Toshiba Corp has developed a camera module that lets you refocus any part of a photograph you have already shot. According to a report by The Asahi Shimbun, the module is really tiny and can be fitted in smartphones and tablets. Currently, cameras require users to focus on images before releasing the shutter. Although you can make significant changes to photographs post shooting with imaging software, this technology promises to take photography and imaging to an entirely different level.
This tiny, cube-shaped camera module measures only about 1 cm square and contains 500,000 lenses. Each of these 500,000 lenses is 0.03 millimeter in diameter. What's interesting here is that the module puts to use the same mechanism as that of the compound eye structure found in insects.
Toshiba's camera module lets you click first, then worry about focusing.
Each lens in the module captures an image that is slightly different and the camera produces a “large, complete picture by using original software to combine the 500,000 tiny images.” The report elaborates that the camera measures the distance to an object, depending on the differences between the small images—just how cameras do in case of two lenses used to create 3D images.
The module can focus on objects by magnifying and superimposing only those portions of the images that have come out well. “Unlike traditional cameras, the new camera can create pictures that are focused on every single part of the image,” the report adds. It is even possible to record videos using this module. The report reveals that it can be used to “retain the image of a figure in the foreground while replacing the background.”
Toshiba plans to commercialise the module by the end of FY 2013. It will enable smartphone manufacturers and other companies to take up the idea soon after that. Considering how important it is for any smartphone to have decent camera capabilities, a technology like this going mainstream is sure to work wonders.
A similar camera was unveiled in June last year: Lytro allows you focus or refocus an image after it has been clicked. Lytro captures light data from various possible angles, for which it comes packed with microlens array—a special sensor which basically puts together many lenses in a tiny space. When the image is viewed on a computer screen, high-end software steps in to allow users to set the point of focus. Those who tested the prototype of this camera touted it as a revolutionary moment in photography.
The Lytro camera is the brainchild of Ren Ng, who’s also the Chief Executive at Lytro. He's had this concept with him since 2006 as a part of his Ph.D. thesis at Stanford University. It has won him the Best Doctoral Dissertation in Computer Science award from the Association of Computing Machinery.
Publish date: December 28, 2012 7:00 pm| Modified date: December 19, 2013 6:14 am