Can computer corrections make simple lenses look good?
Modern lenses tend to be large and expensive, with multiple glass elements combining to minimise optical aberrations. But what if we could just use a cheap single-element lens, and remove those aberrations computationally instead? This is the question scientists at the University of British Columbia and University of Siegen are asking, and they've come up with a way of improving images from a simple single element lens that gives pretty impressive results.
|Image scientists are looking at whether a complex lens can be replaced by a simple one, along with lots of computation.|
The method is described in detail in the researchers' paper. It works by understanding the lens's 'point spread function' - the way point light sources are blurred by the optics - and how this changes across the frame. Knowing this, in principle it's possible to analyse an image from a simple lens and reconstruct how it should look, through a computational process known as 'deconvolution'.
|The Point Spread Function diagram for a simple f/4.5 lens of the plano-convex type (i.e. one side curved, the other flat). The centre shows broad discs due to chromatic aberration, while the cross-shapes towards the corners are due to coma and astigmatism. The researchers split the image up into 'tiles', each with its own PSF.|
This isn't a new idea, but the team of researchers claim to have made some key advances in the field, making their method more robust than those previously suggested. For example chromatic aberration means that simple lenses can give detailed information in one colour channel with significant blur in the others, so they've decided to use cross-channel information to reconstruct the finest detail possible.
One serious problem with deconvolution approaches is that they often struggle to reach a single 'best' solution. The group claims to have solved this by optimising each colour channel in turn, rather than trying to deal with them all simultaneously.
This is all very clever, of course, but does it work? The group shows several before and after examples on its website, shot using a simple F4.5 plano-convex lens on a Canon EOS 40D, and the results are quite impressive.
|Original version (click for original)|
|Image de-blurred using deconvolution (click for original)|
So will this be coming to a camera near you anytime soon? In this precise form, probably not - the system still has problems understanding areas of the image which are slightly out-of-focus, and won't work with large aperture lenses. And while the images are certainly improved, they're unlikely to satisfy committed pixel peepers. In fact we'd guess it's most likely to be useful in smartphones, where the mechanical simplicity and robustness of simple lenses should be appealing. However, it certainly offers an interesting glimpse of the way results could be improved when shooting with a 'soft' lens.
Sony is the world's leading mirrorless camera brand but remains third for ILCs overall, it's said in a presentation to investors. A focus on high value cameras and lenses should boost operating income, it says. Read more
It's nicknamed the 'Cycloptic Mustard Monster,' and is a 3D printed medium format camera. Read more
The new NanGuang LED lights are battery powered and come with accessories including filters and diffusers.
Have you been telling yourself, "Hey, I really need one of those 8K displays?" A video about Dell's new 8K monitor shows you what to expect. Is it really that much better?
Tamara Lackey, a Nikon ambassador USA and pro shooter, discusses embracing self-consciousness as a means of connecting with subjects.
There's a new Spiderman movie coming out and the poster been generating a lot of online chatter. Mostly about how it looks like the creation of a fevered teenager that just discovered Photoshop.
An honest defense of the system's merits, with photos as proof.
Copyright disputes are no fun at all. 'Binded' is a new startup that aims to simplify the process of registering - and enforcing - copyright for photographers. Read more
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony A9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
The Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, but now users will be able to build their own. Read more
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more
The usually Apple-exclusive MacPhun software developer has announced that it will introduce PC versions of two of its most popular applications. Both Aurora HDR and Luminar should be available for the Windows operating system by the autumn of this year. Read more
Sony's newest G Master telephoto zoom, announced alongside the a9, is the first of the company's FE lenses to reach 400mm natively. We had one in California and photographed horses, portraits, and landscapes - check out how it did. Read more
Garmin has entered the 360-camera market with the VIRB, which captures 5.7K video at 30p as well as 15MP stills. Read more