Computational photography will kill the traditional camera. We have already seen the impact of smartphone cameras. The camera included with the iPhone X is a computational one using multiple lenses when in “portrait” mode. This article is not an advertisement for a new computational camera (but I’ll provide a link at the end of article for the leading product in this field). This is a study of a most remarkable piece of innovation.
In this new camera shown above, when a picture is taken, up to 16 lens modules “fire” simultaneously, capturing slightly different perspectives of the same scene. The camera intelligently chooses a combination of its 28mm, 70mm, and 150mm modules to use in each shot.
The camera captures so much data with every shot, it generates a 3D depth map of the scene. All of this extra information enables a radical new kind of photo editing: the ability to adjust depth of field and focal plane after the shot. Noise reduction is just an added perk of using multiple lenses at once.
Photography, in its most basic form, is the act of capturing light. Having a large single F1.2 lens for example, allowed significantly more light into the camera in “low light” situations. With this camera, each of the camera’s lens modules work the same way that an entire DSLR would—utilizing the lens, mirror, sensor, shutter, and more to capture an image. However, with at least 10 different lens modules in each shot, it collects 10x the amount of light information, giving significantly more data to create high-res images.
Adjust the focal plane AFTER you have taken the photo.
The “focus” on this camera can be from 10cm to infinity. The camera captures images at such a wide aperture, each individual photo can have a shallow depth of field. This means the focal point is sharp but everything around it is not. By fusing these photos together, the software creates a deep depth of field—which you can then adjust at different levels to achieve certain artistic effects.
The photo above is youngest son with his catch. Same photo with different focal point after taking. Taken with an iPhone X.
The weak link is the software and processing speed
The Effective pixel size of a photograph is 52 million+ (52+megapixels). Processing a photo takes longer than normal. The camera has 250Gb of capacity. Transferring files may be slow. The processing speed and software has glitches apparently. However, it will only improve over time. With chip speed and processing power increasing every year, this isn’t a bottleneck to embracing this technology.
Innovation at work
The thought of having 16 small lenses versus 1 large lens is an innovative solution to get the most light. It also solves depth of field, high resolution and adjustable focal point. Its one major conceptual solution to solve one major problem: Size, weight and portability. This camera is only 165 x 85 x 25mm. It stores in a coat pocket.
This one camera may replace 4 lenses and a monstrous DSLR.
Great innovation has the hallmark of a leap in thinking. Drilling back to the root analysis of requirements to solve fundamental problems with a clean sheet of paper. Read my blogs on a structured way to do this. Its isn’t rocket science to identify the root problems. However, it does taken good knowledge on materials and fundamental science to consider all the solutions available.
Legacy products can be the death of innovation
What hasn’t Canon or Nikon come up with a computational camera with multiple on board lenses? The challenge is the millstone of legacy systems and the large customer following who don’t like to see their investment challenged. It takes an upstart company to push the boundaries. This is why I like to engage in innovation with companies 2-3 years old rather than the 40 year old corporate with a “fine tradition”. However, a change at the top and a new board will turn the traditional company on its ear and open the doors to examine legacy products.
Do the Impossible
Technology is a strong wind. Behind your back, you can assume increased processing abilities with portability in the palm of your hand. But beware of the hype. Technology can be over-hyped in the short term and under estimated in the long term. Incorporating technology as an enabler for you to “do the impossible” has a fair chance of success. Budgets and time frames have limitations, however the trend to “minimum viable products” opens the door to a progressive release of an otherwise “impossible” solution.
This camera is a testament to “doing the impossible”. It isn’t available in Australia yet but is in USA and UK. If you want to try computational photography, then beg, borrow or steal and iPhone x. Load up “Focus” software and snap a scene. Then after taking the photo have fun with the variable focal points. Its only two lenses at work and not 10+. However, the software is superb and the results stunning. This is the practical example of the future of photography. Find the Light Camera at https://light.co
It is currently criticised as “missing the mark” and “why would you need all those Megapixels” by the camera sponsored bloggers and magazines. Legacy pressure at work!