Print 9 comment(s) - last by chµck.. on Apr 30 at 6:41 PM

Pelican's lenses also allow for slimmer form factors

Pelican Imaging may be a fresh face on the market, but it drew lots of attention with its plenoptic imaging technology, which uses software to stitch together input from multiple small lenses into a single cohesive image.  

The resulting image not only rivals images taken from larger lenses, it also allows for dynamic adjustments to the focal length.  In many ways the multi-lens technology mimics nature -- insects see the world through multiple lenses, but their brain is thought to act as an image processor, stitching these images together into a single scene.

Now Finnish Windows Phone-maker Nokia Oyj. (HEX:NOK1V) has made a invest in Pelican worth up to $15M USD, hoping that the imaging firm's expertise can help it to beat out Android phonemakers and Apple, Inc. (AAPL) in smartphone imaging.

Nokia is already very focused on imaging; its PureView smartphone -- which will soon receive a Windows Phone makeover -- can take 41 megapixel shots.  Nokia has been among the companies aggressively pushing high dynamic range (HDR) imaging as a means to improve smartphone camera image color.

Shipments of Nokia's smartphones doubled on a YoY (year-to-year) basis, but the phonemaker still only accounts for 3 percent of total global smartphone sales.  Plenoptic imaging could help it win customers who are obsessed with taking the perfect smartphone image.  

Describes Bo Ilsoe, a partner at Nokia Growth Partners, "[Plenoptic imaging] is on the cusp of being commercialized and Pelican does software for that.  It’s very complicated to do this algorithmically and Pelican is one of the companies that has mastered this technology.

Pelican Imaging
Pelican Imaging's software, combined with Heptagon's lenses could make a unique new kind of smartphone camera. [Image Source: Pelican Imaging]

Nokia Growth investments are typically around $4M to $7M, and are capped at $15M USD.  Pelican's other investors include Globespan Capital Partners, Granite Ventures, InterWest Partners, and Invesco Quality Muni Inv Trust (IQT).

Nokia's fund also invested in Invisage, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based quantum dots imaging firm who looks to make smartphone sensors with the fresh nanotechnology, and Singapore-based lens-maker Heptagon.  The Heptagon investment is particularly interesting as it is a startup that makes micro-optics.  In other words, you could combine Heptagon's tiny lenses with Pelican's software to potentially make a full plenoptic smartphone imaging sensor.

Such a sensor could not only allow better images and more post-processing, but is also expected to be slimmer than a traditional camera module, allowing for thinner smartphones.

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41 MP
By BRB29 on 4/30/2013 11:32:46 AM , Rating: 0
WTF?!? 41 MP is not a good thing for a phone. You push for more pixels through a pin hole of a lens and all you'll get is more noise.

An HTC One with 4MP gets better IQ than all phones out there except 1 in certain conditions. HDR and all the software layers is great but it can't replace actual data/details of a picture due to the sensor not receiving enough light.

41MP sounds like it will do nothing but use up memory and bandwidth. I guess they gotta find a way to get people to buy 128 GB and 256GB versions of their phone in the future.

RE: 41 MP
By Flunk on 4/30/2013 11:43:45 AM , Rating: 3
Ah, but the are trying to enhance optics using their multiple tiny lenses so typical rules don't apply. I'm not saying that it is a good idea, but your reason for dismissing this tech doesn't make sense either.

RE: 41 MP
By akaplan on 4/30/2013 12:32:25 PM , Rating: 2
Nokia already has a phone (nokia 808) with this sensor and lens and it is one of the best if not the best phone camera out there. The problem is that 808 runs symbian, so if they build an updated phone with windows and this sensor and lens it will sell.

RE: 41 MP
By Samus on 4/30/2013 1:08:30 PM , Rating: 2
BRB29, have you been under a rock? The 808 has been out for over a year and has since been considered more of a camera than a phone. It isn't a 'pinhole' lens, take a look at the phone.

RE: 41 MP
By BRB29 on 4/30/2013 2:53:52 PM , Rating: 2
I've seen the phone before. It doesn't need 41MP even with that lens and it's ugly/bulky as sin. Maybe they should've called it a camera with phone as a feature.

APS-C sensors are usually 20MP or less and still get plenty noise above 1600 ISO. Most phone cameras shoot at high ISO(~800+) to compensate for the little amount of light it receives. The raw pic will have plenty of noise so there's a heavy dose of NR and post processing in each pic.

The multiple lens and sensors can work IF the software is perfect. It just take multiple pictures and overlay them to fill in the missing info of each pic. That will reduce noise and add more details. The software has to piece together and compensate for multi pics, pixels shifts, chromatic aberration and lens distortion of each, etc...
It is a colossal amount of post processing which will make it drain battery and be slow as molasses in January.

RE: 41 MP
By GPig on 4/30/2013 5:48:58 PM , Rating: 2
You're completely missing the point - it allows for a digital zoom that is actually useful... as well as the over sampling to reduce noise (which obviously works better the less you are zoomed).

This is tried and test tech, it works.

RE: 41 MP
By chµck on 4/30/2013 6:41:52 PM , Rating: 2
too bad htc fails at it with all that sharpening

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