A German-based startup named K|Lens is set to launch an ambitious new camera lens that the company claims is the first to bring 3D light field depth mapping to any full-frame camera.
K|Lens has been in contact with PetaPixel regarding its in-development lens system for several months. Since initial outreach, the physical design of the lens has changed a bit (the photos of the finished lens are notably different than the 3D models shown in example videos) but the underlying technology remains the same. In short, K|Lens has created what it claims to be the world’s first light field imaging lens that works for both still images and video and on full-frame cameras.
Light field technology was originally popularized by the now-defunct Lytro, but K|Lens pitches its optic as capable of delivering on those promises in a usable way instead of just what was essentially a gimmick.
The lens itself is quite large because it uses a system of mirrors to project nine slightly different perspectives of a scene onto the camera sensor simultaneously. The company says it is like looking at a scene with nine cameras positioned at slightly different angles all at the same time. The system works like a kaleidoscope, which is where the “K” in K|Lens comes from.
The company claims that each image or video shot with the K|Lens One provides additional data beyond any other optic in the world, specifically in what K|Lens describes as rich light field data in the form of depth maps, point clouds, and nine separate viewpoints for each photo or video captured.
For example, below is a photo taken with the K|Lens One:
Which is captured by the camera as below (click to view full resolution):
From that data, the below depth information was recorded:
Below is another photo, the nine images captured by the K|Lens, and depth information from the center of the frame:
K|Lens provided the video below that illustrates the process:
The actual capture of the images is important, but K|Lens relies on software to make use of those images. The company says that the possibilities with that data are numerous: depth-based editing, focus pulls, re-focusing, extended depth of field, and simplified segmentation are all noted as possibilities.
“K|Lens One photos and videos are also a perfect match for all 3D displays, be it stereo, holographic, or light field,” the company says. “In addition, light-field content can be integrated into web applications to provide for a vivid and living user experience. On top of that, users always have access to multiple perspectives of their scenes to create with.”
The lens will ship with software, but the company hasn’t specifically said what lens mounts it plans to make available; example photos show the lens attached to DSLRs. The K|Lens will launch on Kickstarter on November 29 and will be available to back for $2,049, which is a significant discount off what the company plans to eventually sell the lens for ($4,099) when it becomes commercially available. A dedicated five-inch monitor with native software installed that will aid in image capture will also be available. K|Lens says it will be able to deliver finished lenses by the summer of 2022.
Additional example images and in-use scenarios can be found on the K|Lens website.