The word camera encompasses so many shapes and styles that the word no longer brings a specific image to mind (for those who still picture a disposable, I’m right there with you). I mean think about it: there are film cameras and DSLRs and this super scary thing and smartphones and Google Clips—they all hardly look like one another but they all do basically the same thing (yes, this isn’t true, but it’s true to a degree). But the one thing that you can always count on a camera to have (at least for the average consumer) is a lens. Even if you don’t see think about it, it’s just a word that is synonymous with the word camera.

But a group of scientists from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore were like, “lens, what lens?” (this was quickly followed by an evil scientist laugh as lightning flashed and thunder roared outside the building) as they created a camera that doesn’t use a lens or color filters yet still creates sharp, colored images.

Image: Nanyang Technological University

Using a monochrome sensor and a piece of ground glass, the technology can identify an infinite range of colors. In comparison, existing camera technology captures only about 36 color channels. The way it works is, the light is scattered by the ground glass, which the scientists, using speckle patterns identified with an algorithm and a library of data linked to each wavelength, reverse-engineer to create an image with the appropriate information.

So all scientific, technological jargon aside, what does this mean? The infinite color range makes it possible to record visible, infrared and ultraviolet light, amongst others.

For business, the camera can do the following:

According to the researchers, the camera can be used for food safety. Taking a photo of fruits or meat can help identify spots on the product that may be the results of chemicals or bacterial activity which will in turn leave to spoilage.

Never trust a camera with a lens–who knows what could be lurking beneath the surface.

Also, it will be able to capture paint layers that aren’t visible to the naked eye, which will help confirm the authenticity of artwork. And for the pharmaceutical industry, which uses expensive hyper spectral cameras to monitor the quality control of drugs, the new camera technology will be a cheaper, more flexible alternative.  

But what does this mean to a simple, low-level consumer like myself?

Well the researchers believe that one day, since there will be no need for lens and color filters (which are expensive and heavy), smartphones and DSLR will become much slimmer and lighter. I’m down with that.

A patent for the new technology is pending.


Cover Photo by Octavian Rosca

Fruit picture by William Felker