Friday, August 19, 2011

Lytro Technology to Drive Higher Sensor Resolution

DPReview published interview with Ren Ng, Lytro CEO and founder. Explaining the future of light field photography trading higher resolution for wider focusing range, Ren says:

"As well as a scientific and commercial breakthrough, this could cause a technological breakthrough. We've got to the stage where we're seeing 14-16MP sensors for compacts and 20-24MP in larger sensors. It's not technological limitations that are defining that figure, it's a marketing-driven progression. When we went from VGA to 1MP to 4MP sensors, that was technology growth."

"Growth in that underlying industry capacity hasn't stopped, there's just no demand for it. With 14MP, for print or web use, those are enormous images, so there's no great pressure to move on from there. But if you applied the technology being developed for mobile phone cameras and applied it to an APS-C sensor, you could in theory make a sensor with hundreds of millions of pixels - an order of magnitude beyond what we're currently seeing. With such a sensor in a light field camera, we'd be able to measure hundreds of millions of rays of light. Light field technology can utilize and re-invigorate amazing growth in density of sensors."

Ren also claims low light and yield improvements with Lytro tech:

"Light field technology is inherently more capable in low light - we can shoot wide-open with apertures larger than make any sense for conventional photography. And we're not just trying to make enormous pictures. One dead or noisy pixel in conventional photography is expected to result in one output pixel in the final image. In light field photography it translates to a dead 'ray' which won't have as much impact on the final output - the sensitivity to defects from the sensor will go down."

6 comments:

  1. If Lytro is hoping to reach phone cameras, they have to work on a better cost vs usefulness trade-off.

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  2. This article shows a surprising ignorance of pixel and camera design issues. There's many more factors that constrain pixel count than optics.

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  3. They learn little by little ...

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  4. how should we read this? Lytro lightfield technology does not work with just 4 MPixels?
    How many MPixels are used for the Lytro example images?

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  5. @ "how should we read this?"

    What I got out of it was this...

    The interview was for a digital photography affinity site, so the target audience would be interested in digital cameras and on-line or print sizes up to a full regular page. Okay, maybe poster-size, but not as large as cinema screens or billboards.

    For this group, Mr. Ng seemed to be suggesting that sensor resolutions are not increasing because there isn't much improvement in displayed images beyond what you get at around 14 Mpixels.

    The Lytro technology seems to use an inverse discrete Fourier transform of some sort. I don't know the technical details, but if the 2D window is 512 x 512, to get a 1000 x 2000 = 2 Mpixel final image, you might want a (1000 + 512) x (2000 + 512) = 3.8 Mpixel sensor array in order to have actual 512 x 512 pixel data for all the final-image pixels.

    Likewise, to get 14 Mpixel final image resolution with the Lytro technology you might want a source sensor with a resolution of more than 14 Mpixel.

    I could be wrong, but that's my current best explanation.

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  6. Oops. Maybe I am confusing this with another article. I'll have to check back later, since it's the first day of kindergarten and I need to run...

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