Scientists at M.I.T and Columbia University, among others, suggest the future of digital cameras may not be more megapixels or better lenses, but rather the digital manipulation of the data through a discipline called computational photography. One scientist at M.I.T. is working on a camera that doesn’t even use a lens to see objects around corners. Lasers fire pulses of light and the rebounding data is used to model the structure of the unseen landscape.
And the scientific applications are not relegated to unobtainable hardware. M.I.T’s Camera Culture group is also experimenting with the humble smartphone in the form of the Nokia N900, aka the Frankencamera. They’ve hacked the phone’s Linux operating system and suggest real innovations are possible once anyone can program the camera and try their hand at computational photography.
Two apps are available in the App Store that demonstrate the high dynamic range (HDR) technique that is representative of computational photography. True HDR (screenshot on left) and Pro HDR (screenshot on right) sell for $1.99 each and combine two shots, one overexposed and the other underexposed to create wonderful composite shots.