The patent refers to a digital camera that includes a “refocusable imagine mode adaptor.” From the description on the patent summary, it sounds like Apple is working on something a lot like the Lytro camera so that users can take pictures and refocus them in post.
As part of the patent, Apple has included wording that implies that the “camera body” in question (so named digital camera 10 in the patent) could include other functions, including, but not limited to, “a digital music player, a mobile telephone, a GPS receiver, or a programmable digital assistant (PDA).
Additionally, Patent No. 8593564 includes information for an adaptor that allows the user to mount the refocusable lens to another camera as an add-on accessory.
Refocusable cameras, or plenoptic lenses are not new. Lytro is the perfect example of a camera that uses such light field technology to allow users to adjust the focus of an image after the picture has been taken. It is quite extraordinary to see executed.
If Apple is working on a stand-alone camera accessory for plenoptic photography, it would be interesting to see how it is marketed. Apple’s refocus camera could be the iPad of the digital photography world. That is, the technology already exists, but Apple could make it easy for everyone to use.
If Apple is working on including the technology in a future iPhone or iPad (probably just the iPhone), it would really make the company’s flagship mobile devices stand out.
Price, however, would be a determining factor in the success of such technology. Currently, the Lytro starts at $399 for an 8GB model that takes 350 pictures. To add plenoptic technology to the iPhone or iPad, Apple would have to figure out a way to manufacture it for practically free.
Still, it would be so awesome to be able to take pictures that could be focus adjusted while on your laptop using iPhoto. I’d pay extra for that.