Apple iPhone Leaning Towards Lytro Light Field Camera Technology

January 26, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Steve Jobs was into revolutionizing photography and the iPhone was the vehicle for doing so. The shooter in the Apple smartphone has come a long way from a 2 MP camera with fixed focus on the original iPhone, to a 3 MP auto focus camera in the iPhone 3G, the 5 MP camera with LED flash and 720p video in the iPhone 4 and finally the 8 MP camera with improved low-light capture, and full 1080p HD in the iPhone 4S.

And it doesn’t stop there; there is more in store. A new book by Adam Lashinsky called Inside Apple says Jobs may have found the solution he was looking for in a radical imaging technology from Lytro.

Jobs apparently wanted to improve the camera in a way that would change users’ expectations of photography, and he believed Lytro’s light field capture could do just that. Jobs even met with Lytro CEO Ren Ng in June 2011 to discuss how Apple might integrate Lytro’s light field technology into its products.

Ng then agreed to send Jobs an e-mail detailing multiple ways Lytro could work with Apple on future products. Lytro’s light field technology aims at capturing more of a scene than a fixed grid of colored pixels.

It uses high resolution sensors and with a specially designed micro lens array to captures the intensity, color, and direction of light rays entering a camera through a lens. That data can then be processed into a pretty cool 2D image. The data can be mathematically manipulated to change various aspects of the image, including focus point, focal length, depth of field, and even perspective shift.

All these details can be recalculated after the image is captured so that you do not have to be bothered by it while shooting. Advantages of a light field camera on the iPhone are many.

Of course, it would revolutionize photography. The iPhone’s relatively bulky autofocus lens mechanism could be replaced with a sharper, more compact fixed focus lens which is less prone to damage.

You can also take images quickly without having to wait for the lens to focus. Also, you can get the subject into the frame and worry about perfecting the picture later.

Just swipe to adjust perspective, tap to change focus, move a slider to increase or decrease depth of field. It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

We do not know for sure if Job’s plans for the light field camera in the iPhone will materialize. Let’s hope it does.

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