Toshiba Dual-Camera Module with Software Refocus for Smartphones

Toshiba TCM9518MD Dual-Camera module with Software Refocus for Smartphones (picture: Toshiba) Tech-Giant Toshiba first appeared in the “refocus market” several months ago, when news got out about a tiny light field camera module for smartphones and tablets in development. According to the original report, the prototype was scheduled for mass production “by the end of fiscal 2013”.
Last week, Toshiba officially announced a smartphone camera module with refocus capability, but it’s quite different from the products that were described earlier this year: Instead of a single 1 cm2 camera module with 8-13 megapixel sensor, 500,000 microlenses and effective resolutions of 2 megapixels (6 MP in the second prototype), the new prototype dubbed TCM9518MD consists of two 5 megapixel cameras, a Large Scale Integrated (LSI) chip and no microlenses at all.

In an official press release, Toshiba announced that the dual-camera module will offer software refocus and other features, but not 3D functionality. The module is priced at 5000 Yen (approx. 52 USD, 38 EUR). Working samples will be available in January 2014, and mass production is set for April 2014.

System Block Diagram: Toshiba TCM9518MD Dual-Camera module with Software Refocus for Smartphones (picture: Toshiba)Toshiba’s brand-new camera module collects two 5 MP pictures and uses the accompanying LSI chip to calculate depth data and create an upscaled 13 MP image. Users will be able to refocus after pictures are taken, and also export “all in focus” versions of these pictures. The system promises “super-fast digital focus” and little to no shutter lag. Also, since it doesn’t require any focus motors, the module can be built much thinner (4.65 mm) than today’s 13 MP camera modules.
Features include software refocus, “deep focus“, depth-aware image manipulation (extraction/removal/replacement of objects) and gesture control.

Product details and key specifications:
Part Number: TCM9518MD
Sample Price: 5000 Japanese Yen
Sample Schedule: January 2014
Mass Production Schedule: April 2014
Mass Production Volume: 500,000 pieces per month

Lens: 4 elements, f/2.4, 61.8 degree (horizontal) FOV
Sensors: 1/4-inch CMOS (5 MP resolution, 1.4 µm pixel size, Progressive Scan shutter) x 2
Output: 13 MP single image, 5 MP (5 MP x 2 mode / 5 MP single mode), Depth map (VGA)
Frame rate: 24 fps @full resolution, 30 fps @1080p, 60 fps @720p, 120 fps @VGA
Module Size: 8.0 x 12.0 x 4.65 mm

Since the module doesn’t include actual light field technology, it will not be able to provide all light field features, such as perspective shift or 3D. It does, however, sound ideal for Smartphones, Tablets and other devices where size is an important aspect.

What do you think about these camera specs? Would you be interested in buying a smartphone with refocus features? Would it bother you that other light field features are unavailable? Let us know in the comments section!

Here’s the original press release:

Toshiba Announces Industry’s First Dual Camera Module Enabling Simultaneous Output of Images and Depth Data
Contributes to Create a Wide Range of Applications Including Post Focus on Images after Taking Picture

TOKYO – Toshiba Corporation (TOKYO: 6502) today announced that it has launched the industry’s first[1] dual camera module for smartphones, tablets and mobile devices. “TCM9518MD” incorporates twin 1/4 inch optical format 5-megapixel CMOS camera modules (5 megapixels × 2 arrays) and simultaneously outputs recorded images and depth data. Images captured with the module can subsequently be manipulated to change the depth of field and point of focus. Samples will be available by January 2014, with mass production scheduled for April 2014.

The dedicated companion LSI of the “TCM9518MD” measures and appends depth data to objects in the image. These data can be used for a wide variety of applications, including focus and defocus, and even to extract and erase objects from the picture. Used in combination with customers’ applications, the module supports the creation of new functions.

The companion LSI generates 13-megapixel images by upscaling images taken by the twin 5-megapixel cameras, realizing a lower module height than that of conventional 13 megapixel camera modules[2].

Computational cameras create images impossible to realize with the standard camera module by combining optical hardware technology-the lens and diaphragm-with digital signal processing technology. The TCM9518MD brings high resolution and computational camera functionalities to the CMOS image sensor market for smartphones, tablets and mobile devices.

Summary of the New Product

Part Number: TCM9518MD
Sample Price: 5000 Yen
Sample Schedule: January 2014
Mass Production Schedule: April 2014
Mass Production Volume: 500 thousand pieces per month

Key Features of the New Product

Simultaneous Output of Depth Data (Depth Map) and Deep Focus Image

The TCM9518MD’s twin cameras and dedicate companion LSI simultaneously deliver deep focus images in which foreground and background and all points in between are in focus, with depth data on each object in the image. This supports creation of new applications for smartphone, tablets and mobile devices, including refocus, defocus and extraction of any objects of the images, and gesture operation.

Output of 13 Megapixel Image

The companion LSI generates 13-megapixel photographs by upscaling images captured by the twin 5 megapixel cameras. This will contribute to downsizing of mobile devices.

Digital Focus Function

Most of auto focus camera modules for smartphones deploy a mechanical focus structure, moving the lens with motors like VCM[3]. It can take time to focus and also result shutter lag. TCM9518MD offers a non-mechanical digital focus function without mechanical structure, allowing high speed focus by calculating the depth to any objects[4]. It also realizes a lower module height.

Main Specifications
Part Number TCM9518MD
Output Resolution 13 megapixels
Sensor and Resolution 5 megapixels × 2
Optical Size 1/4 inch × 2
Pixel Size 1.4 micrometer
Module Size 8.0 × 12.0 × 4.65 mm


[1] For dual camera module with the companion LSI which output depth data. Source: Toshiba, as of September 2013.
[2] Generally for single camera modules, a bigger output image size requires a higher camera module. This product is lower than commercial 13-megapixel camera modules. Source: Toshiba, as of September 2013.
[3] Voice Coil Motor: a motor that moves a lens by applying an electrical current to a coil.
[4] Deep focus image output is not available when using a digital focus function.

via, via, via, via

You may also like...

1 Response

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.