Lytro camera hands-onSee all photos
Right off the bat, you'll notice its diminutive size. If we're frank, we were expecting something more akin to a DSLR -- visions no doubt conjured by the immense arrays used to do this sort of wizardry back in the day. Its small, beautifully made, anodized aluminum body reminds us of a cross between an iPod Nano and an iSight camera -- inspiration that isn't only skin deep, as Lytro's desktop software (which you'll need to open and export .lfp files) is currently Mac only, with a Windows version in development.
Functionally, it's pretty simple to use. You manipulate the device via two buttons on its rubber coated end -- one turns it on, the other snaps photos. Captures are seamless and instantaneous, thanks to its zero-lag focus, and zooming is a similarly painless affair controllable on the grooved line across the device's top. As for image transfers, they're accomplished by connecting to a micro-USB port on its bottom -- hidden behind a flap, of course.
Most of your interaction with the device takes place on its glass-encased 1.46-inch touchscreen, where you'll be able to frame and view your shots. Contrast isn't stellar, but the touch functionality worked great as we swiped through stills, stopping only occasionally to tap and refocus on-camera. It's a pretty no-frills UI, as there aren't any shooting modes or controls visible other than a battery life and storage meter, and settings menu.
Finally, those pictures can be slung onto Lytro's desktop client, allowing near pixel-perfect uploads to the company's servers, embeddable on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere that takes an inject code. Those embeds are Flash or HTML5 (depending on the device) and allow friends who encounter them to refocus to their heart's desire.
For now, it really is just a novel toy. A $399 toy that's certainly within reach for the photography junkie in your life, eager for a new twist on an old concept. That may or may not describe you, but mark our words -- when Lytro integrates this kind of tech into a larger, more potent shooter: game over.