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Toshiba shows-off Lytro-style Light Field module for mobiles

By dpreview staff on Feb 27, 2013 at 22:50 GMT

Toshiba Semiconductors has been demonstrating a sensor module for mobile phones that allows Lytro-style refocusable images. The company promises 2MP images from an 8MP sensor and is already working on a version with higher-resolution output. However, there's reason to believe such cameras would be even more prone to the drawbacks we identified in Lytro's camera.

Toshiba showed its sensor (shown bare and with lens as a module), to IDG News Service. Image copyright: IDG News Service

Like the Lytro, the Toshiba chip features a layer of microlenses that scatter light across multiple pixels, depending on the angle from which the light approached. This allows the camera to capture information about depth, as well as brightness and color. This information can then be re-processed to render images as if they'd been focused on different depths.

However, just as small sensor cameras tend to have limited control over depth-of-field (a result of the necessarily short focal lengths and small aperture diameters of their lenses), the size of Toshiba's camera risks it only offering refocusability over very close ranges. It's also worth noting Light Field cameras require a trade-off between resolution and depth information. Toshiba is choosing a balance that is weighted towards resolution, which we'd expect to further reduce its ability to discern depth information. (From IDG News Service)

Comments

Total comments: 23
Banhmi
By Banhmi (Mar 1, 2013)

Good software might make Lytro interesting on a smartphone.

0 upvotes
ThePhilips
By ThePhilips (Feb 28, 2013)

As much as it pains me to admit, mobile became the place for true photographic innovations.

Volumes and diversity of the products - as well as complimentary character of the on-board camera - allow for more experiments and new ideas than the traditional DSLR market (and even newer mirrorless market).

0 upvotes
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Feb 28, 2013)

Or it is a blessing and the inventions made for mobile phones are making it back to the Pro-Gear. Not sure will be DSLR in the future. I am now waiting for my NEX 6 to arrive with plenty of Mobile Phone tech in it, such as downloadable applications. I am very excited how they will actually be useful. Or the wifi / mobile phone integration. And the NEX 6 has plenty of Pro Camera inventions / improvements, such as the complete new Gestalt which actually works better than the DSLR Gestalt. I do not see Pro Cameras innovation cycles slowed down by mobile phones but rather accelerated. I would expect in the future cameras will run Android OS and downloadable applications will become the norm and usability of cameras will further improve, say instead of pressing buttons you simply tell your camera what you want. In short, I thing mobile phone photography innovation will benefit serious photography as well :-)

0 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Feb 28, 2013)

Hi tech advancement seems to be around every corner, nowadays it looks more like a question of connecting three good ideas to get to something revolutionary. A few short weeks ago there was this article about paint-on batteries.
Take a look at this thing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtM6XJlynkk&feature=player_embedded

0 upvotes
Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Feb 28, 2013)

A plenoptic DSLR would cost what? $100k maybe. The post-op focus capability would be no more remarkable than using Gaussian blur in PhotoShop. Pros would insist they could do better with manual focus, and complain that plenoptics do not work in low light or any significant distances.

Meanwhile, a $400 hand-held "thingy" with a plenoptic effect might be cute and novel, even though it struggles in low light. Would it present any advantages over an "Instagram" filter? Hard to say.

2 upvotes
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Feb 28, 2013)

Maybe this is an efficient way to replace mechanical focus. Everything electronic ultimately became more powerful than mechanical solutions. We are now in the transition of mechanical HD to SSD. Maybe this is the beginning of such transformation for lens focus. This approach might possibly even increase dynamic range. Maybe the balance of Toshiba is more healthy than the one of Lytrro ? Time will tell. Sure interesting to follow how this develops :-)

Comment edited 11 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Feb 28, 2013)

This Lytro thing has been richly disparaged and ridiculed on this Forum when it arrived, to sensible people it did show potential, even in its newborn form. If you combine HDR or a stacking principle to it, the lens-to-infinity sharp images are quite possible, which is optically impossible, unless one uses extreme fisheye. Many photographers will welcome that.
It just takes some more short years wait, as the manufacturers are introducing the new features by the eyedropper, even when they already have the working solutions. But in our time and age, the most unbelievable thing about technology advancement is the acceleration.

1 upvote
Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Feb 28, 2013)

Have you enjoyed your Lytro? Or does your admiration, based on principle, not outweigh the pocketbook or common sense?

A "flying car" also has abstract attractions, and hybrid car-planes have been built, but the cost, safety, trade-offs and maintenance challenges make such a thing impractical.

0 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Feb 28, 2013)

Let's continue this conversation in a few years. Things start slow, but then usually gain speed, and nobody seems to remember the prototypes any more. I don't need many among the new things, among other things they're often outrageously overpriced. There's no hurry just because something is announced.

0 upvotes
LaFonte
By LaFonte (Mar 1, 2013)

Ultimately I don't think 90% of people wants to refocus image after they took it, what they want is a well focused image in first place.

We may argue that a future camera can snap picture quickly then "focus" it later but that means we expect the normal way of focusing be still slow in the future. That may not be true.

1 upvote
AV Janus
By AV Janus (Feb 28, 2013)

Someone needs to hack up a module like this for a D800....

0 upvotes
xoio
By xoio (Feb 28, 2013)

Toy

1 upvote
Hobbit13
By Hobbit13 (Feb 28, 2013)

Most mobile phone cameras have a depth of field that is large enough to do most shots in "hyper focal" any way. So I do not see the use for such small sensors.

But it might be useful to capture 3D movies etc.

4 upvotes
Digital Imaging Technician
By Digital Imaging Technician (Feb 28, 2013)

What I came here to say. The Lytro camera itself was a joke. Yes, if put something at 20 cm distance from the camera you might be able to achieve shallow DOF that you can later control. Forget it if you are taking a portrait of someone 3 meters away.

1 upvote
jeerzz
By jeerzz (Feb 28, 2013)

best for instagram

0 upvotes
CyberAngel
By CyberAngel (Feb 28, 2013)

Maybe this could be applied to the 38+ Million pixel Nokia 808 sensor?
Like 2x2= 4 levels of focus at about 9+ Mpix
or 3x3= 9 leves of focus at about 4+ Mpix
7152x5368->3576x2684 (or ->2384x1789~)

0 upvotes
G Sciorio
By G Sciorio (Feb 28, 2013)

Now everyone will be able to refocus their food shots....

4 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Feb 27, 2013)

Lytro is having a hard time explaining Lytro to potential Lytro users.

Try explaining that to mobile phone users who want instant gratification and couldn't care less with manipulation outside of Instasham.

.

11 upvotes
ThePhilips
By ThePhilips (Feb 28, 2013)

Mobile phone users rarely bother with the spec sheet of the on-board camera. And that's the beauty of it: there is no need for explanation.

And if Insta*beep* would update the app/whatever to support unique features of such sensors, for the users it would be seamless experience.

0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Feb 27, 2013)

Most cell-phone camera shooters barely take the time to focus before the shot, you think they will care about it afterward?

12 upvotes
thx1138
By thx1138 (Feb 28, 2013)

Pictures of themselves or friends spewing then posted to Facebook, I'm sure refocusability will be high on their agenda.

Comment edited 32 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Shunda77
By Shunda77 (Feb 28, 2013)

The 'technicolor yawn' will now be able to be exquisitely focused in all its glory, don't knock a good power chuck pic to face book, you aren't really living until you puke on cheap alcohol and have a 'friend' capture the moment for the whole world to see.

0 upvotes
hjulenissen
By hjulenissen (Feb 28, 2013)

Doing "autofocus" afterhand might make their images look better without requiring any user-intervention.

Software-based lens tilt?

0 upvotes
Total comments: 23