The plot thickens: First Apple bought the motion-sensor company, now it’s won …

November 30, 2013
  • The camera in the patent is fitted with a detachable microlens array
  • It shoots pictures that can be refocused after they’ve been taken
  • This technology is similar to the plenoptic system used in Lytro cameras
  • When the array is removed, the camera is used to take traditional photos
  • The firm filed the patent in 2011 but it was only granted this week

Victoria Woollaston

14:03, 27 November 2013


14:06, 27 November 2013

Apple made a number of improvements to the camera on its iPhone 5S to make pictures look more professional, and a new patent hints at what we could expect from the camera on future versions of the phone.

The patent details a system capable of capturing low-resolution images that can be refocused even after they’ve been taken and processed.

It would do this by capturing the whole light field of an image, similar to the technology seen in Lytro cameras, meaning the shots appear in 3D rather than 2D.

Apple's patent, pictured, details a camera attachment that takes images which can be refocused, even after they've been processed,

Apple’s patent, pictured, details a camera attachment that takes images which can be refocused, even after they’ve been processed, similar to the technology used in Lytro cameras. This means images appear in 3D and the focus can be changed numerous times to create different shots


Apple’s digital camera, according to the patent,
would be made up of a shell with an image sensor mounted inside it.

This sensor would be fitted with a number of sensor pixels for
capturing digital images.

An adaptor, including a microlens array,
could then be inserted between the imaging lens and the image sensor meaning users could switch to what Apple calls the ‘low-resolution
refocusable mode.’

As the name suggests, the array would be fitted
with micro lenses that capture light from multiple sources and

This is called light-field photography and gives the appearance of 3D. 

These images would then be able to be digitally refocused because the camera has enough light-field information to change how it looks.  

Earlier this week Apple confirmed it had bought Israeli motion-sensor company PrimeSense.

PrimeSense was involved during the early development stages of Microsoft’s Kinect sensor.

company hasn’t discussed its plans for motion-sensor technology, but
some experts believe it could be a part of the rumored Apple TV.

The set could also feature the camera detailed in the latest patent.

According to patent papers, which were originally filed in 2011, photographers could take an image and change the main area of focus numerous times to produce different shots.

These images would be taken through what’s called a microlens array.

According to Apple’s patent, this array would be detachable and could be removed when the user wanted to take a traditional high-resolution photo.

A similar array is already used in Lytro’s Light Field Cameras.

Lytro was set up in 2006 but the first cameras didn’t go on sale until 2011. They use a technology called plenoptic imaging.

Each plenoptic camera contains a series of small lenses fitted to a chip that capture light from multiple sources and directions. This is known as 4D light field information.

Other companies, including California-based Pelican Imaging, produce similar cameras and in May, Nokia announced plans to invest in this firm.

Apple's patent makes explicit reference to company Lytro and its plenoptic camera, pictured.

Apple’s patent makes explicit reference to manufacturer Lytro and its plenoptic camera, pictured. Lytro cameras went on sale in 2011 and use technology called plenoptic imaging. Each plenoptic camera contains a series of small lenses fitted to a chip that capture light from multiple sources and directions

Rumours suggest the investment will lead to the Finnish phone maker launching a smartphone with a plenoptic camera by 2014.

Apple makes explicit reference to Lytro and plenoptic camera patents, however, by making the microlens array in its own camera detachable, the firm believes this would make its design more consumer-friendly.

‘This invention has the advantage that the digital camera system can be configured to capture both low-resolution refocusable digital images and high-resolution non-refocusable digital images’ said the patent.


Comments (35)

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Tampa, United States,

1 day ago

3D is a gimmick


Sevenoaks, United Kingdom,

1 day ago

I bet Samsung have got their spies out looking to copy another Apple product.


Glasgow, United Kingdom,

1 day ago

I’m holding off until the iCamera 9s is out…I’ve heard its a beauty!


surrey – uk,

2 days ago

If only they could invent an attachment that did the ironing. My life would be complete.

Hail To The Chief,

Pudsey, United Kingdom,

2 days ago

More iCrap for iDiots.


solihull – great Britain,

2 days ago

Sounds like more bullying by apple to me,


London, United Kingdom,

2 days ago

Motion sensor and 3D camera? Better not leave it lying around in your bedroom then 🙂

Just Dona,

Metropolis, United Kingdom,

2 days ago

So, whoopee, they got the patent. But is this because they want to use it for something, or are they just doing a Microsoft, and buying it so they can make money by suing anyone ELSE who uses a similar technology?



2 days ago

So you have a digital image that permits you to chose the focusing area of what is displayed. It will only ever work on-screen and wont be 3D.

Gideon Oliver Taylor,

London, United Kingdom,

2 days ago

Apple never invent something themselves, they just go around buying other companies


manchester, United Kingdom,

2 days ago

this is common in business however most of the recent tech used today is stolen from apple. read and become knowledgeable young gideon

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