Apple Awarded Patent for Refocusable Camera with Light-Field Technology

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Nov 26, 2013.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Apple has been awarded a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (via AppleInsider) for a digital camera including a refocusable imaging mode adapter, with the document also discussing the potential use of a similar camera system in a device like the iPhone.

    The patent details a camera that is able to be configured to operate in a lower-resolution mode that includes refocusing capability in addition to a high-resolution non-refocusable mode, with the camera's body containing an image mode adaptor to switch between the two.

    Also cited in the patent is the plenoptic imaging system used in the Lytro light-field camera, which Apple draws inspiration from but points out that its own microlens array can produce higher-quality images because of a higher spatial resolution. Apple also cites the Lytro's camera system as prior art in the patent.

    Microlens (440) inserted into light path for lower-resolution refocusable images
    Microlens (440) removed from light path for higher-resolution standard images
    Apple's patent outlines how such a lens system could be integrated with a more complete camera solution incorporating image correction and other features, either in a standalone product or within a mobile device.

    The Lytro-like technology naturally leads to speculation that it could be used in Apple's rumored standalone point-and-shoot digital camera, which was first rumored in 2012 after Steve Jobs was quoted his biography done by Walter Isaacson stating his desires for the future involved the reinvention of three industries, with one of them being photography. Isaacson's biography also noted that Jobs had met with the CEO of Lytro, although it has been unclear how much direct interest Apple had in Lytro's technology.

    Article Link: Apple Awarded Patent for Refocusable Camera with Light-Field Technology
  2. Meandmunch macrumors 6502

    Jan 3, 2002
    Light field technology is the only way smart phone cameras can continue to shrink in size and increase in quality. Good news.
  3. Eduardo1971 macrumors 65816


    Jun 16, 2006
    Lost Angeles, Ca. usa
    What a stand alone camera?

    Now this should be interesting!
  4. Tankmaze macrumors 68000


    Mar 7, 2012
    Can't agree more, all Tim need to do is to make it happen. And make it right.
  5. Matt-M macrumors regular


    Nov 5, 2009
    Nashua, NH
    Captions are wrong. Part #440 is a glass plate, #430 is the micro lens array.
  6. Klae17 macrumors 65816


    Jul 15, 2011
    This is pretty legit for once. Clarifying prior art, saying that there has been previous attempts and this is how we are different, and also meeting with the other company.
  7. peteullo macrumors regular


    Dec 13, 2009
    Scranton, PA
    I'm sure this will be the main feature for the iPhone 6S
  8. iOrbit macrumors 6502a

    Mar 8, 2012
  9. cmChimera macrumors 68040


    Feb 12, 2010
    Patents do this all the time....
  10. Thunderhawks Suspended

    Feb 17, 2009
    Part of iWatch
  11. jaijaibinx macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2013
    Leigh-On-Sea, United Kingdom
    Although this is very cool, I would much appreciate a megapixel update on the next iphone if possible apple... even just a little to keep up with the nokia lumia!!
  12. aprofetto8 macrumors regular

    Jul 26, 2010
    Can't wait to see Phil Schiller talk about this at a keynote one day.
  13. 2457282 Suspended

    Dec 6, 2012
    I looked at the Lytro camera before. the problem with it was that you could not see the picture to do the refocusing without special apps or plugins. I am sure that the technology is improving, but until I can send the picture to a friend or print it out with needed anything special, this will have limited use IMO. I hope that if apple implements this correctly, these issues will be solved. Then this could be a cool new feature to play with.

  14. lzyprson macrumors regular

    Mar 2, 2012
    Waiting patiently for a "DSLR-like" apple camera product. it only makes sense for the company to go in this direction at some point.

    I feel like the company, today, has the foundation and more importantly the patience to do something like this. I think they know better than to become bloated with various versions of the same products.

    An Apple DSLR-type of camera would be number one on my wish list. Even if it was an upgrade form my point & shoot. I am not a professional photographer by any means, but take tons and tons of pictures with a point/shoot camera, which of course is super confusing to use.
  15. whitedragon101 macrumors 65816

    Sep 11, 2008
  16. Klae17 macrumors 65816


    Jul 15, 2011
    Apple doesn't do it all the time. :)
  17. BornAgainApple macrumors 6502a


    Jun 9, 2009
    It's not the number of pixels, but the size that counts.
  18. jclardy macrumors 68040


    Oct 6, 2008
    So...Apple just patented a higher resolution Lytro? I don't see how they can be granted this patent especially when there is already a consumer product on the market using the technology. It would be like patenting 8k TV or a 40MP camera.
  19. KdParker macrumors 601


    Oct 1, 2010
    Better cameras on next generations of iPhones.
  20. osx11 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 16, 2011
    read the article.....not necessarily a stand alone camera......
  21. mozumder macrumors 6502a

    Mar 9, 2009
    This is stupid. Nobody has ever had a need to refocus after the shot, because you can focus when you TAKE the shot in the first place. Also, smartphones small sensors have a huge depth-of-field anyways. You only have shallow/unfocused images in large sensors.

    It's a dead end technology.

    The most important and useful photography technology that Apple could implement would be to add optical image stabilization. The next would be larger sensors.

    Other options would be to allow for interchangeable lenses, and to provide Aperture capability on a mobile device.

    A professional photographer has a need to edit and publish photos as quickly as possible. The genius thing about smart phones is that they allow the editing/publishing part to happen in mobile devices in field. The next step would be to implement a higher-quality imaging system (35mm full-frame sensors, various lenses, flash/strobe mounts, other SLR features, etc..)

    No need to get silly with light field tech. Just look at what's needed (high-end imaging and rapid publishing) and implement a solution for that.
  22. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Quality? The lightfeild image has much lower resolution. That is why Apple's patent allows you use to switch from normal to light field. One way you get good images with one plane focused and the other mode allows refocusabl image but with much lower resolution.

    If the sensor has only so many pixels you can use those pixels in two ways. A light field camera might use 100 sensor pixels per image pixel.

    How could Apple use this? The technology makes for a good 3D camera too. I doubt many people will want to re-focus their images but they might want 3D and stereo images with one click. Light field can do that.
  23. osx11 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 16, 2011
    good that you're not in charge of Apple. Megapixels are not everything.
  24. mozumder macrumors 6502a

    Mar 9, 2009
    Light-field technology doesn't allow cameras to shrink in size.

    In fact, it makes them MUCH larger for the same image quality.
  25. ChrisA, Nov 26, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2013

    ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    This is what I was getting at. A human user would not likely want to re-focus a shot but a computer might. The computer would do the re-focus in order to gain depth information. With such info it could create a wire frame and a texture map.

    Combine this wire frame 3D image with the 3D sensor they reported yesterday can you can drop a real person into a video game.

    Today if you tried that with a still image you'd have a "cardboard cut out" dropped into the game. It would look bad. But a real 3D character. People would by that.

    You could turn it around backwards too. Take a re-focusable image of a room. Now you can drop a virtual camera into the scene and move the camera around. In a game you could place the chargers in your environment but for way a real-estate sales you can make better presentations because you have the 3D data to allow perspective changes with viewpoint changes.

    So YES,I agree, who would want to refocus an image? Answer software would.

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