Shoot now, focus later: multi-view lens patent is Sony’s latest foray in to light field photography

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According to Sony Alpha Rumors, Sony has filed a patent for an interchangeable E-mount lens that will allow users to adjust focus after the shot has been recorded. The lens appears to contain a number of lenses arranged next to each other to record multiple individual images on the camera’s sensor that can be combined later presumably to control focus and depth-of-field.

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The site doesn’t tell us where the patent information was seen so we can’t read it for ourselves, but some diagrams are provided that we are told are part of the application.

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The Light L16 light field camera from Light Labs Inc

Sony investigating light field technology is nothing new, as in the past it has filed patents for a light field sensor and has a partnership to supply sensors to Light Labs Inc, the manufacturer of the Light L16 camera that was announced in 2015. The draw of the technology is obvious as it can allow multiple focal lengths to be used for full-resolution zooming and/or focus and depth-of-field selection after the event.

We have seen a few attempts at harnessing the idea in commercial camera products in the past, including the Lytro Illum, Nokia’s 9 PureView and to some extent a number of other multi-lens and multi-sensor smartphones. It is hard to tell from the available information exactly what these lenses will used for in this patented idea, and whether they will be to collect distance information or be used to expand the range of tones that can be recorded in a single shot – or both.

Either way, such a lens will need a camera with an extremely powerful processor or the ability to simply record the images for processing in software later – as with Sony’s Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode that requires images are processed in the company’s Imaging Edge desktop application.

As we have all noticed in the past though, exciting patent applications don’t always result in a product that comes to market. If genuine however this does at least demonstrate Sony is still pursuing ideas in this area.

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