Pelican Imaging has developed a plenoptic camera system that embeds in fact a network of over 16 lenses to capture a clear image of various given focus distances, 3D information, color, etc … This could land on our smartphones next year and probably on Nokia Lumia Windows Phones since the Finish smartphone manufacturer took a participation in the company is certainly, which is certainly not trivial. The photo features and the picture quality on smartphones have become the key criterias of consumer choice for their devices. And in this area, each brand is fighting with its own arguments and weapons. HTC, like on the One, has relied on the UltraPixel system, a low-resolution sensor that can collect more light. Sony, meanwhile, operates illuminated CMOS technology with the Xperia Z. Nokia seems to push hard on R&D for its upcoming smartphones and especially in terms of low light quality with the highly anticipated Nokia Lumia 928. The arrival of a plenoptic camera module which I hope will be both working and efficient on a smartphone could be more a major asset for Nokia.
Arranged in four rows of four, the 16 lenses of the camera module engineered by Pelican Imaging supply color layer sensors : red green and blue layers. We know this technology in 3-CCD camcorders. It is usually a sign of great image quality and color reproduction. This alignment of lenses will also allow the unit to use the parallax of view point to provide 3D information. Th edevelopped Pelican Imaging software, their real specialty, will use these information. On paper, the Pelican Imaging system would win on all fronts: it should deliver less noisy images in low-light conditions and contain focus information on the entire image. Therefore, you could then decide later which part of the image or subject to get in focus, as you can do with Lytro cameras. This design without autofocus during shooting dispenses any mechanical set-up AF system which should result in a slight gain of space and more compact smartphones. Also, these data will add an additional level of performance to the digital image stabilization embedded on smartphones for sharper stills and more stable video sequences. 3D information would be processed by the image stabilization system to effectively correct camera movement on all axes, which is not the case on current optical image stabilization systems which are generally working on 2, 3 and up to 5 axes.
Today, if Pelican Imaging has a new shareholder, ie. Nokia, they claim working with various industry players and this innovative picture module is not exclusive to Nokia’s Windows Phones. Moreover, Qualcomm is also a new shareholder of Pelican Imaging. Given the computing capacity that seems to require their technology, it is not surprising that a manufacturer of mobile processors joins this ambitious project. It makes perfect sens…
Pléeoptics cameras on our smartphones and our tablet, that seems to be the near future for the market as Pelican Imaging is not the only company to consider this technology : Toshiba also seems to work on a plenoptic Lytro-like refocus smartphone / tablet camera modules and the first company to successfully release a plenoptic camera, Lytro itself, seems determined to adapt this technology to smartphones.
Here is a Pelican Imaging video where they demo the assets of their plenoptic technology :