Toshiba putting focus on taking misfocusing out of photos

December 27, 2012

By TAKASHI KAMIGURI/ Staff Writer

Toshiba Corp. wants to give photographers taking snapshots with smartphones and tablets a second chance to refocus the image even after they've taken the photo.

It has developed a tiny module for small electronic devices that allow users to refocus any part of the photograph afterward. Conventional cameras require users to focus on objects before they press the shutter button.

The cube-shaped module is about 1 centimeter per side and contains a dense array of 500,000 lenses, each 0.03 millimeter in diameter, in front of an image sensor measuring 5 mm by 7 mm. The same mechanism works similar as the way the compound eye structure functions in insects.

Each lens captures a slightly different image from one another, and the camera produces a large, complete picture by using original software to combine the 500,000 tiny images.

The new camera accurately measures the distance to an object based on the differences among the small images, as do cameras with two lenses that are used to create 3-D images.

It can set the focus on objects both far and near by magnifying and superimposing only well-captured parts of the small images. Unlike traditional cameras, the new camera can create pictures that are focused on every single part of the image.

The module-equipped camera can also be used to take videos, and allows the users to retain the image of a figure in the foreground while replacing the background.

U.S. camera manufacturer Lytro Inc. is marketing cameras that have similar focusing functions, but the devices are about the size of a human palm.

Toshiba plans to commercialize the module by the end of fiscal 2013, and call on smartphone manufacturers and other companies to adopt the technology.

By TAKASHI KAMIGURI/ Staff Writer
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A camera module that can be installed in smartphones and tablets (Takashi Kamiguri)

A camera module that can be installed in smartphones and tablets (Takashi Kamiguri)

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  • A camera module that can be installed in smartphones and tablets (Takashi Kamiguri)
  • A picture refocused on a man in the foreground (Provided by Toshiba Corp.)
  • A picture refocused on a man on far back (Provided by Toshiba Corp.)

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