Our friends at PDA.PL have come across a pretty interesting bit of information regarding the Garmin-Asus Nuvifone M10. The smartphone features a 5 megapixel camera, but unlike most high-end devices these days lack auto-focus.
If now appears however that this is not by accident, and that Garmin-Asus are in fact implementing a new technology which means the vast majority of pictures will always be in focus.
The M10 uses EDOF, which is short for Extended Depth Of Focus. This means the area that are in focus in any picture are greatly extended, and the need for auto-focus greatly diminished.
The benefits are thinner phones and no need to wait for the camera to focus. Tests show anything beyond 20 cm always seem perfectly in focus, and means annoying issues like waiting for the camera to focus in poor light should be a thing of the past.
Read more about the technology in this excerpt from a research paper below:
In this paper we present an approach to obtain an extended Depth-of-Field (DoF) for cell phone miniature camera by jointly optimizing optical system and post-capture digital processing techniques. Using a computational imaging approach, we demonstrate how to increase, to a useful operating range, the effective DoF of a specifically designed fixed focus lens operating e.g. at f/2.8. This is achieved with a lens design where the longitudinal chromatic aberration has been increased. This increase is controlled so as to have, for any distance within the extended DoF, at least one colour channel of a RGB image which contains the in-focus scene information (e.g. high frequencies). By determining the sharpest colour (for each region in the digital image) and reflecting its sharpness on the others, we show that it is possible to get a sharp image for all colours through the merged DoF of the three of them.
If you have come away completely confused, rather have a look at some example pictures at PDA.Pl here.