Cameras have become so ubiquitous now – aside from the standalone ones that we’ve gotten used to in the past, cameras are now in your pockets, smartphones, tablets, street corners, buildings, and even in our homes. Mobile photography has gone so far over the years, but there are some issues that have been present all through this time – one of them is field curvature in lenses. Microsoft’s Project Vermont is a new effort to resolve this particular issue.
Field curvature is an issue with all photographic lenses, be they professional ones or the ones in the camera sensor of your smartphone. As described by Microsoft, “Field curvature exists because lenses don’t want to focus on a plane. The result: objects appear out of focus across the image.” The solution is to curve the surface of the lens. By curving the focal surface, the need for the lens to address field curvature is eliminated. Of course, the main problem in mobile camera sensors is that curving silicon is not an easy task.
This is where Project Vermont comes in. The research will be in the issue of trying to curve monocrystalline silicon lenses. As of the moment, a number of companies have tried to bend silicon, but this is more likely to shatter the lens before you get a usable amount of curvature. The research will delve into materials and processes that will help attain higher levels of lens curvature.
Curving the lens surface can dramatically improve camera performance along many elements — resolution, light-gathering, and illumination uniformity — while also reducing system size, cost, and complexity. Applying this to smartphones is a challenge that will require additional research and engineering, but it should be worth it.