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Explaining the IR Laser Auto Focus System in the LG G3

When the early leaks about the LG G3 were out, there was a speculation that the company is going to include a sensor for the fingerprint on the back of the device, beside the camera. But the small size of that oval area kept people guessing, until LG finally announced that it is the Laser Autofocus system which the smartphone would be using for a faster focus, making it so fast that a perfect focusing can be seen in just 0.276 seconds.

LG hasn’t changed much in terms of resolution when it comes to the front and rear cameras, but the imaging system and processing gets an upgrade, with the OIS+ (Optical Image Stabilization Plus) which adds up to the original OIS system and thus, the stabilizing is done even on the z-axis. The new addition, i.e. the IR laser on the back is what should be put into focus here. The Laser is a rangefinder which is added to improve the time of focusing and something new and different from the contrast detection or the phase detection Auto focus which is seen in most of the DSLR cameras right now.

The laser here is used to determine the distance of the target from the camera, and this is done by using the accurate timing of emission vs reflection, and here, LG uses a very thin angle beam so that there is a very less amount of return and thus, the accuracy as well as the speed is enhanced when compared to the other standard situations where the contrast detection is taken as the standard. LG isn’t totally relying on the laser Auto focus because there are situations where the laser auto focus could fail, and that is where the contrast-based autofocus is needed.

How does the phone detect and use the laser Auto focus or contrast detection Auto focus? LG has stated that one of the benefits of the laser system of auto focusing is that you would see an instant focusing within a distance of two feet, and when the contrast detection is being used, the imaging system automatically skips the near distance and thus, the focusing is done faster.

There is no real mention or explanation on how LG has tweaked the software to use the Laser system in focusing on the objects, but there is a system which would make the hybrid Auto focus work, because when there are multiple returns or transparency seen while using the Laser Auto focus, the contrast based detection is automatically selected and used for the focusing. Which ever may be the case, the focusing system in the LG G3 is said to have improved by great folds, and LG claims to have made the low light photography better, thanks to this IR laser auto focus system.

According to a few discussions flowing around, although LG has implemented the laser auto focus system, the success for the object focusing beyond 2 feet is still a challenge, especially in the outdoor conditions where the signal-to-noise issues increases and that’s where the laser focusing could fail and make the software shift to the contrast detection AF which becomes the standard focusing, nothing new. But where the cameras in the smartphones aren’t able to focus on the objects very close to the lens, the laser focusing could be an excellent addition, because LG claims that the detection is fastest and accurate within the distance of two feet.

Nevertheless, LG has made an excellent attempt in retaining the similar configuration and camera module as was in their earlier flagship, but have made some addition to the actual systems which do the capturing. Let’s see how good this is, when we test it out.

By Chetan Bhawani on Wednesday 28th of May 2014


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