Mini Insect-Eye Cameras and Projectors Could Revolutionize Our Lives
New cameras with hundreds of tiny lenses have recently been overcoming obstacles that have frustrated shutterbugs since the dawn of photography. German researchers are now working to find new applications that could make these mini-cameras an almost omnipresent part of our lives.
First shoot — and then focus! The news of this advance in photographic technology made waves last year when Lytro, a California-based start-up, introduced a digital camera that allows users to decide after the fact, on a computer, which part of a picture should be in focus. “Photographers will have one less excuse for having missed that perfect shot,” the New York Times wrote.
The camera was the work of a team of developers under 32-year-old Ren Ng (his Chinese last name is pronounced “Ang”), whose doctoral dissertation at Stanford University was on digital light-field photography. Previously, light-field cameras consisted of dozens of individual cameras connected to a supercomputer. Ng managed to cram the entire set-up into a handy little square tube remotely resembling half of an old-fashioned pair of opera glasses. The camera comes with special software that allows users to focus the pictures at a later point on their computers.
Although it began as a sensation, Lytro’s camera has ended up as little more than a gimmick. It’s certainly amusing to shift a picture’s focus back and forth, say, from a flower in the foreground to a building in the background. But technology journals, such as the German magazine c’t, have criticized the camera’s “hardly impressive quality,” low-quality monitor and “catastrophic” white balance, as well as its lack of a flash, remote shutter release and standard data format — all at a hefty price of $400 (€320).