The Asahi Shimbun is reporting that Toshiba has created a tiny camera for post-capture focusing on smartphones. The Lytro-esque hardware has 500,000 lenses—each measuring .03 mm in diameter—that send separate images to sensors measuring 5x7mm. The dens lens system fits inside a cube with sides that measure roughly 1cm each.
Functioning similar to an insect’s compound eye structure, the lenses send 500,000 images with unique focal points to the camera’s sensors and Toshiba’s software combines them to allow the user to choose the focal point after the shot.
Lytro’s multifocus camera was received with a combination of excitement and skepticism during its release in 2011. While many say the technology is innovative and downright cool, it remains a novelty camera because of the difficulty of sharing “living” photos and the low resolution of the final photos.
In our review of the Lytro earlier this year, we concluded that “the best results out of the Lytro often required rather contrived compositions.”
For mobile photographers, this new technology could ultimately eliminate autofocus lag while postponing composition decisions. Focusing on mobile devices can be tricky and no smartphone cameras currently on the market produce a natural and dramatic depth of field effect.
The sample photos in the Asahi Shimbum article left a lot to desire—the shots were super noisy and apparently low resolution. If Toshiba expects its multifocus camera to compete with the top hardware on mobile devices, it will need to improve the overall quality of the final photos.
Toshiba is currently shopping the technology around to smartphone and tablet manufactures and hopes to commercialized the technology in 2013.