New Apple hire points to computational photography

From The Register:


Partinen, who later confirmed that Apple is indeed his new paymaster, started at Nokia working on the optics for the Finnish firm’s N8 model. He was one of the key developers of the PureView 808, a Symbian mobile with a large 41 megapixel camera sensor and a dedicated GPU


Apple recently hired Ari Partinen, a Nokia engineer known for his pioneering work on the computational photography used in the Nokia 808, 1020 and other PureView camera phones. Both the 808 and 1020 continue to be regarded as the two best smartphone cameras on the market, despite some of the compromises brought by their respective Symbian and Windows Phone platforms.

Partinen helped implement the PureView system, which uses sensors as large as 41 megapixels, to produce extremely clear, detailed photos at a more practical 5 or 8 megapixel resolution. PureView achieves this by processing data from up to 7 original pixels to create each of the ‘pure’ pixels in the final, processed version.

Other PureView innovations have included optical image stabilisation and much higher quality materials for both lenses and sensors than those found in competing smartphones.

The industry appears to be poised on the threshold of a new approach to smartphone image quality, using computational techniques to cheat the optical physics which prevents improvements without substantial additions to sensor size and, therefore, device thickness and weight.

Companies like Pelican Imaging, in which Nokia is an investor, uses multiple small sensors to produce camera modules which are very thin, but capable of producing highly detailed, processed images. HTC is experimenting with dual sensors to add post-shot refocusing.

Apple’s decision to bring on board a specialist in computational photography like Partinen, suggests it is also evaluating a new approach to image capture for future products, although likely some 18 to 24 months from release.

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