Apple Granted Light Field Adjustable Focus Camera Patent

If Apple's new patent in any indication, the next iPhone may let users take photos and focus later. The new patent describes a plenoptic, or light field, system that captures an image, then lets users choose where to focus after the fact.

Apple patent describes a post-shot adjustable focus camera systemApple patent describes a post-shot adjustable focus camera system

Plenoptic camera systems have the potential to make it easier to snap photos and to get just the right shot because they capture an image without delays from focusing. After the image is captured, you can choose where to set the focus.

The idea is cool, but it isn't exactly new. Lytra already makes an adjustable focus light field camera and has been selling them to Mac users for some time.

Apple's patent, however, also describes a system where the camera can capture both low resolution images that can be refocused as well as fixed focus high resolution shots. It also details a system where the technology can be adapted to digital cameras that are already on the market.

Assuming Apple plans to use an adapter system in its camera design, future iPhones could include some sort of mounting system for add-on lenses. Currently, third-party lenses can be used with the iPhone, but they involve their own special attachment systems either through clamps, adhesive mounting rings, or cases.

Apple isn't talking publicly about its plans for the patent so for now we're left to speculate as to how -- or if -- it'll show up as a feature in future iPhone models.

[Thanks to Patently Apple for the heads up]