Plentoptics- remember that word as it might just be the future of Digital Photography. I had the opportunity to watch David Salesin and Dr. Todor Georgiev from Adobe at NVIDIA’s GTC 2010 who explained what Plenoptics is and technology behind it.
Lets start off by talking about Digital Photography that allows you do to so much more than film photography that it replaced. With Digital Photos you can easily post-process your images on a computer by adjusting things like Color Balance and Exposure- things that just weren’t possible with film cameras where you’re pretty much stuck with the image that was clicked at exposure time. However, one thing that hasn’t changed much is focus- so if your picture is not properly focused, which can sometimes be hard to make out on the small screen of a digital camera, then you’re somewhat out of luck.
This is where a Plentopics lens comes in as it allows you to capture multiple views of the scene from slightly different view-points using micro-lens arrays mounted behind the main lens- close to the image sensor. Coupled with a very high-resolution sensor, each one of the images taken can be of a fairly high resolution. Then, through software, you can put these smaller images into one large high-resolution image.
In simple words, instead of taking one image of the subject you have a bunch of lenses with each lens taking part of the subject. In essence you’re capturing a 4 dimensional light field image. This allows you to change the vantage point and focus of the image through software in real time. The following video shows what is possible using a Plenoptics lens.
The reason these guys were at NVIDIA GTC is because using GPUs to stitch images together is about five hundred times faster than CPUs. The image you saw in the video above would take a minute or so to compute whereas the GPU can pretty much do it in a 120hz.
With a Plenoptiocs lens, focusing will be a thing of the past. Add 3D capabilities to that and you have what might become the future of digital photography.