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March 29, 2005

Wavefront Coding — Auto Focus with no moving parts


Yesterday there was a small announcement about a big invention.

Not big in size but, rather, huge in implications.

CDM Optics, an 18-person firm in Boulder, Colorado, sold itself to OmniVision Technologies, which makes imaging chips, for $30 million.

Why should you care?

I don't know.

Maybe you shouldn't.

Maybe I should scrub this because you don't seem all that interested, looking at you.


CDM's proprietary Wavefront Coding increases a digital camera's depth of field without the use of moving parts.

The traditional solution is to reduce the size of the lens opening, but that cuts off light and makes images too dark without extra illumination.


CDM builds a hybrid system that includes the lens and an image sensor.

Their specially-shaped lens distorts light rays, instead of converging them at a single point of focus.

The rays are blurred in a pattern mathematically related to the shape of the lens.

The distortion is then removed using a digital processing chip, increasing depth of field by a factor of five.

R.C. Mercure, Jr., CDM's chief executive and one of the company's three founders, told the Wall Street Journal, "When you start talking to knowledgeable optical people they flat out say it won't work. They think you're selling snake oil."

Clearly, OmniVision doesn't think that's the case.

Within the tight space and dimensions of a camera phone, CDM's technology offers immense improvement in picture quality at low cost since it uses fewer parts.


OmniVision expects to start offering the technology to camera phone makers next year.

[via Don Clark and the Wall Street Journal]

March 29, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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