February 03, 2007

Next-gen "Origami Lens"

John Dowdell tipped me to an interesting development in the world of tiny optics:

"Your next camera phone might get a new kind of lens if researchers at
the University of California at San Diego convince the cell phones
makers. They have designed an ‘origami lens’ which will slim high
resolution cameras. Today, their 5-millimeter thick, 8-fold imager
delivers images comparable in quality with photos taken with a compact
camera lens with a 38 millimeter focal length. In a few years, these
bendable lenses could be used in high resolution miniature cameras for
unmanned surveillance aircraft, cell phones and infrared night vision

I, meanwhile, prepare to head out the door with a comparatively luggable 17-85mm lens in hand.  Having seen a colleague shooting this week with an approximately 35-200mm lens that appeared to offer a much wider aperture than mine & no appreciable increase in bulk, I keep wondering about my photo friends’ advice.  "Oh, those things are blurry crap," they say–but boy, the flexibility & speed they appear to offer sure is appealing.  It makes me think of audiophiles who drop thousands of dollars on equipment that (to me, anyway) just reveals the flaws in the source audio or other components.  I don’t want to use garbage, but I’m starting to stroke my chin about the info I’ve been getting…

Posted by John Nack at 2:22 AM on February 03, 2007


  • brett jordan — 3:26 AM on February 03, 2007

    hi john
    thanks for an excellent blog
    i know what you mean about the ‘convenience/excellence’ trade-off
    as someone who has spent far too much money on in-car entertainment, i know what it means to chase ‘perfection’ in a medium… and for photograpy i own a sigma sd9 slr, and love it (dont’ get me started on the foveon/bayer debate)
    however, i find myself taking most of my pictures with a fuji f30 (for my review, check out http://tinyurl.com/2afo6n)
    in case you’re interested, i blogged on the convenience vs quality thing a while back
    all the best
    [Good stuff, Brett; thanks for the links & feedback. –J.]

  • Chris — 3:27 PM on February 03, 2007

    Hmm, nice idea for the lens.
    But it looks like it would have massive chromatic abberation problems.
    Now, 2 materials combined and folded (one with a reverse index of refraction gradient) might be pretty nice. But I wouldn’t envy the people trying to manufacture something that precise.

  • Shangara Singh — 1:45 AM on February 07, 2007

    If excellence means leaving the camera in the box at home because it’s going to cost ££££ to travel or you know you won’t be able to lug the 5-2000mm, f1.2, 40 element coated with uranium lens, and the 5-500mm backup, up them there hills without 10 sherpas and pack mules, excellence be damned, I say. Anyone ever looked at the “quality” of a Henri Cartier-Bresson print? Hmmm…
    Who cares about the mantelpiece when you are poking the fire, as the saying goes. Not me. Give me fire any day and HCB’s photos can burn you from a mile away.
    [Very true. –J.]
    Shangara Singh.
    [By the way, I was thinking the little glow I’ve been displaying was happiness; now I know it’s from the uranium-coated lenses. ;-) –J.]

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