GigaOM has an excellent write-up about a start-up company called Pelican Imaging that is taking a novel approach to smartphone cameras that should lead to better photos without requiring giant lenses or larger sensors.
Basically, instead of trying to cram more pixels onto a digital camera sensor without increasing the size of the sensor or lens (a ploy used to attract folks who believe the MegaPixel Myth), the Pelican Imaging system uses an array of multiple cameras, 25 in a 5×5 arrangement, to capture more data which then gets merged via software to create a higher-quality image.
Smartphones are the ideal product for this technology since they have both the space restrictions that require small camera sensors and lenses and the computing power to run the necessary software. Grabbing more data and relying more on software will also allow for more control over the image, such as capturing depth, playing with the realism of the image, and choosing focus points after the photo is taken.
Pelican’s plan is to license their technology, much the way ARM does with processors. No idea when they’ll hit but it can’t come soon enough. The Megapixel Myth has lingered for too long. While it is true that Megapixel count is a factor in determining photo quality, it’s not the only one and it actually starts to detract from image quality as it gets away from adequate sensor and lens size. Click over to GigaOM for more info.