When the Lytro light field camera made its way into the hands of consumers earlier this year, it did something no camera had previously done: absorb all the light rays in its field of view, making it possible to refocus the image anywhere the photographer desired. But its controls were (perhaps intentionally) simplisitic, which meant that hardcore photgraphers lacked control over the fine details they're normally used to.
Now that the world has had time with the Lytro, and Lytro has had more time to work on the firmware, there's a new feature which will be available to all Lytro owners via Software update: ISO and Shutter Speed are fully manual, and there's now a neutral density filter which gives you control over how much light the camera takes in (essentially an exposure control). Shutter speed ranges from 1/250 seconds to 8 seconds, while ISO goes from 80-3200. When adjusting for one, the other value automatically changes to compensate.
What these new features mean for you, the consumer, is that the Lytro will now have improved low light performance, along with the ability to pull off some slick high-speed photography tricks. (See below.) And because Lytro also added an auto exposure lock, you don't have to worry about refocusing the shot and losing the light metering you want.
That said these new settings won't work miracles; low light shots still won't be free of visible noise, and image detail in shots is still just so-so. But improvement is improvement, and these new features are an encouraging sign that the Lytro isn't just a one-hit wonder that is bound to disappear in a flash. The new firmware is available on all new Lytro cameras and will be available for existing users as a download starting today. [Lytro]