Saturday, June 25, 2011

The User’s Review: Light-Field Camera: My Design, Prediction and Expectation

I read several articles on light field (LF) camera these days. It says that this kind of cameras will be available in market as soon as before the end of this year. Well, LF camera is new to me and most of the current camera users, but, as I learn from what I read, the mechanism of LF camera should be easy to understand and our current techs should have the ability to put it into a reality. On the other hand, the LF imaging is not new to certain animals such as insects since they have used this ‘tech’ for millions of years. The insects’ compound eyes compose of many light-field sensors. As one device, these sensors form a LF sensor array for imaging.

Let me explain the LF imaging in my own words. Suppose we have a square box and a point outside of the box. At the point we put a sensor or an eye to record the light coming from every point inside of the box. What we collect is the 3D light data from the box, which is called the light field (LF) in the box. When we display this data set on a 2D screen, the computer soft/hard-ware can regenerate two kind of images: 1) all-dot-clear (no-out-of-focus-dot) 2D image; and 2) assigned-point-clear (= focus point) image, which blurs out the dots off focus by computer calculation and is similar to the photo produced by our film and digital cameras.

Technically, there are two ways to design a LF sensor array: multiple micro-lenses assay and single-lens scanning array. The first kind has been developed, used and patented by INSECT, Inc. for a long time. The multiple micro-lenses assay focuses its different lenses at various points while the single-lens scanning array re-focuses its lens at different points during scanning. I am not sure who has the patent for this second type of array.

Again, the key issues in the LF imaging are the sensor array and the image-reproduction software. The assay is decisive in terms of image resolution and color-related features. The software helps us play the LF data to generate all-clear image, refocusing image or even 3D image.

It seems that I have to buy an all-new camera for LF imaging because I can’t imagine how to adapt my current cameras and lenses for LF usage.

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