Computational photography refers to the ways computers can extend the capabilities of digital imaging by combining multiple photographs taken with different camera settings to create an image that could not be taken in a single shot, or with an ordinary camera.
We’ve seen this capability already in some digital cameras, especially dealing with HDR (High Dynamic Range) where the camera shoots 3 or more pictures at different exposure settings, optimizing each exposure to capture and retain detail in the mid, low and high tones, then combining them in-camera to produce a single picture with detail all across the image.
Most professional photographers prefer to do this processing (“computational photography”) in an image editing software, such as Photoshop, since the in-camera version is often a hit-or-miss endeavor.
Stanford will produce a professional-style, single-lens reflex (SLR) camera equipped with the “Frankencamera” software platform that brings this computational photography directly to the camera, and making the camera a programmable platform.
They plan to make “Frankencamera” open-source and give away the software and cameras to scientists at other universities. Non-academics may buy the camera at cost. Plans call for the cameras to be available within a year.
Interestingly, the research team has also struck an agreement with Nokia to make the “Frankencamera” a free download for the Nokia N900 mobile phone, in effect turning the latter into a “mobile computer.”
The Stanford researchers are hoping that commercial manufacturers will also open up their platforms or adopt the “Frankencamera,” thus standardizing the imaging software used by digital cameras.