PetaPixel

New Camera Tech Combines Ultra-Wide View with Fine Detail Capture

FiO-Ford-01-MonocentricLens

Researchers at the University of California-San Diego are fine-tuning some new tiny camera technology that could dramatically boost the detail and field of view of smartphone cameras. Joseph Ford, a professor in the university’s Jacob School of Engineering, describes the system in a paper to be presented next week at the Optical Society of America‘s annual meeting.

According to Ford, his team will soon have the system — seen above next to a Canon 5D Mark III setup — refined to a camera assembly with 85-megapixel resolution, 120-degree field of view and f/2 aperture, all in a package about the size of a walnut.

The system relies on a monocentric lens made of perfectly rounded, concentric glass shells. The shells are arranged so that they can produce wide-angle images with fine detail and without the distortions typical of fisheye lenses.

A sample photo taken with a Canon 5D Mark III (left) as compared to the same photo taken with the new monocentric system (right).

A sample photo taken with a Canon 5D Mark III (left) as compared to the same photo taken with the new monocentric system (right).

One of the major problems with using monocentric lenses for this purpose in the past was the inability to convey that highly detailed optical info to an electronic sensor. Ford’s team solved this by connecting the lens to the image sensor with fiber optic cables that are finely polished into a curve on one end — that way they perfectly align with the curved lens surface.

The research program is funded by the Defense Department’s DARPA arm and could lead to significant refinements in navigation of unmanned combat vehicles, Ford said. But the bigger commercial payoff could be smartphone cameras that produce images detailed enough to rival a DSLR.

(via OSA and R&D)


Image credits: Photographs courtesy of the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering


 
  • Dhaval Panchal

    Fantastic! Though I think it will be a long while before it appears in smartphones and the like.

  • http://www.picxel.dk/ Stef G / Picxel

    The image capture doesn’t make sense …

  • http://sinisterbrain.com/ sinisterbrain

    I think the caption might be incorrect. I think the top two images are the ’5D’, the bottom is the monocentric.

  • MJ Coffey

    Simply amazing!

  • Kevin Purcell

    “next to a Canon 5D Mark III setup”

    That’s a Canon lens but it’s not a Canon 5D Mark III.

    On the adjustable platen behind it is the same sensor as the other “monocentric camera” (in front and to the left). You can see the same model sensor and it’s ribbon pcb are mounted upside down on one and right way up on the other if you follow the two white ribbon cables.

    This is more about a comparison of similarly wide lenses on the same sensor than a full frame camera versus a cellphone camera.

  • JOey

    yup. we have no way of comparing this to a actual 5D performance. Why has this detail escaped the writers eye?

  • Kevin Purcell

    The important point is you are comparing lenses not cameras.

    The 5D is irrelevant.

  • stargaszer

    Call me crazy, but the one with the canon lens might be using just the Sensor from the 5d mark iii ? Look at the boards, they’re different. Writer probably assumed the reader would automatically know.

  • superduckz

    The NSA will love this..

  • Kiltedbear

    If that’s so, why then does the lower left image have so much blue in it? That’s more than just lens. There has to be different sensors in play unlike what the poster above says. Lens affects sharpness and focus while sensor affects color reproduction.

    I just saw stargaszer’s comment below and I think they are right. I think by “Canon set-up” they mean they are using the sensor from a Canon 5D hence the better color.

  • Kiltedbear

    If that’s so, why then does the lower left image have so much blue in it? That’s more than just lens. There has to be different sensors in play unlike what the poster above says. Lens affects sharpness and focus while sensor affects color reproduction.

    I just saw stargaszer’s comment below and I think they are right. I think by “Canon set-up” they mean they are using the sensor from a Canon 5D hence the better color.

  • teun

    The sensor size (as well as the resolution judging from the sample pic) is much lower in this setup than a 5D. This article makes no sense at all.

  • Markus

    I agree, but last time I checked all the Canon DSLRs had 3:2 aspect ratio. So if the upper left image is from a 5D it’s already cropped.

  • Todd Caudle

    Follow the arrows.

  • Djalma Reis

    Not the same sensor, definitely.

  • Stephen Wolter

    As sensors get smaller and smaller I can’t help but think of the dimension I used to get with my Pentax 67. That perspective is lost unless of course you want to spend 10s of thousands of Dollars to acquire a sensor of that size.
    Yeah this new lens is great and so is the sensor but one would have to admit something was lost.

  • eric westpheling

    From the article: The sample images are A- From a canon 5d3 with 12mm focal length…and B- From the new lens projected onto a “high magnification digital microscope”

    It is not apples-apples, its more like apples to apple-trees.

    What this does show is that the lens has incredible resolving power. Now- getting that all of that glorious information recorded, processed, stored, and made viewable in a timely fashion will be the tricky part.