As I sit on a couch in the middle of Lytro’s office, alternately taking photos and seeing them displayed in 3D on a large TV, it becomes clear. This is the future. Not the Illum, necessarily, though it’s one of the more exciting cameras I’ve seen in a while. Maybe not even Lytro, though it’s built a huge lead in its nascent industry. But light-field photography — the notion that the future is about turning the complex physical parts of a camera into software and algorithms, that capturing beautiful photos is little more than a data-crunching problem — seems almost obvious. Why capture one photo, from one angle, with one perspective, when we could capture everything? When I can explore a photo, zooming and panning and focusing and shifting, why would I ever want to just look at it?
Lytro’s first camera was a toy, but it made us think differently about what a photograph might someday be. Now it’s making those ideas truly achievable with the Illum, a professional-grade tool. If it works, if Lytro can convince just a few people that this is the future, I can’t even imagine what might come next.