LightField tech is slowly conquering new fields of photography: Less than a year ago, Lytro shipped the world’s first consumer LightField Camera, which represents the miniaturization of an entire room full of cameras, the Stanford Multi-Camera Array.
Just before the end of the year, Toshiba announced a camera module that is again a miniaturization of the Lytro LightField Camera: The tech giant has packed a microlense array of 500,000 lenses (30 µm diameter each) into a camera module that measures just 1 x 1 cm, which makes it potentially suitable for inclusion in Smartphones and other mobile technology.
Interestingly, the sensor seems to pack more punch than Lytro’s: Lytro’s LightField Camera contains roughly 100,000 microlenses (that’s one fifth of Toshiba’s new invention), and is slightly smaller than Toshiba’s, with 6.5 x 4.5 mm instead of 7 x 5 mm.
That may mean that we’ll be able to expect similar or better image quality in the first LightField smartphones. Since depth of field is directly related to the number of microlenses in the array, the sensor’s higher density of microlenses may compensate for the smaller optical system.
The cube-shaped module is about 1 centimeter per side and contains a dense array of 500,000 lenses, each 0.03 millimeter in diameter, in front of an image sensor measuring 5 mm by 7 mm. The same mechanism works similar as the way the compound eye structure functions in insects.
At launch, users will even be able to “work with videos“.
Toshiba wants to have the module ready for market by the end of fiscal 2013, at which point smartphone and tablet makers will hopefully include the technology into their products.
Two other companies that have been working on LightField technology for Smartphones for years, are Pelican Imaging and Rebellion Photonics