Pelican Imaging brings light-field photos to smartphones

Familiar with the Lytro camera that lets you refocus photos after they've been taken? Similar technology is coming to smartphones.

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Pelican Imaging

As Lytro prepares to release its latest light-field camera to the world, Pelican Imaging has released a set of sample images from its own camera array that's designed specifically for smartphones.

Capturing the depth information of an entire scene, these images allow you to refocus after the shot has been taken and play around with other aspects like depth-of-field.

Pelican's version of light-field technology has been in development for some time, with the Silicon Valley-based company first showing off a prototype in 2011.

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Pelican Imaging

Unlike the Lytro, Pelican's approach involves an array of multiple cameras -- or lenses with a sensor behind each. This structure allows for a smaller form factor that's suited to smartphones.

Each of these cameras takes an image of the scene with the same field of view, then Pelican's software combines them into a complete image with depth information. There are no moving parts to the array, so the cameras capture everything in focus.

The array camera is under 3mm thick, can shoot 1080/30p video and produces 8-megapixel stills.

Sample images from the Pelican camera can be viewed on the company's website.

Apart from clicking on various points of the image to change what's in focus, you can also view the depth map itself and adjust the blur level which is useful for adding shallow depth-of-field effects.

Several smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and some Nokia Lumia handsets have refocusing capabilities, but these are driven by software that takes multiple images at different focus points rather than a hardware solution. The closest to a true plenoptic solution in a smartphone so far has been the HTC One M8 with a depth-sensing module.

 

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