Future Photography Tech Makes Focusing an Afterthought

Future Photography Tech Makes Focusing an Afterthought

Emily Stears
Sep 14, 2011

Imagine a world with no more blurry photos...or at least unintentionally out of focus images. There's a new technology on the horizon arming cameras and lenses that will allow you to take a photo, and then focus it specifically on what you want after the fact, enabling us to capture the moment without worrying whether we missed the ideal freeze frame moment...

We're sure we all have a photo or two which made it into the family album based on the importance of the moment rather than because it's a beautiful sharp photo. A blurred new born baby in the foreground with a perfectly focused landscape framed by a window in the background. Sometimes we are so involved in the moment, or we want to capture an event which is over in a flash, and the last thing on our minds is whether the lense is clearly focused or not.

Adobe Photoshop offers filters which may improve the focus somewhat, but generally speaking, if the information isn't on the negative, slide or memory card to begin with, there's not much you can do in the editing phase.

Or at least there wasn't. The Lytro camera promises to capture every important moment in perfect focus.

The science behind the Lytro camera is based on founder Ren Ng's doctoral dissertation - light fields and plenoptics. Light fields were first posited over a century ago, and then developed in the 1990's.

The light field is the amount of light traveling in every direction at every point in space. An image of a section of this light field, could be documented but you would need hundreds of cameras plugged into a super computer, which would then merge all the images into one. Ren Ng studied how you could miniaturize this process, making one super camera for domestic consumption.

A Germany based company also uses the light field technique in its industrial cameras. Instead of taking one flat image, Raytrix cameras capture thousands of different points of the scene through 40000 micro lenses. The camera is used with software which then processes the images, placing them in order, creating a single image.

Not wanting to be left behind, Adobe is now also developing a software to use with plenoptic lenses. The idea is to use the plenoptic lens between the usual lens of a digital camera and the sensor, though commercialization is sadly said to still be a fair distance away.

With both Lytro and Raytrix cameras, the user is able to take the shot, and refocus post shutter click. Lytros will only be available later this year, but if you're eager to get your hands on one you can already reserve yours on their website.

It appears the resolution still needs work and it won't fix photos blurred by hand shake but this could definitely prevent so many precious "Kodak moments" from being lost in a haze.

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