Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bokeh Finally comes to Smartphones?

Could this be true? Your Smartphone camera can finally be able to render those beautiful blurs often seen only in tilt-shift camera apps?  Toshiba seems to think so and they are now flogging their technology at CES for US$50 a pop. 

This price is for the concept  camera module that promises to change the landscape for "Bokeh" mobile photography. The final product isn't ready for consumers.

The camera module, code named TCM9518MD, is ready for testing and consist of dual 5 megapixel sensors. The effect will be similar to that of Lytro, which uses tiny micro-lenses to refocus an image but there is no mention if the output of the will be generated in JPGs. 

Part of the problem with Lytro photography is that any flattened image will be tiny. Lytro photography does not actually produce a larger than life image but a small digital one. The digital image, which can be refocused, can only be flattened once with the output image consisting of less than 1 megapixel. That is tiny by today's standards.

Toshiba does not say how large or small the eventual output image will be but a dual lens module camera may give some soft of depth perception similar to that found on dual lens 3D cameras. 

Lytro on its own promises only digital quality images without the file size. It can only be viewed with a mobile app or a browser plug-in. Should you wish to print a copy, make sure it's NOT poster size.

Lytro is not the Goal

The Toshiba module may not operate like Lytro but it could in some ways give you the ability to focus on a subject and throw the rest of the background out of focus. The dual camera module could of course allow you to create bokeh without promising any low-light performance.

Mobile photographers who have been fixated with creamy bokeh images might have to wait a while to see the results. Toshiba says that smartphones and tablets offering the new camera module may only hit the road sometime next year...at CES 2015. 

Pay to be Bokeh

The question now is now many of you would pay to get Bokeh effects for your smartphone. There are numerous apps that already do this, just that they do not offer Bokeh effects within a live view dispaly for you to compose an image. Mobile photographers only have to pay for a good app to get the Bokeh they need for their photography.

Toshiba's dual camera module could end up like a one trick Pony—good only for Bokeh effects but hardly anything else. Photography alone isn't about Bokeh but a whole lot of other sensor features such as dynamic range, high ISO, noise control, slow shutter and low light handling. Bokeh effects alone isn't going to win me over.


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