Toshiba is working on an image sensor that will let smartphone or tablet users refocus photos that have already been shot, according to the Asahi Shimbun. The effect sounds very similar to the Lytro light field camera that was released earlier this year, but that device was over four inches long.
500,000 microlenses, 1-centimeter cube
Toshiba's module, on the other hand, is cube-shaped, uses an array of over 500,000 microlenses in front of a 5 x 7mm sensor, and measures about one centimeter on each side, meaning it should fit into a smartphone — albeit not a particularly thin one. Toshiba's software will combine the images captured by each microlens to give focusing control after the fact, or to create one image where every object is in focus.
Though the technology is undeniably cool, we weren't hugely impressed with Lytro's image quality or level of depth of field control in our review. Perhaps having similar functionality in a phone would make the trade-offs easier to swallow, however. Toshiba is reportedly seeking tablet and smartphone manufacturers that could integrate the camera module into their devices, and expects it to be commercialized by the end of fiscal 2013.