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Start-up could bring 52MP cameras to smartphones

Posted: 24 Apr 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Foxconn? camera? smartphone? sensor? Light?

Imaging start-up Light Co. has announced some details of its novel array camera technology and is reportedly close to entering a licensing and investment deal with Hon Hai Precision Industries of Taiwan, better known as Foxconn. The innovative camera is expected to enable smartphones to take photos even closer to DSLR quality. Even though it is still at a pre-prototype stage, it has reportedly said the first Light cameras could appear in smartphones next year with the 52MP resolution.

Light was founded in 2013 as Tinz Optics Inc. but in 2014 benefited from a $9.7 million venture capital round that included Paul Jacobs, executive chair of Qualcomm, and Sanjay Jha, CEO of Globalfoundries, among the investors.

Light's approach is similar to that of array camera pioneers such as Pelican Imaging Corp. and LinX Computational Imaging Ltd. However, Light does not restrict itself to an array of identical sensors but uses multiple sensors with lens set at different fixed focal lengths so that it can simulate a zoom lens after a photo has been taken. It can still use computational effects after a photo has been taken, in reality a series of photos, to get enhanced resolution similar to other plentoptic approaches.

And to help that happen Light is said to have gained backing from Foxconn, the world's largest contract manufacturer of electronics. In addition Foxconn will be licensing Light's technology for mobile devices.

"The system will enable people to easily carry a small, single device that offers true optical zoom with no protruding elements, we are currently prototyping 35mm to 150mm, capture low-noise images even in low-light situations, and control depth-of-field and focus as part of the editing process," stated Laroia in a publication Daily Dot.

One limitation is that Light's approach still requires a reasonable z height to accommodate its array of cameras, about the same as is used by smartphones today according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Review article. That would count against the technology for smartphone vendors who want to go even thinner.

And the technology is being pitched as a premium product with a cost to equipment makers of $60 to $80. That compares to $3 to $5 for a low-end camera for an entry-level phone and $20 to $25 for cameras in smartphones.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times Europe

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