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September 26, 2010

Adobe talks plenoptic lenses (post-capture focus adjustments in software) while Raytrix talks F-mount camera with CCD sensor

Not at Photokina, but at NVidia's technology conference, the Adobe R&D braintrust showcased post-processing of images captured with plenoptic lens technology says Adobe blogger Jack Nack. Plenoptic lens technology will basically give you the flexibility to "refocus" an image in post-processing. To do this, you need plenoptic technology with a compatible camera, along with the appropriate software (with the necessary hardware power) to do this. Another name used for this technology is "4D light-field".

Focusing is one of the main real-world-implication headaches for photographers, so whoever comes up with a solution that offers photographers more flexibility will be "rewarded" by the invisible hand of the market. Adobe's interest is obviously the software aspects of this technology, they are not going to start rolling out cameras or lenses any time soon :)

On the contrarian side of things, some pros may be worried that with this technology everyone who can afford a camera and a lens will be able to produce perfectly-focused images, without having the necessary skills and in-depth understanding. I am sure some of the old auto-focus vs manual-focus arguments will eventually be recycled in the debate as well :) But until or unless this technology becomes mass market, you may want to put this in the "worry later" box :)

A 156-second part of the presentation was extracted by Laptop Magzine (YouTube video), which you can also find embedded right below.

Raytrix shows plenoptic/4D light-field cameras including "35 mm large format interline 10.7 MP CCD" camera with F-mount
Engadget points out the personal website of the Adobe scientist/researcher involved in this presentation, Todor Georgiev who points out that German company Raytrix has developed a plenoptic camera. For the research-paper inclined, he has an 8-page research paper on this (direct link to PDF).

Raytrix shows three different cameras using this technology, the high-end up to 3-megapixel R11 (F-mount, 10.7mp CCD sensor), the up to 2-megapixel R10 (C-mount), and the "low cost" up to 1-megapixel R5 (C-mount). Prices are not revealed but you can request them using their contact page.

As you can see, the R11 is of great curiosity interest, as it has an F-mount and has a "35 mm large format interline 10.7 MP CCD" according to the specs page, where it talks of 9um square pixels, up to 3-megapixel resolution, binning options of 4x4, 3x3 or 2x2, 3.5 fps, and such.

In addition to new-in-box cameras, Raytrix has an aptly-named option, the "RX camera" which converts your current camera to use the new technology. The conversion however has a significant drop in resolution (up to 1/4th of the original resolution). Prices are not mentioned and considering the "earliness" of this technology...

Please note the above is based on what the Raytrix website is presenting, and it may include our confusion and mis-understanding of this new technology...

Some history
This is not the first iteration of plenoptic R&D. John Nack rounded up the state of the art as of November 2005 on his blog, and also pointed to research done in this field (at that time) at Stanford. There is also brief commentary (in green) of the Stanford research at dpreview by Phil Askey himself.

And when all else fails, there is always Wikipedia with its entry on plenoptic camera. If you prefer something more complicated with equations, here is the Jan Neumann video geometry page. This will be included in the mid-term!

Read more about it
+ Todor Georgiev - the Adobe Researcher
+ Raytrix - the manufacturer
+ Laptop Magazine
+ Engadget
+ PetaPixel
+ Photoxels
+ Gizmodo
+ Crunch Gear
+ L-camera forums

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