Light field imaging is a very interesting approach to imaging. The idea is to use an array of microlenses in order to capture light coming from many different angles. By storing this data, it is possible to bring different focal planes into focus in post-processing offline. It has been implemented for wide-field microscopy.
The Stanford Computer Graphics Laboratory has released some Mac OSX software for trying this yourself. Their website includes information on how to build the imaging rig out of Thorlabs parts. It’s open source (GNU).
It’s not new technology. In it’s current form it dates back to at least the 1990′s. However, just recently (started shipping in February) it has been commercialized into a consumer camera by Lytro, a company started by an alumnus of the Stanford group.
Below is an example of output from the Lytro camera. Single click on a part of the image to bring it into sharp focus.
Labrigger is currently waiting for their Lytro camera to arrive.