How would you like the future, if a lens like the Nikkor 800mm f/5.6 VR weighed a kilo / couple of pounds and cost 10 times less? Or perhaps a wide angle lens as big as a pancake that delivers the same quality images as your favorite 24mm f/1.4 prime? Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Well, we might not be that far away from this dream, since the researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Siegen might change the way modern optics work. Their current research on using a single lens element in a lens and correcting lens aberrations looks promising – a method called “deconvolution”, which is based on analysis and reconstruction of the image via software. Instead of using physical elements within a lens to correct for lens aberrations such as distortion, spherical aberration, chromatic aberration and coma, the idea is to use a lens with a single (or more) lens elements and correct such aberrations via computational photography techniques and software algorithms that are applied after the image is captured. This obviously results in lenses with very few lens elements, making them both lighter and cheaper to manufacture.
While this particular concept is nothing new and has already been tried before, the new method seems to take it to the next level, yielding pretty impressive results. Take a look at the before and after deconvolution:
And here is the video from the team that explains the process in detail:
Now keep in mind that the project is far from being practical in the modern world of optics. There are still a number of issues to address, such as the practicality of addressing longitudinal chromatic aberration and field curvature, which can vary by distance. Also, who knows what bokeh would look like, since many lenses are specifically designed with a number of optical elements to yield better bokeh than others.
At the same time, if such algorithms are programmed into future cameras, think what they could potentially yield with say future mirrorless cameras. I have already shared my thoughts on why DX has no future and talked about the future of digital cameras. Roman also followed up with another article and questioned if compact cameras could potentially replace DSLRs. If mirrorless cameras and lenses for them are made smaller, most people will end up using those instead of bulky DSLRs for their everyday needs. Smaller is better, without a doubt. Look at what the tablet and ultrabook market has done to PC and traditional laptop sales…
While some simpler optical corrections are already there in many modern cameras, they are rather limited in what they can do and only apply to JPEG images. Ideally, I would love to see more complex corrections applied to RAW images, so that we do not have to think about correcting them in post-processing. We could use such tools even today, to make existing lenses sharper and better.
Still, this kind of technology will never be able to achieve what you see in this video very funny).
If you want to find out more about this research, please check out this page.
Originally published by DPReview.