Yesterday, Feb. 11, pioneers of light field photography Lytro showcased the capabilities of their flagship camera, the Illum, in wedding photography at their “Love and Weddings in a Different Light” event. The demo was held at Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Station, featuring designer dresses, a 20-foot Godiva chocolate sculpture, as well as a workshop with wedding photographer Charles Maring.
Despite having yet to shoot with the Illum myself, I’ve always been critical of light field photography. Perhaps it’s because I assume there’s a catch associated with any product promising unlimited focus. Or maybe I’m just a cynic—but maybe not: After yesterday’s demo I’ve found there are certainly limitations with this camera. However, it’s not to say that mostly all of them aren’t manageable if you know what you’re doing. And despite the multitude of negative reviews, it seems like the Illum has yet to tap into its core market. Could wedding photography be the answer?
After speaking with Maring, it was difficult to ignore the advantages of shooting a wedding with the Illum. First off, there’s the obvious interactive aspect: Who wouldn’t want turn their wedding photos into an interactive 3D experience? Second, it creates new selling points to set you apart from your competition. Sure, Uncle Bob can shoot smooth, balanced photos with his full-frame DSLR. With the Illum, however, you can not only shoot “living photographs,” but present them in 3D and 2D slideshow animations as you capture the most endearing moments of the day.
And yet, my biggest concern isn’t so much the camera’s capability of rendering immersive imagery, but rather its lack of versatility. With a fixed aperture of f/2 (which can be modified when uploaded to Lytro’s desktop software), I asked Maring how it handles in low light. He said: “I find that it can function well up to a 800 ISO before you begin to see a decrease in quality.” So that’s not too bad, but it does mean you shouldn’t leave home without a tripod, lighting and a flash. Another concern of mine is speed. At a wedding you need to be quick—it’s almost too easy to miss a once in a lifetime moment. Maring told me that it can shoot up to 3 fps. I’ve seen bouquets fall faster than that.
Lytro claims to be changing the way everyone takes and experiences pictures. Even yesterday, a representative explained to me that “there was film, then digital and now there’s Lytro.” Do I believe it’s a plausible replacement for a DSLR? No. But I think it could potentially become a particularly worthy added bonus—although I can’t say for sure until I hold one in my hands.