a roughened strip on the top of the camera, set behind the shutter button. It takes three or four strokes to zoom from wide-angle to telephoto (or seven in 'Creative' mode), making it rather laborious. We found it a little easy to accidentally press when lining a shot up, messing up the framing.
And, as we've already established, it's a pretty small screen. Worse still, it's not a terribly good screen. It's very low-resolution (49,000 dots - 128 x 128 pixels) and offers rather poor viewing angles, meaning that color and contrast can change dramatically if you move your head or the device too much.
In your hand
Most of the camera's handling is controlled via its touchscreen interface. Since it's a fairly automated camera (with focus, white balance and all exposure parameters chosen for you), there's limited scope for interaction. As such, there's not much you need to control for yourself.
In the Everyday shooting mode, tapping the screen specifies where you want it to meter. It's a weighted area metering system, so pressing on a dark object won't totally ruin the scene's exposure. It's a bit tricky to judge the metering from the screen so it's often worth swiping your finger to the right across the screen to quickly review the image after you shoot it.
Beyond this, you can swipe your finger upwards to reveal the three-item function menu, where you can check the battery status, the memory status and engage 'Creative mode.'
|In Everyday mode, pressing the screen changes where the camera meters.||Swiping upwards on the screen brings up a three-item status panel...|
|...which includes the ability to engage 'Creative mode.'||Pressing the screen now focuses as well as metering.|
The only major change in Creative mode is that tapping the screen now specifies the focus point, rather than just metering. And, because there aren't any other ways of interacting with the camera, there's no means of getting the camera to meter on anything other than the specified subject in Creative mode.
In playback mode, you gain a small star symbol at the top left of the screen, which can be selected to prioritize the downloading of that image. This selection is retained when the images have downloaded, allowing you to filter your images by whether they've been 'starred.'
Other than this, you can tap the screen to refocus the image or, in theory, double-tap to zoom in on it. Despite repeated attempts, I couldn't get the double-tap to work (Lytro say they're looking at re-calibrating it).Thankfully you can use the zoom slider to zoom in, instead. I say thankfully because, without zooming-in, it's almost impossible to tell what's in focus and what isn't. And, even with zoom, forget being able to get much of an idea of color or exposure - the screen is so low resolution and so difficult to get a clear view of, it's all but impossible to divine much about your images from.