Founder,, Sonitrol of South Central Ontario

Author Bio ▼

Colin Bodbyl is the founder of and Chief Technology Officer at Sonitrol of South Central Ontario. He has over 10 years' experience in the security industry specializing in the design and installation of physical security, IP CCTV, video analytics, and access control systems. In 2012 Colin developed to connect with other integrators and end users through his unique video blogs.
December 22, 2013


State of Physical Access Trend Report 2024

Plenoptic Cameras: The Next Big CCTV Innovation?

IMS Research predicts that image quality will be the new battleground for camera manufacturers in 2013. Image quality covers a very broad number of factors and features that go into capturing and displaying image data.

This should make for a very interesting year. We may see different manufacturers experimenting with new lenses, image sensors, and compression algorithms. However, what I would like to see is a manufacturer that dares to mainstream a completely different type of technology: plenoptic cameras.

These cameras (also known as light field cameras) use image sensors with multiple lens arrays to capture all available light. Put simply, this allows users to focus images after they have been captured.

Plenoptic cameras have been around for several years but have had a very difficult time gaining any real traction in mainstream electronics. The costs associated with these cameras (and the complex software and processing power required to edit such images) made them difficult to market. But that changed in 2012 with the Lytro plenoptic camera, which captures images at a size of approximately one megapixel. Focus can be adjusted after the fact on the camera or on a computer using special software (you can try this out for yourself by clicking on the picture below).

This picture shows the capabilities of light field cameras

Ren Ng, Lytro’s inventor, has redesigned the plenoptic camera to greatly reduce the cost. By creating an almost watered down version of commercial-grade plenoptic cameras (like those manufactured by Raytrix), Ng has been able to make these cameras fun but functional household gadgets.

Though Lytro has enjoyed great success in the consumer market, the most valuable uses for such technology reach far beyond consumers.

Re-investigating old images
The possible uses for plenoptic cameras in surveillance are limitless. Focus is just the start; plenoptic cameras collect enough light data to recreate 3D models of suspects. They can even slightly alter the viewing angle of an image after it has been captured.

Think of what science has done for DNA. As technology has improved, scientists have been able to apply new tests to old samples (just ask Lance Armstrong). The same is possible for images captured using a plenoptic camera. As software improves, new processing techniques can be applied to old images. Lytro recently added perspective shift (through a software update), which users can now apply to old Lytro images.

If the race for pixels is over and image quality is the new challenge, I think it is time for manufacturers to start exploring truly unique offerings like plenoptic technology. If Lytro can create a consumer-level camera for $400, video surveillance manufacturers can surely create an affordable plenoptic surveillance camera in 2013.

Light field technology is undoubtedly the future of imaging, but is there a manufacturer in our industry brave enough to take on the challenge?

Free Download: The Video Surveillance Report 2023

Discover the latest developments in the rapidly-evolving video surveillance sector by downloading the 2023 Video Surveillance Report. Over 500 responses to our survey, which come from integrators to consultants and heads of security, inform our analysis of the latest trends including AI, the state of the video surveillance market, uptake of the cloud, and the wider economic and geopolitical events impacting the sector!

Download for FREE to discover top industry insight around the latest innovations in video surveillance systems.


Related Topics

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Robert Grossman
Robert Grossman
February 22, 2013 6:23 pm

At one time, implementing the sea change type of innovation would be a major hurdle. It could be the greatest camera innovation of all time, but if it wasn’t NTSC and PAL compliant, it wouldn’t be recordable or displayable. Now, with software based monitoring and recording, anything is possible. An API here, a driver there, and the new Plenoptic 2100 would work everywhere! I remember the movie “Enemy of the State”, where the CCTV system was able to see inside a shopping bag. It seemed silly, and clients used to laughingly ask for that type of camera. Now, who knows.… Read more »

February 25, 2013 5:26 am

 I had heard of this technology before but not seen the images. After looking at the link you provided, I am very impressed. if this technology could be implemented in to the CCTV industry i could see vast markets for it. Being able to change the focal point from one face to another is very cool. Hope to see more of this and soon!!

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
February 26, 2013 8:48 am
Reply to  DShepherd

The examples on Lytro’s website are absolutley incredible, Colin. The potential to be able to complete shift focus retrospectively, as you say, could have incredible implications. I could play with this picture of the cricket all day!

February 26, 2013 1:44 pm
Reply to  Rob Ratcliff

It is very exciting to imagine the possibilities of plenoptic cameras.
Probably worth re-publishing the instructions here since they fade out on the image after a few seconds.
To refocus the image – click anywhere within it
To change perspective – click and drag the image
To Zoom – Either double click or use the scroll wheel on your mouse. After zooming you can use your mouse to move around within the image.
Play around with it, and then imaging you are searching for someone in a crowd, or a license plate in a busy parking lot.

March 11, 2013 9:46 am
Reply to  ColinBodbyl

I am surprised that this article has not raised more conversations. I for one can’t wait to see more on this type of technology and if they can utilise it in the CCTV market.