DSLR Add-On Brings Features Like Lytro-Style Refocusing to Any Camera

Lytro may have made a splash when the company first burst onto the scene with its ‘snap now, focus later’ technology, but the competition has been growing steadily ever since. In addition to companies like Pelican gunning at the light-field market, a new SLR add-on created by researchers from Saarland University in Germany promises to bring Lytro-style refusing and much more to almost any camera.

The add-on has been dubbed the KaleidoCamera, and it was invented by Alkhazur Manakov and his colleagues. It mounts between your standard DSLR and standard lens, and then performs all sorts of optical magic by messing with the light entering the camera.

Depending on how they choose to modify the add-on (removing and adding special filters and glass), their invention can bring everything from single-shot HDR, to polarization, to Lytro-like refocusing and more to any camera it’s attached to.

A look inside Lytro's light-field camera.

A look inside Lytro’s light-field camera.

The technology behind how they make all of this possible pretty much centers around splitting the incoming light beam using different lenses or diffraction filters. According to NewScientist, the light that enters the KaleidoCamera is split into nine beams depending on the angle each beam come in at.

Those beams are then modified in one way or another (depending on the KaleidoCamera’s configuration) and projected onto the sensor in a grid using a set of mirrors. The photographer can then use software to re-combine them in post however he or she likes.

For example, the image at the bottom left of the photo below is what results when using the add-on to create Lytro-style images. That image can then be re-combined in post to generate something focused on the foreground, background, or anywhere in-between.


Of course, this is just one example. The video at the top goes over all of the potential uses of the camera, which include generating macro-style depth of field without a macro lens, eliminating the need to white-balance, and more. If you want to learn all about the add-on’s capabilities and the complex tech behind it, check out the full paper by clicking here.

For now, the add-on has been kept bulky to facilitate experimentation with different filters and glass, but over time, the researchers are confident that they will be able to shrink it down to fit almost any camera, including (potentially) smartphone cams.

The researchers will be showing off their invention all next week at the SIGGRAPH conference in Anaheim, CA.

(via Gizmodo)

  • Adam Cross

    but is all of this magic at the expensive of end-product image quality ? whose to say the quality of the glass in the Kaleido is up to the standards of high-end lenses by the major manufacturers?

  • cky

    Can’t wait to downgrade my 24mp DSLR to 2.6mp…. with half of the images taken at corner quality!

  • Mike


  • bryceguse

    Are we really bashing a prototype for not producing images with the IQ of professional lenses? It’s a concept, calm down.

  • JonathonWatkins

    “…eliminating the need to white-balance”? Like, shooting in RAW does? ;-) #ThatsWhatLightroomIsFor

  • Chris

    I could be far less than 2.6MP – it all depends on how many times they split the image up. The first lightfield cameras used 40MP medium format cameras and were putting out around 1MP or less if I remember correctly. I’ve always seen this technology as having far more use in industry than commercial photography.

  • Chris

    While I agree, the technology is totally depenendt on replicating tons of versions of the scene being viewed. The higher the quality, the lower the resolution. It’s cool stuff, just not very practical in DSLR form or with lenses that have soft corners. This would be much better suited for a large format 100+ megapixel sensor and very specific lens and f/stops combos.

  • bryceguse

    Keep in mind there was a time where digital cameras used floppy disks ;) We need to encourage stuff like this. I believe this technology has potential, so let’s cross our fingers that in maybe 10 years, this technology will exist without decreasing image quality! By the way, I appreciate your respectful argument, it’s rare somebody disagrees without starting a world war :)

  • Matias Gonua

    This is just a new product. I will, most likely, evolve into a more polished thing in future years. The same remarks are made every year about every new product that comes to light.

    I’m not so excited about this though, too much post flexibility is cool in some cases, but I rather take the best picture in the exact time.

  • photographerchrislawrence

    what’s up with the hasselblad lense on a DSLR body??

  • James

    I’m still amazed that one click of my camera could fill 6 high capacity floppies.