Nov 21, 2005

Say Sayonara to Blurry Pics

Written By Rachel Metz

A prototype camera made by a Stanford University graduate student could herald the end of fuzzy, poorly lit photos.

A computer science Ph.D. student at Stanford University has outfitted a 16-megapixel camera with a bevy of micro lenses that allows users to take photos and later refocus them on a computer using software he wrote.

The student, Ren Ng, ran out of patience with taking pictures the traditional way — adjusting the distance between the camera lens and sensor or film before snapping each shot. So he created something that far surpasses Photoshop. A photograph can be modified after the fact even if nothing is in focus, he said.

“We just think it’ll lead to better cameras that make it easier to take pictures that are in focus and look good,” said Ng’s adviser, Stanford computer science professor Pat Hanrahan.

Ng calls his creation the “light field camera” because of its ability to capture the quantity of light moving in all directions in an open space. It stems from early-20th-century work on integral photography, which experimented with using lens arrays in front of film, and an early-1990s plenoptic camera developed at MIT and used for range finding. By building upon these ideas, Ng hopes to improve commercial cameras’ focusing abilities.

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