Lytro: A failed revolution?

Last May we published an article in which we looked back at photo technology innovations which at the time were hailed as the next big thing and ended up as no big deal.

Dr Ren Ng:

Dr Ren Ng has left the photography revolution for an assistant professorship at Stanford University.

Among those were the Kodak Disc camera, the Nimslo 3D camera and the Advanced Photo System.

The latest of these seems to be the Lytro light field ‘variable focus’ camera. The founder of Lytro and the brains behind the technology, Dr Ren Ng, noted on the launch of the ($1999) Lytro Illum camera last year, ‘The original Lytro camera, which launched in 2012, introduced an entirely new era in photography.

‘Lytro Illum will advance this movement to a new level. We are very excited by the potential of this camera to ignite a photography revolution on the magnitude of the transformation from film to digital.

As we noted at the time, ‘There have been numerous products over the years hailed as having the potential to ignite a photography revolution which in reality turned out to be damp squibs.’

The $1999 Lytro Illum hasn't won over the reviewers.

The $1999 Lytro Illum hasn’t won over the reviewers.

So far, this has been be the case with Lytro cameras. The Illum has been either panned, or damned with feint praise in just about every review written. Ren Ng has since left Lytro and gone back to academia. In February, some 50 out of 130 employees were laid off, including the v-p of Marketing.

Nonetheless, all is not lost. It also announced in February it had secured another US$50 million in private equity capital – but apparently plans to move away from digital photography and towards virtual reality applications of its light field technology. (There may be an upgrade for the Illum later this year.)

One of the laid-off former employees had some revealing comments (as laid off employees sometimes do) to US-based Resource Magazine:

“No pro wants to use this [Lytro Illum]. When it is up to what we have come to expect from a pro-level camera …perhaps. But it’s just not there yet

And on the pivot over to virtual reality applications: ‘….. It’s as though the company finally realized they shouldn’t even be selling something like the Illum yet. The tech is really great, but it was still a tester camera to me.

‘Maybe they are finally really focusing on what they should be focusing on.’ (And we presume there was no pun intended.)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Related Posts