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)