In Optica , the journal of the OSA (The Optical Society), the design of a camera has been presented that, using a single lens that is approximately one thousandth of an inch thick , does not require focus.
According to the researchers responsible for the design at the University of Utah, this new technology offers considerable benefits over traditional cameras, such as those in most smartphones.
Future of mobile cameras
Conventional cameras require focus to ensure that the details of an object are sharp. If there are multiple objects at different distances from the camera, each object must be focused separately .
The new lens, however, eliminates the need to focus and allows any camera to keep all objects in focus simultaneously – it can maintain focus for objects that are about 20 feet apart. According to the leader of the research team, Rajesh Menon :
Our flat lenses can dramatically reduce the weight, complexity, and cost of cameras and other imaging systems, while increasing their functionality. Such optics could allow for thinner smartphone cameras, smaller, improved cameras for biomedical imaging like endoscopy, and more compact cameras for cars.
Flat lenses use nanostructures patterned on a flat surface rather than bulky glass or plastic to achieve the important optical properties that control the way light travels.
This new lens could have many interesting applications outside of photography, such as creating highly efficient lighting for LIDAR that is critical for many autonomous systems, including self-driving cars.