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This 'metalens' breakthrough may revolutionize lenses as we know them

by on Jan.04, 2018, under Reviews

Image credit: Jared Sisler/Harvard SEAS

Until recently, metalenses—flat ‘lenses’ that can focus light using nanopillars on their surface—were a cool-but-limited area of study when it came to photography. Sure, these flat lenses are 100,000x thinner than glass, but they could only work with a limited range of colors, making it unlikely they’d appear in a cameras module any time soon.

That all changed this week, however, when a team at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) announced that they had succeeded in developing the first metalens that can focus the entire spectrum of visible light, including white light, onto a single point in high resolution.

This is a huge breakthrough, and a big leap forward from the same teams’ announcement last February that they had managed to focus all the colors from blue to green.

Image credit: Jared Sisler/Harvard SEAS

The research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnolgy, where the team describes a metalens that uses “an arrays of titanium dioxide nanofins to equally focus wavelengths of light and eliminate chromatic aberration.” In other words: where a traditional lens needs multiple curved glass elements of varying thicknesses to focus the entire spectrum of visible light onto a single point, this flat metalens does the exact same thing using nano structures.

The details of how this is achieved can get a bit complicated—involving how they pair and space the ‘nanofins’ on the metalens itself—but the result is easy enough to understand: an achromatic flat lens that comes with three very big advantages over traditional glass lenses, as the paper’s lead author Federico Capasso explains:

Metalenses are thin, easy to fabricate and cost effective. This breakthrough extends those advantages across the whole visible range of light. This is the next big step.

The next step for the SEAS team is to make the lens bigger; they’re aiming for 1cm in diameter. In the meantime, Harvard has already licensed the tech to a startup for commercial development, so a real-world product that uses these metalenses might not be as far off as you might imagine.

To learn more, or dive into the research paper itself, head over to the SEAS website or read the full paper in Nature Nanotechnology.

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A letter from the Publisher

by on Jan.03, 2018, under Reviews

The first week of a new year is an important time for every business, and DPReview is no different. As we reflect on the past year and define our goals for 2018, I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself. Some of you might know me from occasional forum posts and comments—usually to explain a new site feature, or some new style of advert. My name is Scott Everett, and I’m DPReview’s new General Manager and Publisher, replacing Simon Joinson, who stepped down in October.

At its core, DPReview is a group of people. Those people are dedicated to investigating all of the latest developments in photographic imaging technology, and providing informed, unbiased analysis to our readers. We’ve been doing this in one way or another for almost 20 years; I joined DPReview in 2011, which feels like a long time ago, especially in such a fast-paced industry, but the site’s essential mission hasn’t changed in that time.

We are, of course, also a business. Traditionally, like most websites, DPReview has generated the majority of its income via conventional ‘banner’ advertising. But as advertisers increasingly move away from conventional ads and seek to position different types of content in as many channels as they can, we’ve faced an important question: how can we meet the needs of our advertisers while maintaining the trust of our readers?

Regular site visitors will have seen new kinds of content appearing on DPReview over the past couple of years—from long-form videos to occasional co-branded articles. Most of it has proven popular with our readers (thanks as always for the feedback), but we’re not going to rest on our laurels. And we are most definitely not going to compromise the high editorial standards that brought you here in the first place.

Simon Joinson, Barney Britton, and Allison Johnson listen politely as I attempt to explain something.

You’ll see some changes on the site in 2018 and beyond. We are in the middle of automating many of the tests we perform on cameras and lenses (yes, we plan to bring back lens reviews), which we hope will increase the consistency of our product reviews, and hopefully decrease the amount of time that some of them take. We are also working hard to re-think the user experience of the site on both desktop and—perhaps more importantly—mobile.

In an era when countless blogs offer up half-baked opinions on new products within minutes of their launch, DPReview with our labor-intensive method of testing might seem like something of a dinosaur. But we’re OK with that.

While both the photography and publishing worlds have changed drastically since I bought my first digital camera (an Olympus E-1, if you were curious), DPReview in 2018 is what it always was: a website run by and for discerning photography and technology enthusiasts. And our readers are our most valuable asset. This site would not be what it is without the community of photographers that visit every day.

So hello, thank you for your support, and Happy New Year!

Scott Everett, Publisher and General Manager,

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Google Camera mod brings Pixel 2 portrait mode to older devices

by on Jan.02, 2018, under Reviews

Portrait Mode on the Google Pixel 2

Google’s Pixel 2 comes with one of the best-rated smartphone cameras in the world, and is one of very few single-lens devices to offer a background-blurring, fake bokeh portrait mode. Unlike dual-lens setups, the camera uses machine learning and neural networking to generate a foreground-background segmentation on both front and rear cameras. On the rear, the Pixel 2 also uses depth data from the image sensor’s dual-pixel technology for this task.

Thanks to Charles Chow, developer of the Camera NX Google camera mod, the feature is now also available to users of the original Google Pixel as well as the Nexus 5X and 6P smartphones. Portrait mode was included in version 7.3 of the Camera NX app but, due to a lack of dual-pixel technology on older Google Android smartphones, uses the exclusively software-based approach of the Pixel 2’s front camera.

The developer says the functionality has so far only been tested on the Nexus 5X, although it should work on Nexus 6P and first generation Pixel phones as well. If you want to try Camera NX and the new Portrait Mode you can find all technical details and download links in Charles’ article on Chromloop.

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