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LYTRO ILLUM A Light Field Camera for the Creative Pioneer

When in 2011 Lytro introduced its first Light Field camera, media proclaimed that photography is changed forever. When Lytro approached Artefact to collaborate on LYTRO ILLUM, the next generation of its light field camera, we were thrilled.

Lytro is the first company to bring an entirely new category, Light Field Photography, to the consumer and professional markets, enabling a richer set of image data compared to conventional digital or film cameras. Built to harness the full power of the light field, the professional-grade LYTRO ILLUM will give photographers a new medium capable of capturing visual experiences in their purest form — not as a static cross-section of reality but an authentic, interactive window into their world. In search of a design partner that could manage a high degree of complexity and deliver a breakthrough product, while truly collaborating with the engineering team, Lytro approached Artefact.

To enable such rich, layered compositions, LYTRO ILLUM delivers unparalleled optical versatility by merging custom-built hardware with a powerful software platform. The camera offers a 40-megaray light field sensor, 8x optical zoom range, constant f/2.0 aperture and a high-speed shutter capable of freezing motion under a wide variety of conditions. After image capture, the innovative software platform empowers photographers to adjust aspects of images that were previously fixed, such as focus, tilt, perspective shift and depth of field, which allows the photographer to create images that will resonate for the viewer not just in one dimension, but in every dimension.

We took a pragmatic approach to the hardware design, looking to achieve a balance between the traditional and the new, what is needed and what could be eliminated. The design of LYTRO ILLUM offers the perfect combination of highly functional tools, a unique stance, and an iconic appearance.


Screen adjustment at the touch of a thumb

While LYTRO ILLUM’s screen angle is optimized for 60% of all photos that are taken in landscape orientation, a light tap of the thumb on the lower edge of the display has the monitor pop into a vertical position, allowing for the accurate framing of photographs in portrait orientation. Pulling the screen out for low angle macro shots is just as easy.

Form, meet function

Today’s camera designs prioritize either ergonomics or a minimalist appearance. In the former case, the resulting products often lack visual appeal, whereas cameras with simple geometry need to be accessorized to make up for their shortcomings in the areas of usability and handling. LYTRO ILLUM manages to balance the two aspects of design, resulting in an elegant, distinctive and timeless product that is delightful to use and a pleasure to look at.

A new take on “touch” interfaces

Photographers want their eyes on the scene, not the camera. To make controls simple and easy to locate without looking, the team placed them where they would be easy to find. Similarly, the focus and zoom rings are easy to locate and distinguish by touch.

The hot, hot shoe

In terms of aesthetics, technical camera components such as tripod mounts, hot shoes, doors, and batteries are often a liability. LYTRO ILLUM’s hot shoe island is not only a very functional element that allows for easy insertion of accessories without damaging the camera body, but it’s also a central visual element that ties together the product’s two major volumes – lens and body.


Point of view

We surveyed the light field and photography space, related markets, and influencing trends, spending time with Lytro’s design and engineering team to unpack the brand and product objectives. We developed deeper understanding and a point of view that informed the direction of the ensuing design effort.

Preliminary concept creation

We dove deep into the product architecture, possible geometry and functional needs. We generated and iterated a multitude of initial concepts. Working closely with Lytro, we verified technical and usability implications of potential solutions and selected the most promising design directions for further development.

Rapid iteration and testing

We further refined and validated the selected concepts through a rapid iterative testing and evaluation process (RITE) to optimize the concepts based on input from the target audience. Focusing on physical interface, handling, and aesthetics, the project teams at Artefact and Lytro, together with a specifically assembled Project Advisory Panel, informed the final design direction.

Intent and details

The team optimized and finalized the selected concept, creating a design spec that defines all the aesthetic and manufacturability details, as well as all aspects of usability, handling, and physical controls. Working in close collaboration with Lytro’s mechanical and electrical engineering teams throughout, we helped finalize the design of the shipping product.