Smartphone cameras have taken a serious turn for the better lately. While they still aren’t up to Digital SLR levels of quality, smartphone manufacturers and their suppliers have been working on tech that makes these sensors better than “just good enough,” and has taken them to truly excellent levels of photography quality. Right now we’ve got LG’s G2 on the market, which features a 13 megapixel camera with Optical Image Stabilization to give clearer pictures without all the normal blur that tends to come with low light photos. Sony’s Xperia Z1 features a 20.7 megapixel camera with a lens that’s usually found in a dedicated camera, which is supposed to be considerably better than normal smartphone lenses. Oppo just announced the N1 the other day, which features a 206-degree rotatable camera with a 6-element lens, and Samsung has announced that future smartphones will be using their new ISOCELL image sensor for better low-light performance. Now it looks like Toshiba will be entering the game with a whole new type of technology: dual-sensor cameras. We’ve seen dual-sensor cameras in the past on phones like the EVO 3D, but never used quite like this. Instead of delivering a 3D image, which the camera on the EVO 3D did, these dual-sensors are used to deliver an image with unlimited focusing potential, even after you take the picture.
If this technology sounds familiar don’t worry, you have heard of this before, but in a different way. Lytro was a product that was introduced in late 2011, and was a small camera that takes a picture that allows you to focus after taking the picture. The purpose is so that the user isn’t waiting to focus before taking the shot, which often causes action shots to be missed or come out blurry. This works by utilizing two 5 megapixel cameras with a companion chip that processes the image data in real-time. The appended image becomes a 13 megapixel image after being upscaled, likely to help clear out any artifacts that might be present. This allows a user to focus a picture after being taken since it takes a picture from multiple depth fields, and also gives rise to a better form of cutting out objects from an image. Remember those Samsung ads for the Galaxy S4 that show someone cutting moving objects out of a picture by taking multiple pictures? This will hopefully take that to the next level, increasing accuracy and making the process faster.
Unfortunately we won’t see these new sensors in products this year, or even likely in the Spring of 2014. Toshiba is promising samples of the technology by January 2014, and mass-production of the product by April 2014. This means that these sensors won’t be making it into the Galaxy S5 or HTC’s next flagship if they stay on the current release schedule, but could very well end up in Fall 2014’s flagship phones. Much like 4K video and 13+ megapixel cameras are all the rage this year, infinite focus could be the big thing in smartphone cameras next year.