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Nokia rumors bring hope for new camera hardware

Pelican Imaging's "bug eye" camera arrangement allows for multiple focus points.

Nokia's new investment in Pelican Imaging has the media buzzing about "bug eye" lens arrangement in the next the next iteration of the Finnish phone maker's Pure View line of smartphones. Pelican Imaging received $20 million from Nokia for continued developments.

Pelican Imaging is known for its consumer imaging technology that features a grid of cameras to allow for post-capture focusing — a trend that has seen a lot of developments lately. According to Pelican Imaging, its hardware is 50% thinner that existing mobile cameras.

Nokia commented on the investment in a press release“Pelican Imaging’s computational camera solutions are at the cutting edge of mobile camera technologies. We believe they’re positioned to lead the next wave in video and image capture; they’re a great addition to our portfolio of innovators in the imaging space.”

This would not be the first time that a multi-camera smartphone has reached consumers. Dual-camera, 3D-capturing phones like the HTC Evo 3D have been globally available since 2011. Whereas the HTC was designed to capture 3D images, the technology Nokia appears to be eyeing is actually similar to that used in the Lytro Light Field Camera and what Toshiba is exploring in its sensor module that would allow for Lytro-style refocusable images. The question here is whether Nokia can take multi-camera smartphone imaging from novelty to commonplace consumer technology.

A patent titled "Aperture Construction for a Mobile Camera“ also reveals Nokia's interest in creating an adjustable aperture for smartphone cameras.
From the patent:
The invention relates in general to the field of digital cameras, especially small digital cameras. In particularly the invention relates for adjusting an aperture for mobile cameras. The adjustable aperture construction of the invention comprises two electrodes, and an electrical circuit for applying a voltage to the electrodes in order to create an electric field between the electrodes. In addition the construction comprises between the electrodes a center unit with a hole in the middle of it, the center unit being made of an electroactive material, such as dielectric material or electrostrictive polymer. The aperture can be adjusted by deforming the shape of the center unit. The shape of the center unit is advantageously deformed by the electric field created between said electrodes by said electrical circuit.

A patent filing does not necessarily mean that the technology in development, but it does indicate that Nokia is looking at advancing the hardware of its mobile cameras.

For all the gritty details on Nokia's adjustable aperture patent, check out the Nokia Power User blog.


Total comments: 26

Much more promising than Lytro. In Lytro you have one lens per resulting pixel, so you need millions of lenses and hundreds of millions of detectors at the one sensor. Very wasteful.

Here you only have 16 complete cameras instead. Each camera can have e.g. 8 MP. Then you concentrate on image quality, and then get the lytro lookalike effects as a bonus. Much better.


this is revolutionary, a true milestone in camera technology.
i bet in 3 years all cellphone cameras have it.
no wonder nokia stock keeps going up ...

Gary Dean Mercer Clark

I think the camera with multiple tiny lenses makes sense for camera phones. Very cool idea.


The lenses shown are much too small and will be diffraction limited, they should be similar in size as normal high end smartphone camera's. 16 8x crop sensors with F/2 lenses would give exposure equivalent to full frame F/4, if they put two of those 16 camera arrays on both ends of a phone it will give F/2.8 equivalent exposure and better information for realistic 3D. Of course there will be some losses in efficiency compared to a single large sensor so it wont exactly match F/2.8 full frame exposure quality but it can potentially come very close.


@magneto shot

Multiple small sensors can give narrow depth-of-field.


Good stuff!


i doubt the multi focus like lytro is possible here....small sensor cant give much shallow depth of field anyway. perhaps the aim is to be super edof?

Lars Rehm

The Lytro is using a very small sensor as well. The effect is really only visible if you take a picture with a subject really close to the lens. You can then re-focus between that subject and the background.


Just so folks are clear, this is very different from Lytro. A camera array like this can give dSLR-style depth-of-field and low-light performance in a cell phone form factor (at a dSLR-level price). Splitting the lens across many sensors gives more sensor, but without needing long focal length, and you can get a large effective aperture in a small form factor.

In addition, if gives lightfield information, so you can adjust focus and depth-of-field. You can do HDR by setting individual sensors to different exposures. You can shoot half of the sensors during flash, and half with motion blur, and combine. You have distance information, so perfect magic-wand-object-select tools.

What remains to be seen is whether Nokia can partner this (or PureView) with a modern display (e.g. 1080p) and OS (e.g. Android). If so, I'll buy one.

Nokia should dual-boot Windows Phone and Android, and let the consumer choose. This seems like a win-win for Nokia, Microsoft, and the consumer.

Edited 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote

I would still prefer 808+OIS in a new Lumia...

1 upvote

It'll surely come. They too know there's a big demand for such a model.


Lumia 1020 is here!


Nokia trying to be a camera maker...


Try to improve your Jurassic telco first, dudes!

Tsk tsk tsk...


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Actually, Nokia has always produced the best cameraphones. The cameras of their models have always been better than competing products of the same time.

For example, back in 2007, could you compare the camera of the original iPhone to that of the Nokia N95? Nope, not even that of the iPhone 3G! It was only the 2009 iPhone 3GS that could match the early 2007 N95.


I think Nokia has one of the best mobile telephone systems out there, with regard to signal strength, call quality, overall robustness, etc. (or at least they used to, I haven't had a Nokia since they left the U.S. last decade).

Now, their smartphone/OS still leaves a lot to be desired. But don't fault them for their actual (tele)phone!


Lytro doesn't impress me, neither does this.

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Oh god WHY nokia WHY?!
Do you want to become a PROFITABLE big player again? Release Android run cellphones and release phones with a camera like the 808 had and built in REAL flash NOT a "led flash" (led is NOT a flash you stupid manufacturers, talking to EVERY manufacturer)
For an AFFORDABLE price by affordable I mean between the Samsung Galaxy II mini & the galaxy S2.

It does NOT need to be 40 megapixels but it DOES have to have the same NOISE performance/low light performance and Image quality/sharpness.

I would switch so freaking fast to Nokia and so would MILLIONS


You do know the money Nokia paid Pelican Imaging comes from Microsoft right? The only reason Nokia still have a R&D is because Microsoft is paying them.



can you back up that statement with proof? The latest earinings reports showed that Nokia is paying back Mirosoft (for WP licensing) as much as they are getting nowadays.


Actually... Millions are already switching to Nokia phones ( ... Seems like the regular Joe out there does not really care for what OS the phone is runnig, as long as it has the major apps and is priced right...

The new Lumia 928 will have Xenon and LED flash so thats one issue less for you. Regarding low light peformance... what more can you ask for. Lumia 920 is alreade heads and shoulders above Everything else - including the latest HTC One and Galaxy S4 phones!


@Brunoh the 920 is FAR FAR behind even this website claims it, so my question is this: how much does nokia pay you for false advertising?


Pelican Imaging's camera array is nothing like Lythro. If this technology is scalable (that is, if it's possible to build large camera arrays that cheaper than large sensors of comparable light-sensing area), it could lead to a completely new breed of cameras.

About the patent - why would a cellphone camera need an aperture? Closing it down will just lead to diffraction, smearing the image.

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It only leads to diffraction if it's too small of an aperture. Having an aperture on a cellphone camera makes sense to me.


You might want to lookup diffraction limits for typical cellphone sensor sizes (1/3"), and typical lens apertures (f:3.5).
Nokia's Pureview is a *massive* exception.

1 upvote

There is some degree of stopping down that can be achieved without diffraction. Seems reasonable to have some rather than none.


I think a very important aspect is missing in this article. According to engadget (yesterday, BTW), "Each sub-camera captures only one color (red, green or blue), which improves image quality by removing the noise that results from cross-talk -- in much the same way as a pro video camera uses three separate sensor chips for each color".

Multiple small sensors also mean phones can be thinner. Combined with potential 3D effect and Lytro style multi-focus. There is a lot to look forward to. Much more interesting than HTC's "Ultrapixel", IMO.

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Total comments: 26
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