New Camera Module Allows to Adjust Focus After Taking Picture

Sep 28, 2013
Tsuneyuki Miyake, Tech-On!
The camera module
The camera module
[Click to enlarge image]
Distance data (left) and a "deep focus image" (right)
Distance data (left) and a "deep focus image" (right)
[Click to enlarge image]

Toshiba Corp developed a camera module capable of focusing on or blurring any object in an image that has already been taken.

The module is equipped with two 1/4-inch 5-Mpixel CMOS image sensors and an image processor and can take a "deep focus image," which focuses on objects in a wide area. Toshiba will start to ship samples of the module for smartphones and tablet computers in January 2014 and mass-produce it in April 2014 at a rate of 500,000 units per month.

The two image sensors are juxtaposed to each other. And the distance to an object sensed by the sensors can be calculated with the image processor and output as a 2D image. Based on the distance data, it is possible to create an image that focuses on a desired object.

The module enables to take an image with a narrow point of focus (narrow depth of focus) without using an autofocus mechanism that moves the lens, eliminating the need for the autofocus mechanism of a smartphone. Also, because there is no need to wait for an object to be brought to a focus, it becomes possible to take a picture at the instant of releasing the shutter.

Furthermore, this feature can be used for gesture recognition, the estimation of the size of an object, etc.

The module outputs image data with a pixel count equivalent to 13 million by using the image processor to increase the resolution of data from the two 5-Mpixel image sensors. The thickness of the module is less than that of a camera module equipped with one 13-Mpixel image sensor.