I absolutely love the concept of the Lytro Illum. I've been thinking about getting one since it was announced, but was too hesitant to be an early adopter based on the first impressions from the tech world (they all loved it, it just would sometimes lock up at times, rendering it useless without a hard reboot).
Heres a link to some of the first wedding shots I've seen created with the Lytro:
So...is the Illum the future of photography? You can actually be the judge, look through the images. Interact with them. Experience light field photography. It's really awesome. I wouldn't naysay the Lytro in the least, it produces excellent images and introduces a new level of interactivity to still photography. But let's quickly analyze what makes photography interesting in the first place.
First, photography is pretty simple. It's light being captured and recorded. Presently, it's on a digital sensor. It's a single frame of life, almost like life being paused. And that's sort of what makes it interesting. It's an image that's been composed, sometimes lit, and specifically created to tell a story. If it's done well, its powerful and makes the viewer stop and think. The image creation is on the photographer. The passive viewing experience is for the viewer. Enter the Lytro Illum. The camera that blurs the lines between those two roles.
The lytro allows the viewer to engage and interact with the image. It's really neat. Because it captures all of the available light in front of the lens, it allows the viewer to engage with the image - the viewer can refocus, shift the image a little (like a 3D effect), make the entire scene in focus of they want. Those are the highlights of what can be done. It's really wild, like I said before. But the question remains, does the world want to engage with the images they see? And potentially more importantly, does the photographer want their viewers to alter their images after the fact?
One negative is that viewers aren't accustomed to being actively engaged with an image, so they have no clue that they can in fact alter the focus of the image. Another is that this only allows for digital viewing of the images, one can't alter the images in print. Now, that doesn't mean prints can't be made, but it would indicate that the printed version is final, whereas the digital one can still be manipulated by the viewer. Another downside to giving editing power to the untrained viewer can lead to the photographer's voice being dulled. What if I was trying to capture something very specific and because the viewer can focus on something else, they lose sight of what I was trying to convey?
For every negative, there's also a positive. Practically speaking, the graphic designers on my team would never complain that I used 'shallow depth of field' to an extreme and them wanting me to go back and get more background in focus. Bam, done in one click. Group photos are a pain when the back row is slightly less sharp than the front row. Bam, also done in one click.
It's really about changing the roles between photographer and viewer that has me uncertain as to whether the Lytro will catch on. I hope it succeeds, I love seeing and creating new work. This seems like a great opportunity for photography.