A prototype camera made by a Stanford University graduate student could
> herald the end of fuzzy, poorly lit photos.
> A computer science Ph.D. student at Stanford University has outfitted a
> 16-megapixel camera with a bevy of micro lenses that allows users to
> take photos and later refocus them on a computer using software he
> The student, Ren Ng, ran out of patience with taking pictures the
> traditional way -- adjusting the distance between the camera lens and
> sensor or film before snapping each shot. So he created something that
> far surpasses Photoshop. A photograph can be modified after the fact
> even if nothing is in focus, he said.
> "We just think it'll lead to better cameras that make it easier to take
> pictures that are in focus and look good," said Ng's adviser, Stanford
> computer science professor Pat Hanrahan.
> Ng calls his creation the "light field camera" because of its ability
> to capture the quantity of light moving in all directions in an open
> space. It stems from early-20th-century work on integral photography,
> which experimented with using lens arrays in front of film, and an
> early-1990s plenoptic camera developed at MIT and used for range
> finding. By building upon these ideas, Ng hopes to improve commercial
> cameras' focusing abilities.
> Traditionally, light rays filter through a camera's lens and converge
> at one point on film or a digital sensor, then the camera summarizes
> incoming light without capturing much information about where it came
> from. Ng's camera pits about 90,000 micro lenses between the main lens
> and sensor. The mini lenses measure all the rays of incoming light and
> their directions of origin. The software later adds up the rays,
> according to how the picture is being refocused.
> The technology could help snap-happy amateurs and professional
> photographers, as well as aid security cameras in capturing sharper
> Turning Ng's invention into a commercial product poses a few
> challenges. First, it works best with expensive high-resolution
> cameras, and when you add the price of Ng's device, the cost could be
> prohibitive (Ng declined to estimate a cost). A photographer could get
> pretty good results by modifying an 8-megapixel camera with Ng's
> invention, but it wouldn't be possible to refocus over as wide a range.
> On the other hand, the invention could make cameras simpler in some
> ways. A camera equipped with Ng's device wouldn't need the motors that
> focus lenses, so the camera would have fewer moving parts.
> Amateurs might embrace the camera, but some professional photographers
> may not, said Ken Light, a photographer and director of the Center for
> Photography at UC Berkeley.
> Photojournalists and news photographers, especially, are strict about
> what can be done to an image after it's shot, he said. For some,
> tweaking a photo after the fact, even if only to refocus, might not
> fly, he said.
> "Some people might find it over the line," he said, "because it's not
> being done by a person, so to speak -- it's being done by the