Miniaturized panoramic cameras using fiber-coupled spherical optics

Joseph Ford

Joseph Ford

(UC San Diego)

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Date: February 4, 2015


Conventional digital camera require lenses that form images directly onto focal planes, a natural consequence of the difficulties of fabricating non-planar image sensors. But using a curved image surface can dramatically increase the aperture, resolution and field of view achievable within a compact volume. This presentation will highlight imager research by UCSD, and collaborators at Distant Focus, done within the DARPA “SCENICC” program. I’ll show an acorn-sized F/1.7 lens with a 12 mm focal length, a 120˚ field of view, a spectrum that extends from the visible to near infrared, and a measured resolution of over 300 lp/mm on its spherical image surface. The spherical image surface is coupled to one or more focal planes by high-resolution optical fiber bundles, resulting in raw images that compare well to conventional cameras an order of magnitude larger. These images are further improved by computational photography techniques specific to the fiber-coupled “cascade” image, where a continuous image is sampled by a quasi-periodic fiber bundle before transfer and re-sampling by the rectangular pixel array. I’ll show the results of such image processing, and how this technology can fit an F/1 omnidirectional 150 Mpixel/frame (or larger) movie camera into a 4″ diameter sphere.

Further Information:

Joseph E. Ford is a Professor of ECE at the University of California San Diego working in free-space optics for communications, energy, and sensing. At AT&T Bell Labs from 1994 to 2000, Dr. Ford led research demonstrating the first MEMS attenuator, spectral equalizer and wavelength add/drop switch, technologies now in widespread use. Dr. Ford was General Chair of the first IEEE Conference on Optical MEMS in 2000, and General Chair for the 2008 OSA Optical Fiber Communications Conference. Dr. Ford is co-author on 47 United States patents and over 200 journal articles and conference proceedings, and a Fellow of the Optical Society of America. He leads UCSD’s Photonics Systems Integration Lab (, a research group doing advanced free-space optical system design, prototyping and characterization for a wide range of applications.

Created: Wednesday, February 4th, 2015