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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.

Body Elements

On the top of the camera you'll find a shutter button and a zoom slider (the small strip of ridges towards the back of the top of the camera - exaggerated slightly in this image). Stroking your finger repeatedly across the strip zooms the lens.

We found it a little easy to accidentally nudge the zoom slider when pressing the shutter.
On the bottom is the power button and a USB connector. The battery and memory are both fixed and internal, so there are no slots or doors to worry about.
Beyond this, all control is via the touch-screen, which can be swiped (up/down or left/right), tapped or double-tapped, to give a touch more control to proceedings.

And, if that sounds rather iPhone-like, then it should - as the Lytro offers similar levels of user control over the output image (very little).

In your hand

'Is that a camera?' is a question you'll have to get used to being asked, thanks to the LFC's distinctly unconventional shape. We're not entirely convinced by the company's insistence that its form comes from its function but it's actually surprisingly easy to hold steady.

The shutter button is close enough to the point you find yourself holding the camera that you don't end up tilting the camera up in the air every time you take a shot.

Operation

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.

Record mode:

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.

Playback

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.

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Comments

Total comments: 6
Mike Rieker
By Mike Rieker (2 months ago)

I have to agree with BallsMassive in that the camera when used outside in bright daylight makes a better mirror then a viewfinder>
I bought it and returned it.
It seems that they want our money for the Beta testing. A fairly common practice these day.
Fool me once,,,,,

0 upvotes
Ricardo Dunna
By Ricardo Dunna (2 months ago)

Good for security cameras !

0 upvotes
richshep
By richshep (6 months ago)

Doomed to failure. My Nokia phone does this and more. Not that I think it's a feature worth using.

0 upvotes
Charlie46227
By Charlie46227 (7 months ago)

While I agree with BM that the resolution is very low, I would also agree that you have to look at it like the Polaroids of yesteryear. They were NEVER about image quality. Also, I remember when the first consumer digital cameras came out. Their image quality left a lot to be desired too But look at them now! (you gotta start somewhere). If these cameras get us to the next level (as did the first digital cameras), then more power to Lytro. I suspect when the chips become twice as dense and processing speed quadruples, the camera will be ready for primetime. So, I guess I agree that AT THIS POINT, the camera is just a 'toy'. But that's ok ! At least it is for some people.

Also, perspective shift is NOT the same as done with Photomerge.

0 upvotes
DGates
By DGates (7 months ago)

A pricey, oddly-shaped toy at that.

And sorry, but image and resolution IS everything when it comes to cameras. This camera takes a tiny step forward in regards to the gimmicky post-altering of focal points, but 2 steps back in image quality.

0 upvotes
BallsMassive
By BallsMassive (8 months ago)

I signed up just to say how bad this camera is. Once the gimmick wears off, this camera is literally useless.

I wanted it for the perspective shift. After testing it: The perspective shift is simply an algorithm (like Photoshop's photomerge) applied to the image to give it a poorly done 3D feel.

Good thing it was a gift.

1 upvote
Total comments: 6