Every now and then, somebody comes up with a radically new way to improve technology and do something different. One such example is the Flexible Sheet Camera that researchers at the Laboratory for Unconventional Electronics at Columbia University have developed. Rather than a little handheld box with a single lens and some sort of zoom optics, this super-thin concept camera lets you adjust the field of view by simply bending it:
Apple is known to have been interested in light field technology since before Lytro released their first-generation light field camera, as Ren Ng was reportedly invited by Steve Jobs himself to discuss the technology’s potential. The company has even patented some of their own inventions in the field.
Now, it seems that the tech giant has made its next move towards light field photography: Apple has acquired Israeli camera module maker LinX, which specializes in thin camera arrays similar to Pelican Imaging’s PiCam.
LinX promises powerful camera modules with advanced image quality (“leading the way to DSLR performance in slim handsets”), but also additional information such as scene depth through its “multi-aperture” modules (read: array cameras and possibly light field technology).
Last autumn, the Fraunhofer Institute of Integrated Circuits (IIS) announced their very own light field camera setup, which they dubbed the “most innovative lightfield camera recording system to date“.
At NAB 2014, the world’s largest electronic media show, the IIS gave live demonstrations of their camera.
For the past year, the Fraunhofer Digital Cinema Alliance has been researching new, cheaper technology and workflow solutions for 3D film making. In a recent press release, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) announced some of the newest innovations from the Spatial-AV project. There’s a new, miniaturized 360-degree ultra-high definition panoramic video camera rig, a prototype microphone management solution for spatial audio recording, and – most interesting to us – a “Light-field Media Production System” that is touted as being “the most innovative lightfield camera recording system to date”.
Let’s have a closer look at Fraunhofer’s setup:
Not too long ago, Pelican Imaging announced their own solution to bring light field technology to mobile devices. In the Lytro Light Field Camera and similar setups, the optical elements take up too much space for integration in smartphones (or other small devices). Pelican chose a different path, using an array of 16 tiny cameras and creating a camera module that is only 3 mm thick (i.e. 50 % of today’s high-end smartphone camera modules), costs 20 $ in production, and creates pictures at 8 Megapixel effective resolution.