Samsung Working on DSLR-like Bokeh for Compact Cameras

Samsung Synthetic Bokeh

In a recently published patent application, Samsung disclosed an invention that puts shallow depth-of-field capabilities into tiny, point and shoot cameras. Samsung gets there by using dual lenses in a single camera and using that second lens in a rather novel way.

While the primary lens is capturing the full-resolution image, a secondary lens and sensor captures another image with the sole purpose of evaluating the relative distances of areas in the image.  (In some configurations, the camera may actually be a 3D camera, while in other configurations, it may truly be a secondary lens and sensor.) Then, the camera merges the data with the primary image to create a depth map and applies a graduated blur based on this depth map.

Samsung Synthetic Bokeh Depth Map

This doesn’t appear to be too dissimilar from what programs like Alien Skin’s Bokeh 2 or Topaz Lens Effects. In fact, the depth map in the Samsung patent reminds me a lot of what you create inside Lens Effects – the difference being that you build the depth map in Lens Effects instead of the distance calculations determining the depth map automatically for Samsung’s camera.

Samsung Synthetic Bokeh

This is a feature that I think makes sense for a point and shoot camera.  As noted in my review, I was very happy with the results I could quickly generate from Bokeh 2; however, most folks using compact cameras don’t want to fool with Photoshop for adding bokeh to otherwise simple snapshots.

Bokeh 2 Comparison

Bokeh 2 Comparison - Before/After Simulated Depth of Field

But if you could get the same simulated bokeh without any extra work for the user, then I think consumers would be more than pleased with the results.  If Samsung plays its cards right in terms of operation and price point, this could be a very solid feature for its point and shoot cameras.

Samsung Synthetic Bokeh Final Image

While there are other compact cameras out there that offer some sort of synthetic bokeh effect, I don’t know that any of them are quite as technically precise and elegant as what Samsung is proposing in this patent.

If you want to check out the rest of the patent application for yourself, you can download the PDF file here:

Samsung USPTO Patent Application

What do you think about Samsung’s proposed solution to the depth of field problem in tiny-sensored cameras?

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  1. [...] A compact camera probably isn’t the first thing someone would grab when looking to make a photo with an extremely shallow depth-of-field, since the small aperture and small sensor limit it in this regard. That might soon be different: a recently published patent application by Samsung shows that the company is looking into producing achieving shallow depth of fields with compact cameras by using a second lens to create a depth map for each photo. By using both the normal photograph and the depth map, the camera can create intelligent synthetic blurring that’s based on actual distance measurements and therefore more realistic:Whether or not compact cameras survive long enough for this technology to reach consumers is a different story…(via Photography Bay) [...]