Handset vendors need to strike a delicate balance between putting an awesome camera sensor in their device, and matching it with equally impressive optics, or sacrificing image quality all in the name of trying to break the world record for world’s thinnest handset. Take the Nokia N8 for example, the uncontested leader of cameraphones, it has a rather large protruding hump in the back to achieve the results that it does and for some people that’s enough to make them not consider buying it. That’s where Pelican Imaging comes in. They’re using something called an array camera, or in other words lots of small cameras placed together in a grid layout, to not only produce better images than your regular point and shoot, but also enable thinner devices.
“What Pelican has developed represents a paradigm shift in imaging and video that has the potential to overcome many of the inherent limitations of mobile cameras,” said Professor Shree Nayar of Columbia University. “Pelican’s expertise in optics, architecture and software algorithms uniquely positions the company to bring computational imaging applications to the mass market.” Professor Marc Levoy of Stanford University said “Pelican’s technology has the potential to upset the traditional tradeoff between the sensitivity and resolution of a camera and its thickness. It also brings new capabilities to cameras, including post-capture focusing, foveal imaging and programmable frame rates. We have been investigating these aspects of computational photography in our laboratory at Stanford for a number of years, through the Stanford Multi-Camera Array, which is big, slow and expensive. Pelican’s solution is small, fast and inexpensive – which makes it a very exciting technology.”
How long until we actually see this sort of stuff inside a mobile device? They don’t say, but we’re definitely excited by the idea of having DSLR quality images coming out of razer thin devices.