Ten minutes into using the Lytro Illum, I’m throwing out everything I’ve ever learned about photography. Taking great photos with this camera has a different set of rules, a different guiding principle. Forget the rule of thirds; shoot for depth. Frame from below, because it makes everything look more dramatic. And most of all, stop half-pressing the damn shutter and expecting something to happen. Focusing doesn’t matter anymore.
The Illum is Lytro’s second product, but its first real camera. This is what Lytro executives say they’ve been building for seven years. The last one was made to prove light-field photography is real science. This one is a statement that the next phase in photography is already here. The Illum has a remarkable lens, a big, hefty body, and lots of manual controls. It shoots photos that you can refocus later. That you can look at from a number of different perspectives, or view in 3D. Photos that start to answer Lytro’s fundamental question: what becomes possible when we don’t have to print pictures anymore?
The Illum is made to show a certain class of photographers (mostly pros with $1,499 burning a hole in their pockets) a glimpse of the future. Over a week of shooting with it, I did get that glimpse — but that future still feels far away.