Topics

New Lens Tech Can Shrink Cameras, VR and AR Gear

Bill Hogan
 

New Lens Tech Can Shrink Cameras, VR and AR Gear


Demo Video Here:  https://youtu.be/ETx_fjM5pms

Regards, Bill Hogan
Burbank, CA

Scientists at Harvard University on Monday unveiled a metalens that has the potential to shrink the size of any device that uses a camera while at the same time improving performance.

While traditional lenses are made from glass, metalenses use a flat surface peppered with nanostructures to focus light. One problem with metalenses has been their inability to focus the full spectrum of light.

That's not the case any more, however, as a team at Harvard's Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a metalens that can focus the entire visible spectrum of light -- including white light -- at a focal point, with high resolution.

Rx for Thinner Phones

An advantage a metalens has over conventional lens systems is that multiple elements aren't needed to correct for aberrations. Those multiple elements make lenses thick, and thick lenses mean thicker devices.

"Our lens is a flat lens, so it's thinner than a conventional lens," explained Federico Capasso, a professor of applied physics at Harvard and author of the research paper on the new metalens published Monday in Nature Nanotechnology.

"If this lens were used in a cellphone, the cellphone could be much thinner," he told TechNewsWorld.

Two components of a cellphone continue to challenge designers driven to make the devices thinner: the battery and the camera.

"The lens is responsible for the bump on the back of the cell phone that the cell phone companies hate," Capasso said. "Right now, a cellphone has six or seven regular lenses. Even if we can cut it down to three, it'll be extremely significant.

Impact on VR, AR

By correcting chromatic aberration, the metalens developed by the Harvard researchers addresses an annoying problem facing virtual reality and augmented reality hardware developers.

"Chromatic Aberration -- color focal point mismatch resulting from the propagation speed of different frequencies of light -- is one of many visual artifacts causing lack of visual fidelity and realism in augmented and virtual reality," explained Sam Rosen, a vice president at ABI Research.

To correct those artifacts, high-end VR or AR hardware will often use advanced computational techniques to adjust focal points on a color-by-color basis.

"That process is compute-intensive and must be tuned for every model of device," Rosen told TechNewsWorld.

"An improved passive lens which solves this problem could make for better devices by resolving the problem in the underlying physical hardware, making systems simpler and easier to program," he added.

To address the propagation problem found in both conventional and other metalenses, the scientists cooked up a clever fix.

"By combining two nanofins into one element, we can tune the speed of light in the nanostructured material to ensure that all wavelengths in the visible are focused in the same spot, using a single metalens," explained Wei Ting Chen, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard and member of the metalens team.

Business Disrupter

Another benefit of using an achromatic metalens in a camera is that it makes the production of the camera subsystem easier to produce.

Now, the subsystem is made up of a sensor, which is a piece of fabricated silicon, and a stack of lenses, which are produced by lens molding, a process dating back to the 19th century.

"With a metalens, we can have the same foundry that makes the sensor chip make the metalenses for the camera module," Capasso said. "That's why so many companies are excited about this. There is a chance to disrupt the business model anywhere cameras are used."

The use of cameras with metalenses is still some time away, Capasso acknowledged.

"I'm not going to tell you that you're going to see a cellphone with metalenses two years from now," he said. "That would be ludicrous. This is in the research stages, but it's still a big step forward."

Mako Koiwai
 

But Large Size is Important!

I worked on a commercial, where the Dp said we should be shooting this with an EX3 … but "we wanted to impress the client, so we rented an Alexa and hired you." :-)

During that horrible period when we were experimenting with Canon 5D’s … I didn’t a three day commercial with one mounted on a Technocrane for the whole shoot! … it was said that Actors felt they couldn’t take those cameras/projects seriously. (Watch “Tangerine” for an amazing tiny camera, award winning feature!)

And then there are those Directors that have to show their importance by using large format film cameras, whether appropriate or not …



makofoto, s. pasadena, ca

Steve Oakley
 

big cameras with maximum gack attached always impress those who need to be impressed. just the way it is. showing up with a small camera that can do an equal job will never win you more work.

then there was the shoot less than a year ago where I had to rent a bunch of 5K skypans to light up a green screen. I had them driven 5hrs each way from the only rental house that even had any…. even though I had 10+ 4X4 kinos available locally that would of easily of done the exact same job. Of course only 3 of the 5 lights actually worked, and then they were on dim at like 60 or 70% with full frost.

Steve Oakley
DP / Editor / Colorist / VFX Artist
Madison & Milwaukee WI
920 544 2230


On Jan 4, 2018, at 12:39 PM, Mako Koiwai <mako1foto@...> wrote:

But Large Size is Important!

And then there are those Directors that have to show their importance by using large format film cameras, whether appropriate or not …

makofoto, s. pasadena, ca

David Stump
 

Bill Hogan Posted

On Jan 4, 2018, at 2:40 AM, Bill Hogan <billhogan1@...> wrote:

New Lens Tech Can Shrink Cameras, VR and AR Gear

Demo Video Here:  https://youtu.be/ETx_fjM5pms

Hi Bill, 

Spotted that almost a year ago, and brought the article to the ASC Tech meeting;


also;


Did a little research and learned that for now it’s a pretty big light loss….


Dave Stump ASC
DP
LA Calif.

Mark H. Weingartner
 



On 4Jan, 2018, at 10:39 02, Mako Koiwai <mako1foto@...> wrote:

 (Watch “Tangerine” for an amazing tiny camera, award winning feature!)

For every Tangerine or brilliant 5D feature there are ten thousand unwatchable ones…
nothing wrong with that - that’s ten thousand crews learning what works and what doesn’t without spending per roll of film:-)

And then there are those Directors that have to show their importance by using large format film cameras, whether appropriate or not …

At some point I will write an essay on goal-driven versus process-driven choices in film-making.

For some directors, DPs, VFX Supervisors, Costume designers, etc etc  the process by which the “thing” is made is an intrinsic part of its value whereas to others, the only thing of importance is the final image and its accompanying sound track and the method by which it was arrived at is immaterial.

Most of us fall somewhere in between.

Some of the fashion for 5-65 and Alexa 65 and etc may be driven by the process changes that they require - some of it is about the actual image - and some of it may be bragging rights.

Some of it, of course, is business - if one photographs a certain amount of one’s project in native IMAX (rather than uprezzing)  then one gains some IMAX screen theater booking advantages.

I need to gather my thoughts about this topic to write something coherent and will post it in the appropriate section (not Glass)   when I do so, but as a teaser:

Just as putting on a costume affects the way an actor walks and acts, so choosing a particular type of camera package affects how many people on set act and interact - and the final product is the sum of many different components, many affected by the way people choose to work.




Mark Weingartner, ASC
DP, VFX Supervisor, and Stereographer
Los Angeles based
vfxmark@...

Cigarettes make the sun come up
Whiskey makes the sun go down
And in between
We do a lot of standing around




Adam Wilt
 

But Large Size is Important!

There’s nothing stopping someone from putting a metalens disc into a big honkin’ Master Prime barrel—after all, you still need focus and iris rings that mesh with proper controls. And with all that silly glass out of the way, you’ve got room to pack some depleted uranium ‘round the inside, too. Gives the lens an authoritative heft!

(I might also suggest sticking the two SDXC cards you’ll need for recording into a recorder the size and shape of a 1000 foot 35mm magazine, but that’s not glass, so I won’t.)

Adam Wilt, who will take any further snark to chat
technical services: consulting / coding / camerawork
Vancouver WA USA (no, not that Vancouver, the other one)

Daniel Drasin
 

Adam writes: "There’s nothing stopping someone from putting a metalens disc into a big honkin’ Master Prime barrel—after all, you still need focus and iris rings that mesh with proper controls."

Equally to the point, there would seem no way to achieve zooming capability with a metalens. So adding a bunch of heavy optical elements and coupling them with a zoom ring would be just the thing to achieve that desirable degree of bigness and honkin'ness, not to mention zoominess.

Snark aside, there's many a slip 'twixt the lab and the marketplace, so as with a lot of other intriguing developments, I wouldn't bet on this thing having a whole lot of practical applicability, at least in the foreseeable future. (Yes, yes, they said that about alternating current...)

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA

Geoff Boyle
 

A few years ago the owner of a company that made bot cameras and lenses told me that the biggest mistake he had ever made was to make his lenses twice as big as they actually needed to be. He said that at the time he thought the big lenses looked more professional.

Well before that I was talking to the product manager of another camera and lens company and he, after making sure I’d signed an NDA, asked me if I would use a lens that only produced pictures when it had power applied. The idea was to float all the elements electromagnetically and vary very element according to focal length and focus. This way they could make lenses half the current weight or twice the speed or with twice the zoom range of current lenses. The catch being that unless they had power available they wouldn’t produce any image at all. I believe I’m the only cinematographer they asked that loved the idea, everyone else hated it. My point was that we always have power available, FFS! The camera won’t work without it. Ah but it won’t work on an optical V/F was the reply.


Cheers
Geoff Boyle
Cinematographer
EU Based
www.gboyle.co.uk
+31 (0) 637 155 076



On 6 Jan 2018, at 10:10, Daniel Drasin <danieldrasin@...> wrote:

Adam writes: "There’s nothing stopping someone from putting a metalens disc into a big honkin’ Master Prime barrel—after all, you still need focus and iris rings that mesh with proper controls."

Daniel Drasin
 

Geoff writes: "The idea was to float all the elements electromagnetically and vary very element according to focal length and focus. This way they could make lenses half the current weight or twice the speed or with twice the zoom range of current lenses. The catch being that unless they had power available they wouldn’t produce any image at all."

This kind of approach would seem to be ideal for cameras with fixed/integral lenses. I don't think existing prosumer gear goes quite this far, but one could imagine a class of camera that would be more "pro" than "sumer" and could take full advantage of this kind of flexibility and finesse. My only questions would be whether all elements could be controlled to sufficiently fine tolerances (especially in punishing run & gun situations), whether the powered lens would burn through batteries too quickly, and whether anyone would hire me unless I added enough foo to the rig to make mine look bigger than yours. :-)

I suppose it might be possible to produce such a lens that would mechanically or magnetically default to wide-angle/hyperfocal distance (i.e. be somewhat usable), when unpowered. But wtf do I know?

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin Country, CA

Mark H. Weingartner
 


On 6Jan, 2018, at 23:02 48, Daniel Drasin <danieldrasin@...> wrote:

Geoff writes: "The idea was to float all the elements electromagnetically and vary very element according to focal length and focus.




Interesting… I would hate to have my old-school analog self-winding watch magnetized by the B-field emanating from my lens though;-)

Weingartner
(not a luddite, just mindful of unintended consequences)


LA based DP/VFX/3D/motorcycle maintenance

Steven Bradford
 

On Jan 06, 2018, at 11:02 PM, Daniel Drasin <danieldrasin@...> wrote:
This kind of approach would seem to be ideal for cameras with fixed/integral lenses. I don't think existing prosumer gear goes quite this far, but one could imagine a class of camera that would be more "pro" than "sumer" and could take full advantage of this kind of flexibility and finesse.
This has been around since at least the Panasonic DVX100. I remember my amazement the first time I tried a focus pull with this $4500 camera’s integrated zoom lens, and got precisely zero focus breathing. That camera came out 16 years ago. I don’t think anyone has had their self winding watches thrown off by one of these cameras since then either!

I’m with Geoff on this one, I’m very disappointed that this hasn’t been pursued with higher end glass until very recently.

Steven Bradford
Cinematographer/Instructor
Seattle, USA

Tim Sassoon
 

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” — Henry Ford

Tim Sassoon
Venice, CA



On Jan 6, 2018, at 7:44 AM, Geoff Boyle <geoff.cml@...> wrote:

I believe I’m the only cinematographer they asked that loved the idea, everyone else hated it.

Geoff Boyle
 

The domestic camera market was mentioned during our conversations.

It was a question of whether a very conservative professional market would accept them.

Looking that the overall reaction to autofocus and DAF I’d say they made the right choice!

Cheers
Geoff Boyle
Cinematographer
EU Based
www.gboyle.co.uk
+31 (0) 637 155 076



On 8 Jan 2018, at 23:56, Steven Bradford <bradford@...> wrote:

This has been around since at least the Panasonic DVX100