Can Nokia’s Pelican Camera beat Lytro

Lytro Camera Vs Pelican Camera

 Every time you press the shutter button, do you worry that the delay in the camera’s focusing abilities will make you miss out on the perfect photo op? Light field cameras, like Pelican and Lytro, have developed technologies that completely eliminate the need to focus during actual photography. These cameras conveniently allow you to change focus after an image has been clicked! Such photos are called living pictures. Here is a look at how both these cameras function, and which one is the better of the two.

 Lytro Camera

Lytro was founded by a Stanford University alumnus Ren Ng. This company has manufactured cameras that use microlenses to capture light rays coming from different directions. It then creates mini-versions of an image, and processes this data to allow users to makes changes in focusing. The Lytro is the first ever consumer camera that records the complete light field, rather than just a 2D photo. This technology is slowly bringing about a revolution in photography.

Lytro camera’s Perspective Shift feature works on computers as well as smartphones, and allows you to shift focus to whatever area you like in an image. This freedom to play around with living pictures can unleash your creative streak!


The Lytro camera is equipped with two modes. The Everyday Mode requires you to press a button, and a photograph is immediately captured. This is perfect for taking casual images when you are out with your friends. The other one is called the Creative Mode, which lets you have control of the amount of blur you want in a scene. Furthermore, manual controls, accessible through the camera’s touch screen, allows you to set ISO and shutter speed. The Lytro camera has an ISO range of 80 to 3200, and a minimum shutter speed of 1/250. Lytro cameras also permit you to zoom. The icing on the cake is however the nine Living Filters which give your pictures a variety of unique looks!

Lytro has also released a free Lytro Mobile App which makes it possible for users to share their images on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, from their iPhone or iPod Touch. Users can even email or MMS these living pictures. A similar application, known as the Lytro Desktop app, has been designed for computers. It works on Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later (Intel Core 2 Duo or newer), Windows 7 (64-bit only), and Windows 8 (64-bit only). Once living photos have been shared by the photographer, viewers also have the freedom to refocus by tapping or clicking over the image. No special software is needed to do this!

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Lytro cameras are priced at around INR 25,000. However, a major drawback is its poor image quality. This is because each cluster of pixel behaves like an individual pixel. Therefore, a 11 million photosite camera possesses only 11 megarays. A Lytro living photo is just over 1MP in size, and only 0.78MP for a 4×6 print.

Pelican Camera

Pelican Imaging’s camera uses a new type of light field technology: mobile! This California based start-up is working in collaboration with Nokia to develop an array camera that would fit into a smartphone.

Pelican’s camera consists of sixteen distinct lenses and imaging channels that form a 4×4 grid. This is radically different current cameras that have just one lens. Each lens inside the Pelican has its own sensors, which turns them into an array of mini-cameras. Each of these captures only one colour, from a choice of red, blue, and green. This reduces cross-talk by offsetting one layer against another. A Pelican camera image has less noise, and is therefore better in quality. This technology is said to have been inspired by Pelican advisor Marc Levoy, who has worked on the original camera array work at Stanford University.

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Pelican cameras are the first mobile light field cameras to capture videos at 30fps and 1080p resolution. Furthermore, by allowing you to change focus after an image is clicked, Pelican has decided to remove auto-focus. This architecture leads to the elimination of moving components, and allows users to take rapid, successive, and instant shots. This technological advancement scales down the camera size. A Pelican measures less than 3mm in thickness, which is about half the size of current smartphone cameras.

Another interesting feature of the Pelican camera is the depth map that is produced due to the minute distances between mini-cameras. This makes masking and isolating a subject very easy. It also lets you make depth-based adjustments, like correcting flash drop-offs or reducing saturation.

Kartik Venkataraman, the company’s CTO, says that depth information can also be used to correct camera shake. Instead of treating it as a single movement, different degrees of motion at different distances from the lens can be corrected individually. 3D effects can be also introduced, without sacrificing image quality. All this information can then be converted into a JPEG file that is only 20% larger than a regular JPEG.

Pelican Imaging’s software does not know the distance of an object, nor the parallax that is caused by light falling on different sensors. However, the software refocuses images in almost real-time! Bo Ilsoe of Nokia Growth Partners states that it requires a very complicated algorithmically for achieving this result. Pelican is one of the few companies to have mastered this technology. Pelican’s still images have an 8MP output resolution and it also allows users to take videos. Unlike Lytro, this company lets you simultaneously select multiple focal points on an image. You can also combine different elements from several photos, and make an interesting new image!

A Pelican array camera is predicted to cost about INR 1,200, in volume. However, a downside of this camera is that the possibility of a zoom lens is completed scrapped.


Lytro allows zooming, but Pelican does seem to have a few advantages over it. For one thing, Pelican allows you to take videos, and the cameras are also sleeker, and less expensive. Additionally, resolution of Pelican images is way higher than that of the Lytro. As of now, Pelican is concentrating on the smartphone market. With Apple and Android controlling 90% market share, Nokia hopes to increase its 3% share by arming its phones with array cameras. Pelican is at the cusp of being commercialized, however Lytro might be able to establish itself as a leader in the camera segment, instead of the phone.

About the Author:

Sahadev Madriwala writes with, a blog that focuses on digital camera technologies and latest photography trends.