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Coaster-sized origami-optics lens boosts focal length, shrinks photog egos

Tim Stevens

Sports photogs aren't compensating for something by swinging gigantic, monopod-mounted lenses; they need the focal length. Focusing and zooming on outfielders usually means glass far from the camera body, but not so when using so-called "origami optics," flat lenses being researched at UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering that use internal reflection to achieve long focal lengths. Only the outer ring actually captures the image, while the others bounce it around before depositing light onto the film or sensor. The military is sponsoring this research, wanting better eyes on its UAVs, and we're hoping for improved optics in our gadgets -- though we were equally jazzed about liquid lenses, and those haven't exactly revolutionized mobile photography yet. A snooze-inducing Engineering TV clip after the break explains it all in more detail, so don't click on until you've had your morning cuppa -- or two.

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