Micro-lens, or "plenoptic," tech is one of the main systems that makes Lytro's headline-grabbing camera work. Now Apple has won a patent for a future development of this technology that could be used to completely revolutionize smartphone cameras.
The non-commonsense way that plenoptic lens systems work means Lytro's camera can be focused after taking a shot, for example, or capture 3-D images in one single photo taken at one moment. Apple actually cites Lytro in the patent, noting that it has advanced the technology from the initial idea. The trick is that Apple's camera can work either as a post-focusing "Lytro" system or as a very high-resolution camera system that may have imaging powers better than a traditional lens and sensor system.
Innovations in camera technology have included plenoptics and other sensing systems for years, with the specific goal of improving the kind of image you can capture with a very small device. Nokia has hinged much of its Windows smartphone success effort on imaging, though it pursued a different technology for its units.