Photography and electronics enthusiast Michal Zalewski recently built a simple scanning device using a diode laser and custom gearbox that allows him to create 2.5D images when used with a Canon 5D Mark II. These are regular photographs that are enhanced with accurate per-pixel depth information.
Here’s an example Zalewski gives of a regular photograph and its scan data:
Cameras used for everyday photography do not record any information about how far away things in the photograph are. They simply record what they “see”. A 2.5D camera would allow you to capture photographs with apertures (i.e. a large depth of field), and then decide the focus and depth of field afterward in post-processing.
For an example of what this means, check out this interactive demonstration with chess pieces where you can click the image to bring the area into focus.
Could this be the next step in the evolution of photography?