Toshiba's new dual camera brings deep focus imaging to smartphonesRemember when dual camera modules on smartphones were all the rage? Toshiba is bringing them back -- only this time with technology that you're much more likely to use. Its new module uses two 5-megapixel cameras to record depth and images at the same time, producing a "deep focus" picture where everything is sharp. The technique offers a Lytro-like ability to refocus, even after you've taken the shot; it also provides gesture control and very fast digital autofocusing. You'll have to wait a while before you're snapping deep focus vacation photos, though. Toshiba doesn't expect to mass produce the sensors until April, and finished products will likely come later.

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Toshiba Announces Industry's First Dual Camera Module Enabling Simultaneous Output of Images and Depth Data

Contributes to Create a Wide Range of Applications Including Post Focus on Images after Taking Picture

TOKYO – Toshiba Corporation (TOKYO: 6502) today announced that it has launched the industry's first[1] dual camera module for smartphones, tablets and mobile devices. "TCM9518MD" incorporates twin 1/4 inch optical format 5-megapixel CMOS camera modules (5 megapixels × 2 arrays) and simultaneously outputs recorded images and depth data. Images captured with the module can subsequently be manipulated to change the depth of field and point of focus. Samples will be available by January 2014, with mass production scheduled for April 2014.

The dedicated companion LSI of the "TCM9518MD" measures and appends depth data to objects in the image. These data can be used for a wide variety of applications, including focus and defocus, and even to extract and erase objects from the picture. Used in combination with customers' applications, the module supports the creation of new functions.

The companion LSI generates 13-megapixel images by upscaling images taken by the twin 5-megapixel cameras, realizing a lower module height than that of conventional 13 megapixel camera modules[2].

Computational cameras create images impossible to realize with the standard camera module by combining optical hardware technology-the lens and diaphragm-with digital signal processing technology. The TCM9518MD brings high resolution and computational camera functionalities to the CMOS image sensor market for smartphones, tablets and mobile devices.

Summary of the New Product

Part Number Sample Price Sample Schedule Mass Production Schedule Mass Production Volume
TCM9518MD 5000 Yen January 2014 April 2014 500 thousand pieces per month

Key Features of the New Product

Simultaneous Output of Depth Data (Depth Map) and Deep Focus Image

The TCM9518MD's twin cameras and dedicate companion LSI simultaneously deliver deep focus images in which foreground and background and all points in between are in focus, with depth data on each object in the image. This supports creation of new applications for smartphone, tablets and mobile devices, including refocus, defocus and extraction of any objects of the images, and gesture operation.

Output of 13 Megapixel Image

The companion LSI generates 13-megapixel photographs by upscaling images captured by the twin 5 megapixel cameras. This will contribute to downsizing of mobile devices.

Digital Focus Function

Most of auto focus camera modules for smartphones deploy a mechanical focus structure, moving the lens with motors like VCM[3]. It can take time to focus and also result shutter lag. TCM9518MD offers a non-mechanical digital focus function without mechanical structure, allowing high speed focus by calculating the depth to any objects[4]. It also realizes a lower module height.

Main Specifications

Part Number TCM9518MD
Output Resolution 13 megapixels
Sensor and Resolution 5 megapixels × 2
Optical Size 1/4 inch × 2
Pixel Size 1.4 micrometer
Module Size 8.0 × 12.0 × 4.65 mm

Notes:

[1] For dual camera module with the companion LSI which output depth data. Source: Toshiba, as of September 2013.
[2] Generally for single camera modules, a bigger output image size requires a higher camera module. This product is lower than commercial 13-megapixel camera modules. Source: Toshiba, as of September 2013.
[3] Voice Coil Motor: a motor that moves a lens by applying an electrical current to a coil.
[4] Deep focus image output is not available when using a digital focus function.