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Pureview 808

Nokia to possibly add Lytro-style cameras to future phones

Nokia, a company that is struggling to find its footing against Apple and Samsung, is now reportedly pinning its hopes on array cameras, best known as the technology behind the focus-free Lytro cameras. According to Bloomberg, Nokia aims to “win back” customers by pairing with California-based startup Pelican Imaging and investing in array camera technology.

Array cameras aren’t the exact same as the technology used in Lytro, but it’s very close. The blanket name is a “light-field” camera: images are captured in a 4D light field, with the image sensor positioned behind the microlenses. With this setup, it’s possible to analyze the image on a computer, set the focus and alter various properties not possible with standard sensor cameras. There’s a drawback though — array cameras may deliver the amazing ability to refocus images, but they capture pictures at a low resolution. Pelican Imaging posted this video two years ago, demonstrating what is possible with Array cameras and mobile phones.

Pelican’s phone has multiple images sensors on the rear of the camera, and the effect is exactly what we’ve seen with Lytro. The real story though, is this enough to save Nokia from itself? While Lumia sales have grown by 1.2-million devices, Samsung and Apple has a foothold on over 90% of the smartphone market. Nokia’s share? Three-percent.

It’s impossible to tell what Nokia’s strategy is for its Array camera technologies, as its 41-megapixel 800 PureView phone didn’t exactly make a splash with consumers. Is further fancy camera tech the way forward?

Array camera tech is difficult to get right, says Bo Ilsoe of Nokia Growth Partners. “It’s very complicated to do this algorithmically and Pelican is one of the companies that has mastered this technology.” Nokia Growth Partners find companies worth investing in for the sake of Nokia’s ever-growing technology portfolio. Last year, Nokia added Scalado to it’s list of acquired imaging companies. Scalado software technologies include rapid image viewing, better memory use and faster image capturing.