Though many patent applications never end up becoming real-world solutions, Apple's latest filing looks promising for the future of smartphone photography.
The Lytro camera has been responsible for bringing light-field photography into the public consciousness, creating images that can be refocused after the photo has been taken. Apple has just been awarded a patent that outlines a plenoptic adapter, as reported by Apple Insider.
The patent takes clear inspiration from the Lytro; however, the application is different. In Apple's solution, a microlens system lies between the lens and the image sensor. It can then be moved away as needed to create photos with or without the refocusing effect.
It has been reported that Steve Jobs met with Lytro founder Ren Ng to discuss light-field technology. What makes this patent application all the more interesting is that it cites the Lytro camera as "prior art", although it says that photo quality can be improved.
Other manufacturers are keenly eyeing off similar refocusing solutions. Nokia has recently introduced a software solution that provides this functionality on its range of Lumia handsets.