A smooth metal, two-tone box--4.4 inches long and 1.6 inches square--the Lytro Camera strays far away from what you expect a camera to look like. The squared metal tube houses its lens with a constant f/2.0 aperture throughout its 8x optical zoom.
Instead of the traditional sensor designs in other digital imaging devices and cameras, Lytro's camera uses a technology called light-field photography. Without getting too bogged down in the science of it, the technology allows the camera to shoot instantly without the need to focus first. It does this by collecting light from multiple directions, which the camera and processing software translate into what's basically a 3D map of whatever was photographed.
If you want to go beyond simple snapshots, the camera has a creative mode, giving users access to the entire 8x optical zoom; the default mode only uses a 3x zoom and is limited to Lytro's default settings. The Creative mode lets you focus up close to objects for macro shots, shoot portraits with background blur, and set the focal point and zoom in and out of the picture while maintaining the focal point to compose your photo.
What you get after you shoot, though, is not a standard photo. Instead, you get what Lytro calls "living pictures" that allow you to refocus the image over and over again using Lytro's software. Just click on any area of the photo and that portion will come into focus. It gives photos a level of interactivity that can't be matched.
Software plays a major role in shooting, processing, and using the Lytro camera's images. Unlike a regular digital camera that produces JPEG or raw files that can be used with any number of image-editing programs, the Lytro camera creates LFP files--essentially its equivalent to raw files. These files require Lytro's software to offload images from the camera and process them for sharing.