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Lytro update unlocks manual controls, exposure lock

Lytro Light Field Camera owners -- current and future -- can now access ISO and shutter speed among other things.

Sarah Tew/CNET

From the time Lytro launched its first consumer Light Field Camera in March, the company has been clear that the Lytro you buy today will be able to do much more in the future.

For example, as of today, current Lytro owners can get a firmware update via the desktop software (available for Mac and Windows) to add some more control over the camera, including shutter speed and ISO.

Without control over shutter speed or ISO, most low-light shots I've taken end up looking like the above -- grainy with poor color. That's because the camera ramps up sensitivity to ISO 3200, allowing it to keep the shutter speed fast enough to help prevent blur, in this case 1/15th of a second. (Click on different areas of the photos to refocus; Flash is required for desktop viewing.)

However, dropping the sensitivity to ISO 80 and slowing the shutter speed to 2.5 seconds, you end up with the above shot. (Both shots were taken using a Joby Gorillapod tripod with Lytro's $20 tripod mount.)

When you turn on manual controls (a simple check box in the settings menu, which is unfortunately placed next to the Delete All option), you can adjust ISO from 80 to 3200 and shutter speeds from 8 seconds to 1/250th of a second. If left in auto, by the way, the camera will only slow the shutter to 1/15th of a second.

Lytro has also added the capability to turn on and off a neutral density filter for those times when its f2 aperture is just too bright. A new Exposure Lock option is available, too; just press and hold on what you want to set the exposure for and you're done. Changing it just requires tapping on the screen again.

Working on the tiny, low-quality screen is a bit of a pain regardless of what you're doing, but Lytro managed to make an efficient interface using simple sliders, so that you're not struggling when you want to change settings.

This is a nice start and the update should give early adopters something to be excited about playing with. However, if the camera still doesn't have the features you're after, there's always a chance the next update will. Or maybe not, which is part of the problem with buying any unfinished evolving product.

Lytro announced a couple of new accessories for storing the device as well: $29.95 Camera Sleeve and a Camera Case for $59.95. The sleeve simply gives you something to keep it in when not in use, but there's no way to attach it to a strap or belt and there's nothing to keep it from falling out except friction. The bag is just large enough to carry the camera as well as a few other small accessories like a Micro-USB cable for charging and the tripod mount and perhaps a wallet and keys.

And to top it all off, the camera will come in two new colors. Joining Red Hot, Electric Blue, and Graphite, are Sea Glass available at Lytro.com and Moxie Pink, exclusively for Target.