Corliss Tech Review Group

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REVIEW: Will 3D tech take Lytro mainstream?

The Corliss Technology Review Group - When the world’s first light-field camera, Lytro, launched in Australia last year it was immediately greeted with a slew of scathing reviews.

Review, after review warned consumers about replacing their regular camera with this device; some went as far as to embed this point in the very first sentence of their critique. For many, the product’s price tag didn’t justify its features. Being able to refocus a shot after the fact is a cool little trick but it wasn’t worth the $499 price tag.

It’s been over a year since Lytro's trial-by-fire and despite the criticism it's still alive and kicking, thanks to a pocket of enthusiasts within the global photography community. As seen on Lytro’s own online gallery, in the hands of a pro, you can do some incredible work with this nifty tool.

Niche appeal not enough

But Lytro isn’t satisfied with its niche appeal. The mass market beckons, and the company is pulling out all the tricks in the technology playbook to stand out from the rest of the pack.

While the core product - that funny-looking, eye-catching rectangular camera - hasn’t changed, the software surrounding the device has undergone numerous upgrades in the past year. The latest rendition of the Lytro operating system allows you to display images in 3D. It’s an obvious attempt to broaden the devices appeal beyond its fan-base. But will it work?

In short, no. It won’t. The 3D perk is another cool add-on, but it's not a reason to buy the camera. The devil you see is in the detail.

For this little trick to work you need three things: a pricey 3D-enabled TV, a PC and a means to display that PC on your TV. For our trial, we used an old MacBook Pro, a Samsung 3D TV and a Apple TV. Since we used an older MacBook, we also loaded an app called Air Parrot to enable screen mirroring between the TV and the PC.

Assuming you have all of this, and the time to fiddle around with it, the 3D effect is kind of cool. But it sadly pales in comparison to what you would see on a 3D enabled Blu-ray. Stereoscopic 3D simply looks better with moving images. It’s such a difference that it’s almost unfair to compare the two.

When you look at the rest of Lytro’s offering, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify the camera as a mainstream device. The good news is, the device still has that (possibly intended) side-effect of making its wielder the center of attention at any given function or party. If you whip it out to take some photos, be prepared to explain why you're carrying around a camera shaped like an oversize lipstick case; particularly if you're sporting the red model.

When you're running around taking photos with the Lytro, it feels as if you're using a spy camera from the Bond series. In this sense, it's a joy to use. Its touch-screen options menu is easy to navigate and it takes good selfies too.

There’s nothing wrong with the use ability of the actual device.

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