The Electronic Lens

Bengt Nyman

This probably makes you think of a miraculous electronic device mounted in place of the lens on your camera. Maybe some day, but not today. My thought today is to take the lens correction technology offered by DxOMark and others a step further to solve a problem with long focal length lenses.

For example, a 400mm lens is about as long, weighs around 4kg and costs about $10,000. If you have ever carried this around together with a few other lenses, two camera bodies and a step ladder, you know what I am talking about.

Lens correction software is commonly used today. The software corrects for distortions and aberrations in the image, produced by the lack of optical perfection in the lens. A long focal length lens today commonly consists of a dozen lens elements arranged in a number of separate groups.

Many of these lenses are made of rare and expensive glass compositions and have even more rare and specific coatings of nano materials. Still, the image is not always totally perfect and many times requires electronic correction in post-processing, not just for exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows etc. but also for distortions and aberrations.

So why not do this: minimize the cost and bulk of the lens by taking advantage of the potential for post-processing software. Imagine a simple but accurately manufactured long focal length lens which produces an imperfect image onto the surface of the image sensor.

This lens tends to distort the image as well as break red, green and blue differently. The image projected onto the digital image sensor would therefore be imperfect, you could even call it an encoded image. However, we know in which manner this digital image is encoded.

The interpretation made by the post-processing software would be designed to reverse this and decode the image by moving details and colors into their correct places, producing the scene as originally seen by the human eye.

Initially this processing would be done off-camera in your laptop or desktop. However, long term nothing prevents the decoder software from residing in the camera or better yet, in the lens itself.

  • What I’m saying all along. That’s why Sony, as an electronics giant, moves way ahead faster than the traditional players. Still, the perfect imaging algorithms still require the act of photography. Mathematics might make it easier and more convenient. And gosh in the end I need something solid in my hands, not gadgets and toys.

  • There are two issues:

    1) you give up some resolution in the process

    2) most manufacturers are not enlightened enough to publish full specs for their correction algorithms, which means this only works if you shoot JPEG rather than RAW (blech) or use the camera manufacturer’s usually abysmal RAW conversion software. Adobe spends an inordinate amount of money on reverse engineering and building camera/lens profiles, this is mostly not an option for smaller publisher.

  • HiThereItsMe

    Olympus already do this

  • Bengt Nyman

    1. Not necessarily
    2. The software decoding matrix would be developed by the lens manufacturer, built into the lens and accessed by the camera processor.

    Adobe and others would have nothing to do with this step of the process.