Panasonic has patented an image sensor that will allow Lytro-like light-field cameras to capture light-field photos at the sensor’s full resolution rather than at 25% of its resolution, the usual amount which can be reached by today’s conventional cameras.
Light-field photography is a relatively new type of capturing images. The most popular such device is the Lytro camera invented by Ren Ng. Such camera allows photographers to capture a photo and to decide where to focus after taking the shot.
This technology is great because it provides the ability to shorten photo sessions as the perspective can be changed after capturing a photo. This technology has also made its way into smartphones, courtesy of third-party apps, such as Nokia Refocus for Windows Phone devices.
The biggest drawback of light-field photography is the low-resolution. If a light-field image sensor has eight megapixels, then it will capture “refocusable” shots at only two megapixels. The decrease in quality varies from camera to camera, but all of them are affected by this shortcoming.
Fixing this problem will not be easy. However, it seems like Panasonic may have found a solution, which will allow light-field cameras to capture photos at full resolution.
Panasonic light-field sensor will capture focus-free photos at 100% of its resolution
Curious eyes have recently found out that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted an interesting patent to Panasonic
The Japanese corporation has applied for a “light field image capture device and sensor” consisting of an image sensor that captures light-field photos at 100% of its resolution.
This would be a revolutionary breakthrough with enormous implications in photography, as it would allow users to change the perspective in post-processing.
Although the Panasonic light-field sensor may be years away from being released, this technology is still in development and the early signs are very positive, so we can be hopeful about the future of photography.
Panasonic’s light-field camera would create high-resolution light-fields using a single-lens design
It is worth noting that there is a way to capture light-fields at 100% resolution even today. It consists of a two-lens mechanism, with one lens recording the light-field, while the other one capturing the regular shot.
Still, Panasonic’s new system is different because it uses a single-lens setup. The microlens array that records the light-field is located behind the photosensitive layer, meaning that it will create the photo first.
After the 2D shot has been created, light will move beyond the photosensitive layer and hit the microlens array, then the reflective layer. The latter layer will send back the light-field created by microlens and, at some point, they will be combined in order to compose a full resolution light-field photo.
Nevertheless, you should not hold your breath over a Panasonic light-field camera with a Micro Four Thirds sensor, yet, and instead be patient to see how the story unfolds.