Lytro Exits Consumer Market After CEO Admits Competing Against Industry Leaders Wasn’t The Best Idea

To be fair to Lytro, they genuinely did try to change the camera world with their bold, but ultimately imperfect machines.

The pioneering start-up was the first to market a consumer-friendly Light-field camera back in February 2012, which allowed photographers to refocus in post-processing.

It accomplished this using the same technology also adapted in the subsequent Lytro Illum that basically utilised a micro-lens array (consisting of thousands of tiny lenses) to capture all of the light in a scene at once, to be modified later on Lytro’s desktop software.

Theoretically this would have revolutionised everything about photography, since photographers wouldn’t have to worry about getting their settings right the first time.

“The cold hard fact was that we were competing in an established industry where the product requirements had been firmly cemented in the minds of consumers by much larger more established companies.”

In practice however, Lytro cameras were slow, clunky, and simply too expensive for most consumers. Not to mention that by building consumer cameras the company was fighting against established giants in the market such as Nikon, Canon, Sony, and all the other experienced manufacturers that vy for a dwindling market share. Sales of consumer cameras have fallen by over 30% in the last few years, and Lytro slotted into a tiny niche.

“I realised that we simply were not on a path to build a winning product.”

So in a sudden, but not entirely unexpected move, Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal announced last week in this Backchannel post that the company is withdrawing from the consumer market.

Rather than close the company however, he had to let go of the consumer department and restructure towards making products for professionals.

“As my doubts about our product direction grew, we started to hear from a growing chorus of Virtual Reality companies and Hollywood studios that they were looking for a Light Field powered solution to help them realize their creative vision for cinematic VR and next generation content. The more I looked at the needs of this market, the more convinced I became that we had something unique to offer.”

Based on this hunch, Lytro announced last year in November that their 3rd generation model, the Lytro Immerge, a 360° VR camera that will reportedly cost thousands of dollars when it launches this year.


Lytro are hedging all their bets on the Immerge.

This doesn’t mean the end of Light-field technology for consumers, as competitors Light and their attention-grabbing L16 Pocket Camera step up to the plate.

But as Lytro have demonstrated, perhaps there simply isn’t any room in the current market for such a situational contraption. Maybe photographers just want a better version of existing cameras like the rumoured a7R III or 5D Mark IV.