Flexible Depth of Field Photography


S. Kuthirummal, H. Nagahara, C. Zhou and S. K. Nayar, “Flexible Depth of Field Photography,” in IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 58-71, Jan. 2011, doi: 10.1109/TPAMI.2010.66.


The range of scene depths that appear focused in an image is known as the depth of field (DOF). Conventional cameras are limited by a fundamental trade-off between depth of field and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). For a dark scene, the aperture of the lens must be opened up to maintain SNR, which causes the DOF to reduce. Also, today’s cameras have DOFs that correspond to a single slab that is perpendicular to the optical axis. In this paper, we present an imaging system that enables one to control the DOF in new and powerful ways. Our approach is to vary the position and/or orientation of the image detector during the integration time of a single photograph. Even when the detector motion is very small (tens of microns), a large range of scene depths (several meters) is captured, both in and out of focus. Our prototype camera uses a micro-actuator to translate the detector along the optical axis during image integration. Using this device, we demonstrate four applications of flexible DOF. First, we describe extended DOF where a large depth range is captured with a very wide aperture (low noise) but with nearly depth-independent defocus blur. Deconvolving a captured image with a single blur kernel gives an image with extended DOF and high SNR. Next, we show the capture of images with discontinuous DOFs. For instance, near and far objects can be imaged with sharpness, while objects in between are severely blurred. Third, we show that our camera can capture images with tilted DOFs (Scheimpflug imaging) without tilting the image detector. Finally, we demonstrate how our camera can be used to realize nonplanar DOFs. We believe flexible DOF imaging can open a new creative dimension in photography and lead to new capabilities in scientific imaging, vision, and graphics.

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