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Patent Analysis of

Image processing apparatus, image pickup apparatus, image processing method, and non-transitory computer-readable storage medium for estimating blur

Updated Time 12 June 2019

Patent Registration Data

Publication Number

US10002411

Application Number

US15/177451

Application Date

09 June 2016

Publication Date

19 June 2018

Current Assignee

CANON KABUSHIKI KAISHA

Original Assignee (Applicant)

CANON KABUSHIKI KAISHA

International Classification

G06K9/40,G06T5/00,G06T7/207

Cooperative Classification

G06T5/003,G06T7/207,G06T2207/10004,G06T2207/20201,G06T2207/10016

Inventor

HIASA, NORIHITO

Patent Images

This patent contains figures and images illustrating the invention and its embodiment.

US10002411 Image processing apparatus, image pickup 1 US10002411 Image processing apparatus, image pickup 2 US10002411 Image processing apparatus, image pickup 3
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Abstract

An image processing apparatus includes an acquirer which acquires a blurred image and a generator which acquires a first blur estimation area of at least a part of the blurred image to generate an estimated blur, and the generator determines a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area, generates the estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, and determines the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.

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Claims

1. An image processing apparatus comprising: a memory; anda processor connected to the memory and configured to execute: a first acquisition task configured to acquire a blurred image; a second acquisition task configured to acquire a first blur estimation area corresponding to at least a part of the blurred image; a determination task configured to determine a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area; a generation task configured to generate an estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal; and a correction task configured to correct at least a part of the blurred image based on the estimated blur, wherein the determination task is configured to determine the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.

2. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is larger than the first threshold value, the determination task is configured to determine the first blur estimation area as the second blur estimation area.

3. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than the first threshold value, the determination task is configured to determine the second blur estimation area which is located at a position or has a shape different from a position or a shape of the first blur estimation area.

4. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than the first threshold value, the determination task is configured to determine the second blur estimation area which has a size larger than a size of the first blur estimation area.

5. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the second blur estimation area includes at least a half of the first blur estimation area.

6. The image processing apparatus according to claim 5, wherein the second blur estimation area includes a whole of the first blur estimation area.

7. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the determination task is configured to: acquire distance information of an object space; and determine the second blur estimation area based on the distance information of the object space.

8. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the generation task is configured to: perform, as the estimation processing during the iterative calculation processing, first estimation processing and second estimation processing after the first estimation processing; determine a difference between a first blur estimated in the first estimation processing and a second blur estimated in the second estimation processing; and increase an area of the second blur estimation area to perform the estimation processing again when the difference is larger than a second threshold value.

9. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the generation task is configured to: reduce a resolution of the second blur estimation area to generate a low-resolution blur estimation area; generate the estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to the signal in the low-resolution blur estimation area to generate information relating to the corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal; and reduce a difference between a resolution of the low-resolution blur estimation area and the resolution of the second blur estimation area during the iterative calculation processing.

10. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the generation task is configured to: acquire a noise amount included in the second blur estimation area; perform frequency resolving of the second blur estimation area to generate a frequency-resolved blur estimation area; perform denoising processing on the frequency-resolved blur estimation area based on the noise amount; and resynthesize the denoised frequency-resolved blur estimation area.

11. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the signal variation in the first blur estimation area corresponds to an absolute sum or a sum of squares of differential values of a luminance distribution in the first blur estimation area.

12. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the information relating to the signal is information relating to a luminance distribution or a differential value of the luminance distribution in the second blur estimation area.

13. An image pickup apparatus comprising: an image pickup element configured to photoelectrically convert an optical image formed via an optical system; a memory; anda processor connected to the memory and configured to execute: a first acquisition task configured to acquire a blurred image taken by using the image pickup element; a second acquisition task configured to acquire a first blur estimation area corresponding to at least a part of the blurred image; a determination task configured to determine a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area; a generation task configured to generate an estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal; and a correction task configured to correct at least a part of the blurred image based on the estimated blur, wherein the determination task is configured to determine the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.

14. An image processing method comprising: acquiring a blurred image; acquiring a first blur estimation area of at least a part of the blurred image; determining a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area; generating an estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal; and correcting at least a part of the blurred image based on the estimated blur, wherein determining the second blur estimation area includes determining the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.

15. A non-transitory computer-readable storage medium which stores an image processing program causing a computer to execute a process comprising: acquiring a blurred image; acquiring a first blur estimation area of at least a part of the blurred image; determining a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area; generating an estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal; and correcting at least a part of the blurred image based on the estimated blur, wherein determining the second blur estimation area includes determining the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.

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Claim Tree

  • 1
    1. An image processing apparatus comprising:
    • a memory
    • anda processor connected to the memory and configured to execute: a first acquisition task configured to acquire a blurred image
    • a second acquisition task configured to acquire a first blur estimation area corresponding to at least a part of the blurred image
    • a determination task configured to determine a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area
    • a generation task configured to generate an estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal
    • and a correction task configured to correct at least a part of the blurred image based on the estimated blur, wherein the determination task is configured to determine the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.
    • 2. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein
      • when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is larger than the first threshold value, the determination task is configured to determine the first blur estimation area as the second blur estimation area.
    • 3. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein
      • when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than the first threshold value, the determination task is configured to determine the second blur estimation area which is located at a position or has a shape different from a position or a shape of the first blur estimation area.
    • 4. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein
      • when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than the first threshold value, the determination task is configured to determine the second blur estimation area which has a size larger than a size of the first blur estimation area.
    • 5. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein
      • the second blur estimation area includes at least a half of the first blur estimation area.
    • 7. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein
      • the determination task is configured to: acquire distance information of an object space; and determine the second blur estimation area based on the distance information of the object space.
    • 8. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein
      • the generation task is configured to: perform, as the estimation processing during the iterative calculation processing, first estimation processing and second estimation processing after the first estimation processing; determine a difference between a first blur estimated in the first estimation processing and a second blur estimated in the second estimation processing; and increase an area of the second blur estimation area to perform the estimation processing again when the difference is larger than a second threshold value.
    • 9. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein
      • the generation task is configured to: reduce a resolution of the second blur estimation area to generate a low-resolution blur estimation area; generate the estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to the signal in the low-resolution blur estimation area to generate information relating to the corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal; and reduce a difference between a resolution of the low-resolution blur estimation area and the resolution of the second blur estimation area during the iterative calculation processing.
    • 10. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein
      • the generation task is configured to: acquire a noise amount included in the second blur estimation area; perform frequency resolving of the second blur estimation area to generate a frequency-resolved blur estimation area; perform denoising processing on the frequency-resolved blur estimation area based on the noise amount; and resynthesize the denoised frequency-resolved blur estimation area.
    • 11. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein
      • the signal variation in the first blur estimation area corresponds to an absolute sum or a sum of squares of differential values of a luminance distribution in the first blur estimation area.
    • 12. The image processing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein
      • the information relating to the signal is information relating to a luminance distribution or a differential value of the luminance distribution in the second blur estimation area.
  • 13
    13. An image pickup apparatus comprising:
    • an image pickup element configured to photoelectrically convert an optical image formed via an optical system
    • a memory
    • anda processor connected to the memory and configured to execute: a first acquisition task configured to acquire a blurred image taken by using the image pickup element
    • a second acquisition task configured to acquire a first blur estimation area corresponding to at least a part of the blurred image
    • a determination task configured to determine a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area
    • a generation task configured to generate an estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal
    • and a correction task configured to correct at least a part of the blurred image based on the estimated blur, wherein the determination task is configured to determine the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.
  • 14
    14. An image processing method comprising:
    • acquiring a blurred image
    • acquiring a first blur estimation area of at least a part of the blurred image
    • determining a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area
    • generating an estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal
    • and correcting at least a part of the blurred image based on the estimated blur, wherein determining the second blur estimation area includes determining the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.
  • 15
    15. A non-transitory computer-readable storage medium which stores an image processing program causing a computer to execute a process comprising:
    • acquiring a blurred image
    • acquiring a first blur estimation area of at least a part of the blurred image
    • determining a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area
    • generating an estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal
    • and correcting at least a part of the blurred image based on the estimated blur, wherein determining the second blur estimation area includes determining the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.
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Description

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to an image processing method of estimating a blur as a deterioration component acting on a blurred image based on a single blurred image.

Description of the Related Art

Recently, according to the enhancement of high definition of a display apparatus, the improvement of the image quality of a captured image is required. Due to a deterioration factor such as an aberration or a diffraction of an optical system used for photography or a hand shake during the photography, the captured image loses information of an object space. Accordingly, a method of correcting the deterioration of the captured image based on these factors to obtain a high-quality image is previously proposed. As such a method, for example, there is a method of using Wiener filter or Richardson-Lucy method. However, in each of these method, a high correction effect cannot be obtained if a deterioration component (blur) acting on an image is not known.

On the other hand, previously, a method of estimating a hand shake component based on a single image deteriorated by the hand shake is proposed. U.S. Pat. No. 7,616,826 discloses a method of estimating the hand shake component in the image deteriorated by the hand shake by using statistical information relating to a strength gradient distribution of a known natural image. The natural image means an image where modern people naturally see for living. Accordingly, the natural image includes not only an image of trees or animals, but also an image of humans, architectures, electronic devices, or the like. As a characteristic of the natural image, it is known that a histogram (strength gradient histogram) relating to a strength gradient of a signal follows a heavy tailed distribution depending on the strength of the gradient. U.S. Pat. No. 7,616,826 discloses a method of applying a restriction where the strength gradient histogram of the hand-shake-corrected image follows the heavy tailed distribution to estimate a hand-shake-corrected image based only on the hand shake image. A blur component is estimated based on a comparison result between the hand-shake-corrected image and the hand shake image. In this case, the estimation accuracy of the blur component improves with increasing the number of edges included in the hand shake image.

However, the edge amount in the blurred image depends on a structure of a photographed object. Accordingly, the edge amount which is sufficient for the estimation does not always exist in the image. In particular, when a shape of the blur varies depending on an area in the image (called Shift-variant), it is necessary to estimate the blur only by using a specific partial area in the blurred image, and accordingly the edge amount tends to be insufficient. In an area where signal variations such as edges and textures are small, the estimation accuracy of the blur is extremely deteriorated. When the estimation method disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 7,616,826 is used for the area, a large amount of error occurs in the estimated hand shake component. This is true for a diffraction, an aberration, a defocus, and a disturbance, other than the hand shake (these deterioration factors are collectively called a “blur”).

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides an image processing apparatus, an image pickup apparatus, an image pickup method, and a non-transitory computer-readable storage medium which are capable of suppressing a decrease in estimation accuracy when estimating a blur based on an area in a blurred image where a signal variation is small.

An image processing apparatus as one aspect of the present invention includes an acquirer configured to acquire a blurred image and a generator configured to acquire a first blur estimation area of at least a part of the blurred image to generate an estimated blur, and the generator is configured to determine a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area, generate the estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal, and determine the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.

An image pickup apparatus as another aspect of the present invention includes an image pickup element configured to photoelectrically convert an optical image formed via an optical system, an acquirer configured to acquire a blurred image taken by using the image pickup element, and a generator configured to acquire a first blur estimation area of at least a part of the blurred image to generate an estimated blur, and the generator is configured to determine a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area, generate the estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal, and determine the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.

An image processing method as another aspect of the present invention includes the steps of acquiring a blurred image and acquiring a first blur estimation area of at least a part of the blurred image to generate an estimated blur, and the step of generating the estimated blur includes determining a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area, generating the estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal, and determining the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.

A non-transitory computer-readable storage medium as another aspect of the present invention stores an image processing program which causes a computer to execute the image processing method.

Further features of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of exemplary embodiments with reference to the attached drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a flowchart of illustrating an image processing method in each of Embodiments 1 and 3.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of an image processing system in Embodiment 1.

FIG. 3 is an external view of an image processing system in each of Embodiments 1 and 2.

FIG. 4 is a flowchart of illustrating a method of generating an estimated blur in each of Embodiments 1 and 3.

FIGS. 5A and 5B are diagrams of illustrating a relationship between a first blur estimation area and a second blur estimation area in each of Embodiments 1 to 3.

FIG. 6 is a diagram of illustrating a relationship between the first blur estimation area and the second blur estimation area when estimating a defocus in each of Embodiments 1 to 3.

FIG. 7 is a block diagram of an image processing system in Embodiment 2.

FIG. 8 is a flowchart of illustrating an image processing method in Embodiment 2.

FIG. 9 is a block diagram of an image pickup system in Embodiment 3.

FIG. 10 is an external view of the image pickup system in Embodiment 3.

DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention will be described below with reference to the accompanied drawings. In each of the drawings, the same elements will be denoted by the same reference numerals and the duplicate descriptions thereof will be omitted.

In this embodiment, factors of deteriorating information of an object space are collectively referred to as a “blur”, and the type of the blur includes a diffraction, an aberration, a defocus, a motion blur (such as a hand shake and an object motion blur), and a disturbance. In this embodiment, first, the type of the blur will be described in detail.

The diffraction means a deterioration caused by a diffraction that occurs in an optical system of an image pickup apparatus which captures an image. This occurs because an opening diameter of the optical system is finite.

The aberration is a deterioration caused by a shift from an ideal wavefront that occurs in the optical system. The aberration occurring by a designed value of the optical system is called a designed aberration, and the aberration occurring by a manufacturing error of the optical system or an environmental change is called an error aberration. The environmental change means a change in temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, or the like, and the performance of the optical system varies depending on the change. The term “aberration” includes both of the designed aberration and the error aberration.

The defocus is a deterioration caused by a displacement between a focus point of the optical system and an object. The defocus for an entire image is called a focus shift, and the defocus for only apart of the image is called a defocus blur. Specifically, the defocus blur is a component which deteriorates information of a background on condition that there are main object and the background with different distances in the image and that the focusing is performed on the main object. The deterioration varies depending on a distance from the background to the main object in a depth direction. For example, the defocus blur is used as a representation method of emphasizing the main object in the image. The term “defocus” includes both of the focus shift and the defocus blur.

The motion blur is a deterioration generated by changing a relative relationship (position and angle) between an object and an image pickup apparatus during exposure for photography. The deterioration for an entire image is called a hand shake, and the deterioration for a part of the image is called an object motion blur. The term “motion blur” includes both of the hand shake and the object motion blur.

The disturbance is a deterioration generated by a swaying material which exists between an object and an image pickup apparatus during the photography. For example, there is the sway of air and the sway of water in underwater photography. When the disturbance occurs during a short-time exposure, the blur image includes a curved line where a straight line in an object space is swayed. In order to correct the curve, a plurality of frame images (or images obtained by continuous shots) with different disturbance components may be synthesized. However, in such synthesis processing, a deterioration of a frequency component remains while the curve of an edge can be corrected. The blurred image in this embodiment includes the synthesized image obtained by synthesizing the plurality of frames (or images obtained by the continuous shots) as described above in addition to an image (image obtained with a long-time exposure) in which the frequency component is deteriorated due to the disturbance during a single exposure.

In this embodiment, a point spread function is denoted by PSF. While processing on a one-dimensional (monochrome) image will be described in this embodiment, the embodiment can be applied also to a multidimensional (for example, RGB) image similarly and the processing may be performed for each channel of RGB. For blurs which do not have any difference between the channels or blurs with differences which are ignorable, the processing may be performed while reducing the number of the channels (for example, changing the RGB image to a monochrome image). If each channel acquires a different wavelength, the motion blur occurs as a blur without any difference between the channels.

On the other hand, the blur relating to each of the aberration, the diffraction, the defocus, and the disturbance varies depending on a wavelength. With respect to the defocus, a spread of the blur varies depending on the wavelength due to an influence of an axial chromatic aberration even when a position of the optical system is significantly away from a focus position. However, if a performance difference between the channels is sufficiently small with respect to a sampling frequency of an image pickup element being used for the photography even for the blur with the wavelength dependence, it is assumed that the difference between the channels can be ignored. When the blur where the difference between the channels can be ignored is to be estimated, it is preferred that a blur is estimated with using the plurality of channels rather than performing reduction processing of the number of the channels. The blur is estimated by using information relating to a signal gradient of an image, and accordingly the estimation accuracy is improved with increasing an amount of the information. In other words, if the blur is estimated by using the plurality of images without decreasing the number of the channels, the information of the signal gradient increases (however, if an image (i.e., wavelength) of each channel coincides with a multiple of one of the images proportionally, the information of the signal gradient does not increase), and accordingly, the blur can be estimated with higher accuracy. While an example in which the image with different wavelengths as channels is captured is described in this embodiment, the same is true for other parameters such as polarization.

Before describing specific examples, an outline of this embodiment will be described briefly. In a blur estimation, a blur estimation area where a blur is estimated based on a blurred image is acquired, and a signal gradient in the blur estimation area is compared with a corrected signal gradient where a blur of the signal gradient has been corrected to generate an estimated blur. In this case, if a signal variation (such as edges and textures) in the blur estimation area is small, the estimation accuracy of the estimated blur is decreased. Accordingly, first, the first blur estimation area is acquired from the blurred image, and the signal variation included in the first blur estimation area is targeted. When the signal variation (signal variation amount) is small, the estimation accuracy is decreased and accordingly a second blur estimation area which has a signal variation amount larger than that of the first blur estimation area is acquired. The first blur estimation area and the second blur estimation area are different in at least of one of position and shape from each other. By using the second blur estimation area having a larger signal variation amount for the blur estimation, the estimation accuracy of the blur can be improved.

When the blur varies depending on a position in the blurred image (in a Shift-variant blur), the estimated blur is different from an original blur in the first blur estimation area due to the change of the area to be used for the blur estimation. As the Shift-variant blur, there is a diffraction when vignetting cannot be ignored, an aberration, a defocus, a motion blur that is caused by a rotation or a position change in a depth direction, and a disturbance. However, almost all of the Shift-variant blurs have characteristics of continuously varying depending on the change of the position in the blurred image. Accordingly, when the second blur estimation area is close to the first blur estimation area, a large difference does not occur in the estimated blurs. Since this difference is small compared to an estimated error occurring when the signal variation amount is insufficient, an error of the estimated blur is reduced as a result of the use of the second blur estimation area.

If the signal variation amount in the first blur estimation area is sufficient for the blur estimation, the first blur estimation area may be set as the second blur estimation area. Accordingly, the signal variation amount in the second blur estimation area is always larger than or equal to the signal variation amount in the first blur estimation area.

Embodiment 1

First, referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, an image processing system in Embodiment 1 of the present invention will be described. FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the image processing system 100 in this embodiment. FIG. 3 is an external view of the image processing system 100.

The image processing system 100 includes an image pickup apparatus 101, a recording medium 102, a display apparatus 103, an output apparatus 104, and an image processing apparatus 105. The image processing apparatus 105 includes a communicator 106, a memory 107, and a blur corrector 108 (image processor). The blur corrector 108 includes an acquirer 1081 (acquisition unit), a generator 1082 (generation unit), and a corrector 1083 (correction unit). Each unit of the blur corrector 108 performs an image processing method of this embodiment as described below. The image processing apparatus 105 (blur corrector 108) may be included inside the image pickup apparatus 101.

The image pickup apparatus 101 includes an optical system 1011 (image pickup optical system) and an image pickup element 1012 (image sensor). The optical system 1011 images a light ray from an object space on the image pickup element 1012. The image pickup element 1012 includes a plurality of pixels, and it photoelectrically converts an optical image (object image) formed via the optical system 1011 to output an image signal. The image pickup apparatus 101 generates a captured image (blurred image) based on the image signal output from the image pickup element 1012. The blurred image obtained by the image pickup apparatus 101 is output to the image processing apparatus 105 through the communicator 106. With respect to the blurred image, information of the object space is deteriorated due to the action of at least one of various blurs as described above.

The memory 107 stores the blurred image input to the image processing apparatus 105 and information relating to an image capturing condition determined when capturing the blurred image. The image capturing condition includes, for example, a focal length, an aperture stop, a shutter speed, and an ISO sensitivity of the image pickup apparatus 101 at the time of photography. The blur corrector 108 estimates and corrects a specific blur component based on the blurred image to generate a blur-corrected image. The blur-corrected image is output to at least one of the display apparatus 103, the recording medium 102, and the output apparatus 104 through the communicator 106. The display apparatus 103 is for example a liquid crystal display or a projector. A user can work while confirming the image under processing through the display apparatus 103. The recording medium 102 is for example a semiconductor memory, a hard disk, or a server on a network. The output device 104 is for example a printer. The image processing apparatus 105 has a function that performs development processing and other image processing as needed.

In order to achieve the image processing method of this embodiment, software (image processing program) can be supplied to the image processing apparatus 105 through a network or a non-transitory computer-readable storage medium such as a CD-ROM. In this case, the image processing program is readout by a computer (such as a CPU and a MPU) of the image processing apparatus 105 to execute a function of the blur corrector 108.

The blur corrector 108 performs image processing illustrated in the flowcharts of FIGS. 1 and 4. Before describing the image processing, a method (correction processing) of correcting a blur of a signal gradient in a blur estimation area (at least a part of a blurred image) and a method (estimation processing) of estimating a blur will be described. In this embodiment, the signal gradient means information relating to a signal in the blur estimation area, and it includes information relating to an image itself (i.e., luminance distribution of the image) or information (i.e., information relating to a differential value) relating to n-th order differential (n is a natural number including zero) of the luminance distribution.

In this embodiment, the blur (deterioration component) is estimated in the form of PSF, but it is not limited thereto and for example, the blur may be estimated in the form of OTF (Optical Transfer Function). First, an appropriate initial value of the PSF (such as a Gauss distribution and a one-dimensional line) is given, and the blur of the signal gradient in the second blur estimation area is corrected by using the PSF to generate a corrected signal gradient. Subsequently, the PSF is estimated based on the signal gradient and the corrected signal gradient. The signal gradient of the second blur estimation area is corrected again to generate a new (updated) corrected signal gradient to estimate the PSF. By repeating the processing (loop processing), the blur can be estimated based on only the blurred image (more precisely, second blur estimation area of at least a part of the blurred image).

Next, the method of correcting the blur of the signal gradient (i.e., correction processing) will be specifically described. The relationship between the second blur estimation area and the blur can be represented by expression (1) below.

bi=ki*ai+ni  (1)

In expression (1), symbol bi denotes a signal distribution in the second blur estimation area in the i-th loop processing, symbol ki denotes a blur, symbol ai denotes a signal distribution without the deterioration caused by the blur ki, and symbol ni denotes a noise. Symbol “*” represents a convolution.

By solving the optimization problem that is represented by expression (2) below, an estimation value di (corresponding to a corrected signal distribution) of the signal distribution ai in the i-th loop processing is estimated.

argmindi[L(ki*di)+Φ(di)](2)

In expression (2), symbol L denotes a loss function and symbol Φ denotes a regularization term for the estimation value di, and each specific example will be described below. The loss function L has an effect of fitting a solution into a model (expression (1)). The regularization term Φ has an effect of converging a solution into a most likely value. For the regularization term Φ, a characteristic that the solution (ai) called a previous knowledge is to have is used. The regularization term Φ has a role of avoiding excessive fitting (i.e., avoiding reflection of the influence of the noise ni to the estimation value di) which occurs when the loss function L is only considered. If the second blur estimation area is acquired from a plurality of channels (for example, RGB), expression (2) is solved for each channel.

While the corrected signal gradient is obtained by solving expression (2) in this embodiment, other method can be used. For example, a method of using an inverse filter such as Wiener filter or a super-resolution method such as Richardson-Lucy method can be used. In addition to the inverse filter or the super-resolution processing, the corrected signal gradient may be generated by applying a tapered filter such as a shock filter. Furthermore, when the tapered filter is applied together, it is preferred that a smoothing filter such as a bilateral filter and a guided filter which maintains a sense of resolution of an edge is used to suppress noise or ringing.

Next, a specific example of the loss function L and the regularization term Φ in expression (2) will be described. As the loss function L, a function represented by expression (3) below is considered.

L(ki*di)=∥ki*di−bi22  (3)

In expression (3), a symbol represented by expression (4) below represents L—p norm (p-th order average norm), and it indicates Euclidean norm when p is equal to 2 (p=2).

∥⋅∥p  (4)

As an example of the regularization term Φ, a first-order average norm represented by expression (5) below is presented.

Φ(di)=λ∥Ψ(di)∥1  (5)

In expression (5), symbol λ is a parameter that represents a weight of the regularization term Φ, and symbol Ψ is a function that represents a change of basis for an image such as wavelet transform and discrete cosine transform. The regularization term Φ in expression (5) is based on a characteristic that a signal component becomes sparse, that is, it can be represented by the smaller number of signals by performing the change of basis such as the wavelet transform and the discrete cosine transform on an image. For example, this is described in “Richard G. Baraniuk, ‘Compressive Sensing’, IEEE SIGNAL PROCESSING MAGAZINE [118] JULY 2007”. As other examples of the regularization term, Tikhonov regularization term or TV (Total Variation) norm regularization term may be used.

In order to solve the estimation expression represented by expression (2) as an optimization problem, by using a method of using the iterative calculation, for example a conjugate gradient method may be used when the Tikhonov regularization term is adopted. When expression (5) or the TV norm regularization term is adopted, for example TwIST (Two-step Iterative Shrinkage/Thresholding) may be used. TwIST is described in “J. M. Bioucas-Dias, et al., ‘A new TwIST: two-step iterative shrinkage/thresholding algorithms for image restoration’, IEEE Trans. on Image Processing, vol. 16, December 2007”.

When the iterative calculation is performed, a parameter such as a weight of the regularization may be updated for each repetition (iteration). While expressions (1) and (2) are represented for an image (signal distribution), they are satisfied similarly for a differential of the image. Accordingly, instead of the image, blur correction may be performed for the differential of the image (both of the image and the differential of the image are represented as a signal gradient).

Next, a method of estimating a blur (i.e., estimation processing) will be specifically described. Similarly to expression (2), the PSF can be estimated by using expression (6) below.

argminki[L(ki*di)+Φ(ki)](6)

If the second blur estimation area is acquired from a plurality of channels (i.e., if the blur does not vary depending on the channel, or the change of the blur depending on the channel can be ignored), expression (6) is deformed as represented by expression (6a) below.

argminki[h=1HvhL(ki*di,h)+Φ(ki)](6a)

In expression (6a), symbol H denotes the total number of the channels included in the second blur estimation area, symbol di,h denotes di for the h-th channel, and symbol vh denotes a weight. While expression (2) is solved for each channel in the correction of the signal gradient, a form which is collected by all channels as represented by expression (6a) is used in the blur estimation. This is because targets to be estimated are common (i.e., the same PSF) in expression (6a) while the targets are different in each channels in expression (2).

As the loss function L in each of expressions (6) and (6a), expression (7) below is considered.

L(ki*di)=jujki*jdi-jbi22(7)

In expression (7), symbol ∂j denotes a differential operator. Symbol ∂0 (j=0) denotes an identity operator, and symbols ∂x and ∂y denote differentials in a horizontal direction and a vertical direction of an image, respectively. A higher order differential is denoted by for example ∂xx or ∂xyy. While the signal gradient of the blur estimation area includes all of “j” (j=0, x, y, xx, xy, yy, yx, xxx, . . . ), this embodiment considers only the case of j=x,y. Symbol uj denotes a weight.

The regularization term Φ in expression (6) can be used according to the characteristic of the PSF being estimated. For example, if the PSF has a crushed shape like a defocus, it is preferred that TV norm regularization as represented by expression (8) below is used.

Φ(ki)=ζ∥∇kiTV=ζ√{square root over ((∂xki)2+(∂yki)2)}  (8)

In expression (8), symbol ζ denotes a weight of the regularization term.

If the PSF has a line shape like a motion blur, it is preferred that first-order average norm regularization as represented by expression (9) below is used.

Φ(ki)=ζ∥ki1  (9)

As a regularization term that does not depend on a shape of the PSF and that can be solved quickly with accuracy to some extent, Tikhonov regularization may be used.

Next, an image processing method in this embodiment will be described. In this embodiment, a second blur estimation area is acquired according to a signal variation (signal variation amount) such as edge, texture, and gradation in a first blur estimation area. When the signal variation amount in the first blur estimation area is sufficient to perform the blur estimation, the first blur estimation area is set as the second blur estimation area. On the other hand, when the signal variation amount in the first blur estimation area is insufficient, i.e., when it is insufficient to perform the blur estimation, the second blur estimation area whose signal variation amount is larger than that of the first blur estimation area is acquired. In this case, the second blur estimation area is different from the first blur estimation area in at least one of position and shape (including both of form and size). The second blur estimation area is acquired so that a blur in the second blur estimation area is little changed (i.e., is not substantially changed) from a blur in the first blur estimation area. The generation of the corrected signal gradient (correction processing) and the blur estimation (estimation processing) are performed for the second blur estimation area to obtain the estimated blur corresponding to the first blur estimation area.

Hereinafter, an effect on the estimation accuracy of the blur according to the signal variation in the blur estimation area where the blur is to be estimated will be described in detail. As can be seen in expression (1), the blur ki as a target to be estimated in the blur estimation is represented by a linear equation. This linear equation exists by the number of pixels in the blur estimation area bi, and accordingly the estimation of the blur ki corresponds to a problem which solves a system of equations whose number is the number of pixels in the blur estimation area bi. Accordingly, when the number of independent linear equations is larger than the number of unknowns, the solution is determined uniquely. However, typically, the number of the independent linear equations is not larger than the number of the unknowns. This is because the noise ni, as well as the blur ki, is unknown (when obtaining the blur, ai is known since an estimated value di is substituted into ai). In other words, the number of the unknowns corresponds to a sum of the number of components of the blurs ki and the number of components of the noises ni (which is equal to the number of the pixels in the blur estimation area bi), and it is always larger than the number of the linear equations (i.e., the number of pixels in the blur estimation area bi). Accordingly, in order to obtain the blur ki, estimation processing is necessary.

Hereinafter, a method of suppressing the influence of the noise ni and obtaining the blur ki with high accuracy will be considered. First, with respect to expression (1), it is assumed that a noise is included in each of the system of linear equations (whose number is equal to the number of pixels in the blur estimation area bi) with unknowns ki (whose number is equal to the number of components). In this case, the number of pixels in the blur estimation area bi is larger than the number of components of ki. If any noise is not included, there is a dependent linear equation in the system of linear equations since the number of the system of the linear equations is larger than the number of unknowns. In other words, there are a plurality of identical equations. However, in reality, there is a noise, and accordingly the equations are shifted (i.e., different) due to the noise. On the other hand, the nose can be suppressed by averaging signals which have the same original signals and have different noises. Therefore, if there are a lot of dependent linear equations which have different noises, it is possible to perform the blur estimation while the influence of the noise is suppressed due to the averaging effect. When the noise suppressing effect by the averaging sufficiently works, the regularization term Φ in each of expressions (6) and (6a) may be set to zero.

In order to estimate the blur ki with high accuracy, an additional condition is required. The condition is that the number of the independent equations is as large as possible in the system of linear equations from which noises have been removed. If the number of the independent equations is too small compared with the number of components of the blurs ki (i.e., the number of unknowns), a sufficient accuracy cannot be obtained in the estimation. Coefficients of the system of the linear equations are the corrected signal gradients di, and accordingly the corrected signal gradients di need to have various combinations in order to increase the number of the independent equations. In other words, in the blur estimation area, the estimation accuracy improves with increasing signal variations (such as an edge, texture, and gradation) having various directions or strengths. For example, if signal values of the blur estimation area bi and the corrected signal gradient di are constant (completely flat portion in an image), the equations in the system of linear equations represented by expression (1) are completely identical (except for noises), and accordingly the blur ki cannot be estimated.

As discussed above, if there are a lot of signal variations which have various directions or strengths in the blur estimation area and there are a lot of signal variations which have different noises while the signal variations are the same, the estimation accuracy of the blur is improved. In order to achieve the improvement, in this embodiment, when the signal variation (signal variation amount) in a first blur estimation area is small, a second blur estimation area that is different in position or shape from the first blur estimation area in the blurred image is acquired. The second blur estimation area includes a large amount of signal variation such as edge compared to the first blur estimation area. Furthermore, when a size of the second blur estimation area is larger than that of the first blur estimation area, the number of linear equations (i.e., equations which have different noises) increases, and accordingly a noise suppression effect can be obtained. As described, however, when the blur is Shift-variant, the estimated blur is slightly different from an original blur according to a change of the blur estimation area (an error is small compared to a case where the estimation accuracy is reduced on conditions that the signal variation amount is insufficient). Accordingly, the second blur estimation area that is different in position or shape from that of the first blur estimation area is acquired only when the signal variation amount in the first blur estimation area is small. On the other hand, in other cases (when there is sufficient signal variation amount in the first blur estimation area), the first blur estimation area is set as the second blur estimation area.

Next, referring to FIG. 1, image processing that is performed by the blur corrector 108 will be described. FIG. 1 is a flowchart of illustrating an image processing method in this embodiment. Each step in FIG. 1 is performed by the acquirer 1081, the generator 1082, and the corrector 1083 in the blur corrector 108.

First, at step S101, the acquirer 1081 of the blur corrector 108 acquires a blurred image (captured image). Subsequently, at step S102, the generator 1082 of the blur corrector 108 acquires distribution information relating to a signal variation (signal variation amount) in the blurred image. The distribution information relating to the signal variation means information that indicates a position or an area in the blurred image where the signal variation such as an edge exists and that indicates a strength of the signal variation. As a method of acquiring the distribution information relating to the signal variation, there is a method of acquiring a differential value of the blurred image (luminance distribution). A large amount of signal variation occurs at the position with increasing an absolute value of the differential value, and the estimation accuracy is improved when the position is included in the blur estimation area.

Subsequently, at step S103, the generator 1082 acquires a first blur estimation area in the blurred image. The first blur estimation area is an area where a blur is to be estimated. The first blur estimation area may be an area specified by a user or automatically acquired. In this embodiment, a case where the blur is Shift-variant is described. In this case, the first blur estimation area is acquired for example by dividing the blurred image into a plurality of partial areas and selecting one partial area of the divided partial areas. On the other hand, when the blur is constant (i.e., uniform) in a whole of the blurred image (called Shift-invariant), a whole area of the blurred image is set as the first blur estimation area. In this case, however, a second blur estimation area which has a signal variation amount larger than that in the first blur estimation area cannot be acquired based on the blurred image. Accordingly, in this embodiment, the Shift-variant blur will be described.

Subsequently, at step S104, the generator 1082 acquires a second blur estimation area. The second blur estimation area is an area where a blur is to be calculated (estimated) in reality, and an estimated blur obtained based on the second blur estimation area is output as a blur acting on the first blur estimation area. In the blur estimation, it is assumed that an identical (i.e., uniform) blur acts on the second blur estimation area. The second blur estimation area is determined based on a signal variation amount in the first blur estimation area. When the signal variation amount in the first blur estimation area is sufficient for the blur estimation, the first blur estimation area is set as the second blur estimation area. On the other hand, when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is insufficient for the blur estimation, the second blur estimation area which is different in position or shape from that of the first blur estimation area is acquired so as to increase the signal variation amount. Whether or not the signal variation amount is sufficient for the blur estimation can be determined for example depending on whether or not the signal variation amount is larger than a threshold value (first threshold value) previously set. It is preferred that this threshold value is determined depending on the number of components (unknowns) of blurs being estimated. The signal variation amount in the first blur estimation area may use for example distribution information relating to the signal variation amount calculated at step S102. Only values of parts corresponding to the first blur estimation area are extracted from the distribution information. In order to compare the value (signal variation amount) of the distribution information with the threshold value (first threshold value), it is necessary to convert the distribution information of the signal variation amount into scalar values. Hereinafter, such an example will be described, but this embodiment is not limited thereto.

A simplest method is to obtain a sum of squares (or absolute values) of differential values in the first blur estimation area. Preferably, the squares or the absolute values of the differential values are quantized and then a sum of them is obtained. If the sum is obtained without quantization, a situation where a large amount of signal variation exists cannot be clearly distinguished from a situation where a small amount of extremely large signal variation exists in a narrow area. In the former case, there are a lot of variations in direction or strength of the edge or the texture. On the other hand, in the latter case, there are only a few variations. If there are only a few variations of the edges or the textures, the number of independent equations in the system of linear equations represented by expression (1) is small, and accordingly the estimation accuracy of the blur is decreased. Accordingly, it is preferred that the situation where the signal variations exist in a plurality of areas in the first blur estimation area can be distinguished from the situation where the small amount of extremely large signal variation exists. By the quantization, this distinction can be achieved. For example, the sum is obtained after the binarization in which “1” is obtained if the square (or absolute value) of the differential value is larger than a predetermined threshold value (third threshold value) and on the other hand, “0” is obtained if it is smaller than the predetermined threshold value (i.e., a case of a flat portion). As a result, whether or not a lot of edges or textures exist can be distinguished. While the binarization method is used as quantization in this embodiment, the quantization may be performed with the larger number of bits.

The second blur estimation area whose signal variation amount is larger than that of the first blur estimation area is acquired for example as illustrated in FIG. 5A or 5B. FIGS. 5A and 5B are diagrams of illustrating relationships between the first blur estimation area and the second blur estimation area. FIG. 5A illustrates a situation where a second blur estimation area 203a which is different in position from that of the first blur estimation area 202 is acquired in a blurred image 201. As to the position in the blurred image 201 where the second blur estimation area 203a is to be acquired so as to obtain a larger signal variation amount, it can be determined based on the distribution information relating to the signal variation amount of the blurred image acquired at step S102 in FIG. 1. However, if the blur acting on the second blur estimation area is extremely different from the blur in the first blur estimation area, the accuracy of the estimated blur is decreased. Accordingly, the second blur estimation area is acquired so that the blur in the first blur estimation area is roughly the same as the blur in the second blur estimation area. Almost all the blurs continuously change depending on a position in the blurred image. Accordingly, it is preferred that the second blur estimation area is acquired so as to include at least a half of the size of the first blur estimation area. As a result, a change of the blur caused by a position change in the blurred image can be suppressed. As described above, differently from step S102, the distribution information relating to the signal variation to be used for determining the second blur estimation area is not necessarily acquired based on a whole of the blurred image, and instead it may be acquired only based on the vicinity of first blur estimation area.

FIG. 5B illustrates a situation where a second blur estimation area 203b which is different in shape (both of a form and a size) from that of the first blur estimation area 202 is acquired in the blurred image 201. As to the shape in the blurred image 201 where the second blur estimation area 203b is to be acquired so as to obtain a larger signal variation amount, it can be determined based on the distribution information relating to the signal variation amount of the blurred image acquired at step S102 in FIG. 1. As described above, the decrease of the accuracy of the blur estimation can be suppressed as the blur estimation area increases (i.e., the number of linear equations increases). Accordingly, as illustrated in FIG. 5B, it is preferred that the second blur estimation area 203b is acquired so that the size of the second blur estimation area 203b is larger than the size of the first blur estimation area 202. In this case, more preferably, the second blur estimation area is acquired to include a whole of the first blur estimation area so that the blur in the first blur estimation area is roughly the same as the blur in the second blur estimation area. Still more preferably, the center of the second blur estimation area and the center of the first blur estimation area coincide with each other. As a result, the difference of the blurs in the first blur estimation area and the second blur estimation area can be suppressed.

While the case where each of the position and the shape is different is individually illustrated in FIGS. 5A and 5B, the second blur estimation area may be different from the first blur estimation area with respect to both of the position and the shape. The position and the shape of the first blur estimation area and the second blur estimation area are not limited to those illustrated in FIGS. 5A and 5B.

Next, the second blur estimation area for the defocus having a small continuity according to a position change in the blurred image of the Shift-variant blur will be described. While the defocus blur varies continuously in a depth direction in an object space, typically it does not vary continuously with respect to object groups in a photographing angle of view. In particular, discontinuity is large at a boundary of objects existing on different depths. Accordingly, when the defocus is to be estimated, it is preferred that depth information (distance information) in the object space is acquired to determine the second blur estimation area. The depth information can be acquired by providing multi-eye image pickup system such as a compound-eye camera, a TOF (Time of Flight) sensor, or a range-finding unit using a laser or the like in the image pickup apparatus 101.

Referring to FIG. 6, a method of acquiring the second blur estimation area will be described. FIG. 6 is a diagram of illustrating a relationship between the first blur estimation area and the second blur estimation area for estimating the defocus. In FIG. 6, depth information 204 represents a gray-scaled distribution of a depth in an object space corresponding to the blurred image. In FIG. 6, a first blur estimation area 202 and a second blur estimation area 203c are depicted in the depth information 204, and in reality, both of them are acquired from the blurred image. The depth information 204 is used to determine a position and a shape of the second blur estimation area 203c. When the first blur estimation area 202 is set as illustrated in FIG. 6, the second blur estimation area 203c is set to include only an area whose depth is close to that of the first blur estimation area 202. By excluding an area (including a boundary of an object) where the depth significantly changes, a change of the blur can be reduced in the first blur estimation area and the second blur estimation area.

A blur shape of the defocus is determined depending on a pupil of the optical system 1011 in the image pickup apparatus 101. In FIG. 6, considering the influence of the vignetting of the optical system 1011, the second blur estimation area 203c is restricted to be in the vicinity of the first blur estimation area 202. However, when the influence of the vignetting of the optical system 1011 can be ignored, the blur of the defocus varies only depending on the depth. In this case, all areas having depths similar to those of the first blur estimation area can be set as the second blur estimation area. Alternatively, if depths are similar to those of the first blur estimation area, the second blur estimation area may be set so that all the areas are excluded.

As a method of determining whether or not the blur being estimated is the defocus, for example there is the following method. First, there is a case where a user specifies the defocus as a target of the estimation. Information relating to a frequency characteristic of the blurred image or an image capturing condition of the image pickup apparatus 101 is used for automatic determination. When an F number is extremely large, it is considered that the user intends to take a deep focus image, and accordingly the defocus blur is estimated. When a high frequency component of the blurred image is isotropically missing, it can be determined that a focus shift occurs.

Subsequently, at step S105 in FIG. 1, the generator 1082 generates an estimated blur based on the second blur estimation area. The detail of step S105 is illustrated in the flowchart of FIG. 4, and descriptions thereof will be described below.

Subsequently, at step S106, the generator 1082 determines whether or not the generation of the estimated blur is completed for a predetermined area in the blurred image (for example, a whole of the blurred image). When the generation of the estimated blur is completed, the flow proceeds to step S107. On the other hand, when the generation of the estimated blur is completed, the flow returns to step S103. Then, the generator 1082 acquires, based on the predetermined area in the blurred image, a partial area where the estimated blur is not generated as a new (i.e., updated) first blur estimation area.

Subsequently, at step S107, the generator 1082 outputs the generated estimated blur. When a plurality of blur estimation areas exist as the first blur estimation area, a plurality of estimated blurs exist and accordingly the generator 1082 outputs all of them. In this embodiment, the estimated blur is data relating to the PSF. However, this embodiment is not limited thereto, and the estimated blur may be output in the form of an OTF, coefficient data obtained by fitting the PSF or the OTF with a certain basis, or an image obtained by converting the PSF or the OTF into image data.

Subsequently, at step S108, the corrector 1083 of the blur corrector 108 corrects the blur of the blurred image based on the output estimated blur. The correction can be performed, for example, by using a method of using an inverse filter such as Wiener filter or a super-resolution method such as Richardson-Lucy method. When the plurality of estimated blurs exist, the corrector 1083 performs the correction by using the estimated blurs corresponding to the first blur estimation areas where the respective estimated blurs have been obtained. Alternatively, before all the estimated blurs are output, blurs of the first blur estimation areas may be corrected sequentially by using the estimated blurs generated at step S105 and then they may be combined with each other to acquire a blur-corrected image.

Next, referring to FIG. 4, generation processing (step S105) of the estimated blur will be described in detail. FIG. 4 is a flowchart of illustrating the method of generating the estimated blur. Each step in FIG. 4 is performed by the generator 1082 of the blur corrector 108.

First, at step S201, the generator 1082 performs denoising of the second blur estimation area. The denoising of the second blur estimation area is performed to reduce a deterioration of an estimation accuracy of the blur, which is caused by the existence of the noise in the second blur estimation area. Instead of step S201, a step of denoising a whole of the blurred image may be inserted prior to step S103 in FIG. 1. As a denoising method, a method of using a bilateral filter, a NLM (Non Local Means) filter, or the like may be used.

Preferably, the generator 1082 performs the denoising of the second blur estimation area (or the blurred image) by the following method. First, the generator 1082 performs frequency resolving of the second blur estimation area to generate a frequency-resolved blur estimation area. Then, the generator 1082 performs the denoising of the frequency-resolved blur estimation area based on a noise amount in the second blur estimation area. Next, the generator 1082 resynthesizes the frequency-resolved blur estimation area to acquire a noise-reduced second blur estimation area. Typically, in addition to an effect of reduction of a noise in an image, the denoising processing has a problem that causes a blur of the image. If the second blur estimation area is blurred by the denoising, a PSF where a blur which originally deteriorates an image is mixed with a blur caused by the denoising is estimated when performing estimation processing at the latter stage. Accordingly, it is preferred that a denoising method in which an amount of a blur given to the image is small. As such a method, denoising processing with the use of the frequency resolving of an image is applied. In this embodiment, an example where wavelet transform is used as the frequency resolving will be described. The detail is described in “Donoho D. L., ‘De-noising by soft-thresholding’, IEEE Trans. on Inf. Theory, 41, 3, pp. 613-627”.

The wavelet transform is a transformation in which a frequency analysis is performed for each position in an image by using a localized small wave (wavelet) to resolve a signal into a high frequency component and a low frequency component. In the wavelet transform of an image, the wavelet transform is performed in a horizontal direction of the image to resolve the image in the low frequency component and the high frequency component, and further the wavelet transform is performed in a vertical direction of the resolved low frequency component and high frequency component. According to the wavelet transform, the image is divided into four areas, and thus four sub-band images with different frequency bands from each other is obtained by the frequency resolving. In this case, a sub-band image of a low frequency band component (scaling coefficient) at the upper left is denoted by LL1, and a sub-band image of a high frequency band component (wavelet coefficient) at the lower right is denoted by HH1. Sub-band images at the upper right (HL1) and at the lower left (LH1) correspond to an image obtained by extracting the high frequency band component in the horizontal direction and the low frequency band component in the vertical direction, and an image obtained by extracting the low frequency band component in the horizontal direction and the high frequency band component in the vertical direction, respectively.

Furthermore, when the wavelet transform is performed on the sub-band image LL1, the image size halves to be resolved into sub-band images LL2, HL2, LH2, and HH2, and accordingly the resolved sub-band image LL can be resolved by the number of times of a transformation level.

As a method of performing noise reduction processing by using the wavelet transform, thresholding is known. In the thresholding, a component which is smaller than a set threshold value is regarded as a noise, and the noise is reduced. Threshold value processing in the wavelet space is performed on sub-band images other than the sub-band image LL, and as represented by expression (10) below, a wavelet coefficient wsubband(x,y) having an absolute value not greater than a threshold value is replaced with zero to perform the denoising.

wsubband(x,y)={wsubband(x,y),ifwsubband(x,y)>ρsubbandσ0,ifwsubband(x,y)ρsubbandσ(10)

In expression (10), symbols x and y denote vertical and horizontal coordinates in an image, symbol ρsubband denotes a weight parameter, and symbol σ denotes a standard deviation of the noise (noise amount). The noise amount σ included in the second blur estimation area is obtained by measurement or estimation based on the blur estimation area. If the noise is white Gaussian noise that is uniform in a real space and a frequency space, a method of estimating the noise in the second blur estimation area based on MAD (Median Absolute Deviation) as represented by expression (11) below is known.

MAD=median(|wHH1−median(wHH1)|)  (11)

The MAD is obtained by using the median (central value) of a wavelet coefficient wHH1 in the sub-band image HH1 obtained by the wavelet transform of the second blur estimation area. The standard deviation and the MAD have a relationship represented by expression (12) below, and accordingly the standard deviation of the noise component can be estimated.

σ=MAD0.6745(12)

The noise amount σ may be acquired based on an image capturing condition (ISO sensitivity during the photography) instead of using expressions (11) and (12).

Subsequently, at step S202, the generator 1082 reduces a resolution of the second blur estimation area to generate a low-resolution blur estimation area. With a reduction of the resolution of the second blur estimation area, the resolution of the blur being estimated is reduced similarly. As a result, a convergence of the blur estimation described below is improved, and the possibility that the estimation result is a local solution which is different from an optimum solution can be reduced. A rate of decreasing the resolution in the second blur estimation area is determined depending on a down-sampling parameter. While Step S202 is performed a plurality of times by loop processing (i.e., iterative calculation), at the time of a first execution, a prescribed down-sampling parameter is used. At the time of a second and subsequent executions, the low-resolution blur estimation area is generated by using a down-sampling parameter set at step S208 described below. A reduction amount of the resolution decreases with increasing the number of times of the repetitions of the loop, and the resolution of the low-resolution blur estimation area gradually comes close to the second blur estimation area. In other words, first, a low-resolution blur is estimated, and the estimation result is set as an initial value to repeat the estimation while increasing the resolution gradually. As a result, an optimum blur can be estimated while the local solution is avoided. The resolution of the low-resolution blur estimation area is not higher than the resolution of the second blur estimation area, and both of the resolutions may be equal to each other.

Subsequently, at step S203, the generator 1082 corrects a blur of the signal gradient, i.e., information relating to a signal, in the low-resolution blur estimation area to generate a corrected signal gradient, i.e., information relating to a corrected signal (correction processing). For the generation of the corrected signal gradient, as described above, the optimization according to expression (2), or other methods such as a super-resolution and an inverse filter is used. As a PSF which is used for the blur correction, a result (i.e., blur) estimated at step S204 in a previous loop is used. At the first time in the loop, a PSF having an appropriate shape (such as a gauss distribution and a one-dimensional line) is used. Subsequently, at step S204, the generator 1082 estimates the blur based on the signal gradient in the low-resolution blur estimation area and the corrected signal gradient (estimation processing of the blur). For the estimation of the blur, optimization represented by expression (6) or (6a), or the like is used.

Subsequently, at step S205, the generator 1082 compares the blur (second blur) estimated at step S204 (second estimation processing) with the blur (first blur) estimated at step S204 (first estimation processing) in the previous loop. Specifically, the generator 1082 determines whether or not a difference between the first blur and the second blur is not larger than a predetermined value (i.e., second threshold value). When this difference is not larger than the predetermined value, the flow proceeds to step S207. On the other hand, when the difference is larger than the predetermined value, the flow proceeds to step S206. As described at step S202, in this embodiment, the generation of the corrected signal gradient (correction processing) and the estimation of the blur (estimation processing) are looped while the resolution in the second blur estimation area is changed. With respect to the low-resolution blur estimation area in the early stage of the loops, the estimation result of the blur is easily converged since the number of pixels is small. On the other hand, when the number of the pixels in the low-resolution blur estimation area increases by the repetition (iteration) of the loop, the result is not easily converged. Furthermore, if signal variations such as edges are insufficient, the estimated blur is significantly deviated from an exact value. In order avoid this harmful effect, the generator 1082 evaluates the difference between the blur estimated in the current loop and the blur estimated in the previous loop. In this case, a bilinear interpolation is performed on one of the blurs estimated in the current loop and in the previous loop to resize it to have the same number of components of the other blur, and then the sum of squares for each component is obtained to evaluate the difference. However, this embodiment is not limited thereto, and alternatively other methods may be used. When the difference between both of them is larger than the predetermined value, it is considered that information of the signal variation which is necessary for the blur estimation in the current loop is insufficient and the estimation accuracy is deteriorated. Accordingly, the generator 1082 widens the second blur estimation area at step S206 to perform the blur estimation again. In the first loop, the estimated blur in the previous loop does not exist, and accordingly the flow proceeds to step S207 without performing step S205.

At step S206, the generator 1082 increases a size of the second blur estimation area. This reason is as described above. Then, the flow returns to step S202, and the generator 1082 generates the low-resolution blur estimation area in a new (updated) second blur estimation area to generate the corrected signal gradient. In this case, it is preferred that the denoising described at step S201 is performed also in the enlarged second blur estimation area.

At step S207, the generator 1082 determines whether or not the iterative (loop) calculation is completed, that is, whether or not the difference of the resolutions of the second blur estimation area and the low-resolution blur estimation area is smaller than a predetermined value. This determination is performed by comparing the resolution of the second blur estimation area with the resolution of the low-resolution blur estimation area. If the difference of the resolutions of them is smaller than the predetermined value, the iterative calculation is finished. Then, the blur estimated at step S204 is obtained as a final estimated blur, and the flow proceeds to step S209. Whether or not the difference of the resolutions of them is smaller than the predetermined value is not limited to whether nor not an absolute value of the difference of the resolutions of them is smaller than the predetermined value, and alternatively it may be determined based on whether an absolute value of a difference between the numbers of pixels of them is smaller than a predetermined value or whether a ratio of the numbers of the pixels of them is closer to 1 than a predetermined value is. If a predetermined condition is not satisfied (for example, if the absolute value of the difference of the resolutions of them is larger than the predetermined value), the resolution of the estimated blur is still insufficient, and accordingly the flow proceeds to step S208 to perform the iterative calculation.

At step S208, the generator 1082 sets a down-sampling parameter that is to be used at step S202. In order to increase the resolution through the iterative processing of steps S202 to S206, the parameter is set to decrease a degree of the down-sampling (i.e., to decrease a resolution reduction amount) compared with the previous loop. In the iterative calculation, a blur estimated at step S204 in the previous loop is used as a new (updated) initial solution, and in this case the resolution of the blur needs to be increased. In order to improve the resolution, it is preferred that bilinear interpolation or bicubic interpolation is used.

At step S209, the generator 1082 performs denoising of the blur (estimated blur) estimated at step S204. As represented by expression (1), a noise exists in the burred image (second blur estimation area), and accordingly a noise is generated in the estimated PSF due to the influence. Accordingly, the generator 1082 performs denoising processing. In the denoising processing, it is preferred that thresholding processing, opening processing that removes isolated points, denoising processing using the smoothing filter or the frequency resolving, or the like is used.

According to this embodiment, an image pickup system which is capable of suppressing a decrease in estimation accuracy when estimating a blur based on an area in a blurred image where a signal variation is small can be provided.

Embodiment 2

Next, referring to FIG. 7, an image processing system in Embodiment 2 of the present invention will be described. FIG. 7 is a block diagram of an image processing system 300 in this embodiment.

The image processing system 300 of this embodiment is different from the image processing system 100 of Embodiment 1 in that the image processing system 300 includes an image processing apparatus 305 including an estimated blur generator 308 instead of the image processing apparatus 105 including the blur corrector 108. The image processing system 300 of this embodiment is capable of performing a blur estimation by simple processing compared with the image processing system 100 of Embodiment 1. The estimated blur generator 308 estimates and outputs a blur component based on a blurred image captured by the image pickup apparatus 101. Other configurations of the image processing system 300 are the same as those of the image processing system 100 in Embodiment 1, and accordingly descriptions thereof are omitted.

Next, referring to FIG. 8, image processing which is performed by the estimated blur generator 308 will be described. FIG. 8 is a flowchart of illustrating an image processing method in this embodiment. Each step in FIG. 8 is performed by an acquirer 3081 (acquisition unit) and a generator 3082 (generation unit) of the estimated blur generator 308.

First, at step S301, the acquirer 3081 of the estimated blur generator 308 acquires a blurred image. Step S301 is the same as step S101 of Embodiment 1 described referring to FIG. 1. Subsequently, at step S302, the generator 3082 of the estimated blur generator 308 acquires, based on the blurred image, a first blur estimation area and a signal variation (signal variation amount) in the first blur estimation area. Specific descriptions of the signal variation are the same as those of step S104 in Embodiment 1.

Subsequently, at step S303, the generator 3082 acquires a second blur estimation area based on the blurred image. When the signal variation amount acquired at step S302 is larger than or equal to a threshold value (first threshold value), the generator 3082 sets the first blur estimation area as the second blur estimation area. On the other hand, when the signal variation amount is smaller than the threshold value, the generator 3082 acquires the second blur estimation area whose size is larger than a size of the first blur estimation area. In this embodiment, the second blur estimation area has a center position that is always located at the same as a center position of the first blur estimation area, and it corresponds to an area whose size is multiplied proportionally by a predetermined value compared to the size of the first blur estimation area. This corresponds to the case where the second blur estimation area is acquired as the second blur estimation area 203b illustrated in FIG. 5B.

Subsequently, at step S304, the generator 3082 corrects a signal gradient, i.e., information relating to a signal, in the second blur estimation area to generate a corrected signal gradient, i.e., information relating to a corrected signal (correction processing). The correction processing is the same as that of step S203 in Embodiment 1. Subsequently, at step S305, the generator 3082 estimates a blur based on the signal gradient in the second blur estimation area and the corrected signal gradient generated at step S304 (blur estimation processing). The estimation processing is the same as that of step S204 in Embodiment 1.

Subsequently, at step S306, the generator 3082 determines whether or not the blur estimated at step S305 is converged. When the blur is converged, the flow proceeds to step S307. On the other hand, when the blur is not converged, the flow returns to step S304. When the flow returns to step S304, the generator 3082 newly generates (i.e., updates) the corrected signal gradient at step S304 by using the blur estimated at step S305. A method of determining whether or not the estimated blur is converged may be performed for example by obtaining a difference or a ratio of a value which is deteriorated by the blur used for estimating the corrected signal gradient and the signal gradient of the second blur estimation area to be compared with a predetermined value. Alternatively, when the blur is estimated by the iterative calculation such as a conjugate gradient method at step S305, the determination may be performed based on whether or not an update amount of the blur by this iterative calculation is smaller than a predetermined value. When the blur is converged, the generator 3082 sets the blur estimated at step S305 as a final estimated blur in the first blur estimation area.

Subsequently, at step S307, the generator 3082 determines whether or not the generation of the estimated blur is completed for a predetermined area (for example, a whole of the blurred image) in the blurred image. When the generation of the estimated blur is completed, the flow proceeds to step S308. On the other hand, when the generation of the estimated blur is not completed, the flow returns to step S302. Step S307 is the same as step S106 in Embodiment 1.

At step S308, the generator 3082 outputs the generated estimated blur. When a plurality of first blur estimation areas are included within a predetermined area in the blurred image, the generator 3082 outputs the plurality of estimated blurs. In this case, the plurality of estimated blurs may be sequentially output in the process of obtaining them. The output estimated blur can be used for the correction of the blurred image, the measurement of the optical performance of the optical system for the photography, the analysis of a hand shake during the photography, or the like.

According to this embodiment, an image pickup system which is capable of suppressing a decrease in estimation accuracy when estimating a blur based on an area in a blurred image where a signal variation is small can be provided.

Embodiment 3

Next, referring to FIGS. 9 and 10, an image pickup system in Embodiment 3 of the present invention will be described. FIG. 9 is a block diagram of an image pickup system 400 in this embodiment. FIG. 10 is an external view of the image pickup system 400.

The image pickup system 400 includes an image pickup apparatus 401, a network 402, and a server 403 (image processing apparatus). The image pickup apparatus 401 and the server 403 are connected through wire, and an image from the image pickup apparatus 401 is transferred to the server 403 to perform estimation and correction of a blur.

The server 403 includes a communicator 404, a memory 405 and a blur corrector 406 (image processor). The communicator 404 of the server 403 is connected with the image pickup apparatus 401 through the network 402. While the image pickup apparatus 401 and the server 403 are connected wirelessly in this embodiment, it is not limited thereto, and they may be connected through wire. The communicator 404 of the server 403 is configured to receive a blurred image from the image pickup apparatus 401. When the image pickup apparatus 401 captures an image, the blurred image (input image or captured image) is input to the server 403 automatically or manually, and it is sent to the memory 405 and the blur corrector 406. The memory 405 stores the blurred image and information relating to an image capturing condition determined when capturing the blurred image. The blur corrector 406 estimates a blur (estimated blur) based on the blurred image. Then, the blur corrector 406 generates a blur-corrected image based on the estimated blur. The blur-corrected image is stored in the memory 405 or it is sent to the image pickup apparatus 401 through the communicator 404.

In order to achieve the image processing method of this embodiment, software (image processing program) can be supplied to the server 403 through a network or a non-transitory computer-readable storage medium such as a CD-ROM. In this case, the image processing program is read out by a computer (such as a CPU and a MPU) of the server 403 to execute a function of the server 403.

Processing which is performed by the blur correction portion 406 is the same as the image processing method of Embodiment 1 described referring to FIGS. 1 and 4, and accordingly descriptions thereof are omitted. According to this embodiment, an image pickup system which is capable of suppressing a decrease in estimation accuracy when estimating a blur based on an area in a blurred image where a signal variation is small can be provided.

As described above, in each embodiment, an image processing apparatus (image processing apparatus 105, 305 or server 403) includes an acquirer 1081 or 3081 (acquisition unit) and a generator 1082 or 3082 (generation unit). The acquirer acquires a blurred image (captured image or input image). The generator acquires a first blur estimation area of at least a part of the blurred image to generate an estimated blur. Furthermore, the generator determines a second blur estimation area based on a signal variation in the first blur estimation area. Then, the generator generates the estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to a signal in the second blur estimation area to generate information relating to a corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal. In addition, the generator determines the second blur estimation area having a signal variation larger than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than a first threshold value.

Preferably, the signal variation in the second blur estimation area is not smaller than the signal variation in the first blur estimation area. Preferably, when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is larger than the first threshold value, the generator determines the first blur estimation area as the second blur estimation area. More preferably, when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than the first threshold value, the generator determines the second blur estimation area which is located at a position different from a position of the first blur estimation area, or it determines the second blur estimation area which has a shape different from a shape of the first blur estimation area. Preferably, when the signal variation in the first blur estimation area is smaller than the first threshold value, the generator determines the second blur estimation area which has a size larger than a size of the first blur estimation area. Preferably, the second blur estimation area includes at least a half of the first blur estimation area. More preferably, the second blur estimation area includes a whole of the first blur estimation area. Preferably, the generator acquires distance information of an object space, and it determines the second blur estimation area based on the distance information of the object space.

Preferably, the generator performs, as the estimation processing during the iterative calculation processing, first estimation processing and second estimation processing after the first estimation processing. Furthermore, the generator determines a difference between a first blur estimated in the first estimation processing and a second blur estimated in the second estimation processing. Then, the generator increases an area of the second blur estimation area to perform the estimation processing again when the difference is larger than a second threshold value (S205, S206).

Preferably, the generator reduces a resolution of the second blur estimation area to generate a low-resolution blur estimation area. Furthermore, the generator generates the estimated blur by performing iterative calculation processing that repeats correction processing and estimation processing, the correction processing correcting a blur included in information relating to the signal in the low-resolution blur estimation area to generate information relating to the corrected signal, and the estimation processing estimating a blur based on the information relating to the signal and the information relating to the corrected signal. In addition, the generator reduces a difference between a resolution of the low-resolution blur estimation area and the resolution of the second blur estimation area during the iterative calculation processing (S208).

Preferably, the generator acquires a noise amount included in the second blur estimation area, and it performs frequency resolving of the second blur estimation area to generate a frequency-resolved blur estimation area. Then, the generator performs denoising processing on the frequency-resolved blur estimation area based on the noise amount, and it resynthesizes the denoised frequency-resolved blur estimation area (S201).

Preferably, the image processing apparatus includes a corrector 1083 (correction unit) that corrects at least a part of the blurred image by using the estimated blur. Preferably, the signal variation in the first blur estimation area corresponds to an absolute sum or a sum of squares of differential values of a luminance distribution in the first blur estimation area. Preferably, the information relating to the signal is information relating to a luminance distribution or a differential value of the luminance distribution in the second blur estimation area.

Other Embodiments

Embodiment(s) of the present invention can also be realized by a computer of a system or apparatus that reads out and executes computer executable instructions (e.g., one or more programs) recorded on a storage medium (which may also be referred to more fully as a ‘non-transitory computer-readable storage medium’) to perform the functions of one or more of the above-described embodiment(s) and/or that includes one or more circuits (e.g., application specific integrated circuit (ASIC)) for performing the functions of one or more of the above-described embodiment(s), and by a method performed by the computer of the system or apparatus by, for example, reading out and executing the computer executable instructions from the storage medium to perform the functions of one or more of the above-described embodiment(s) and/or controlling the one or more circuits to perform the functions of one or more of the above-described embodiment(s). The computer may comprise one or more processors (e.g., central processing unit (CPU), micro processing unit (MPU)) and may include a network of separate computers or separate processors to read out and execute the computer executable instructions. The computer executable instructions may be provided to the computer, for example, from a network or the storage medium. The storage medium may include, for example, one or more of a hard disk, a random-access memory (RAM), a read only memory (ROM), a storage of distributed computing systems, an optical disk (such as a compact disc (CD), digital versatile disc (DVD), or Blu-ray Disc (BD)™), a flash memory device, a memory card, and the like.

According to each embodiment, an image processing apparatus, an image pickup apparatus, an image pickup method, and a non-transitory computer-readable storage medium which are capable of suppressing a decrease in estimation accuracy when estimating a blur based on an area in a blurred image where a signal variation is small can be provided.

While the present invention has been described with reference to exemplary embodiments, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to the disclosed exemplary embodiments. The scope of the following claims is to be accorded the broadest interpretation so as to encompass all such modifications and equivalent structures and functions.

This application claims the benefit of Japanese Patent Application No. 2015-121677, filed on Jun. 17, 2015, which is hereby incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

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Citation

Patents Cited in This Cited by
Title Current Assignee Application Date Publication Date
Method and system for detecting motion blur HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL INC. 30 April 2010 28 June 2012
画像処理装置、画像形成装置およびプログラム 富士ゼロックス株式会社 21 August 2013 02 March 2015
Removing camera shake from a single photograph TORONTO, UNIVERSITY OF,MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY 28 July 2006 31 January 2008
SBI motion artifact removal apparatus and method ETHICON ENDO-SURGERY, INC. 13 July 2007 15 January 2009
画像処理方法および装置並びにプログラム 富士フイルム株式会社 24 September 2004 12 May 2005
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US10002411 Image processing apparatus, image pickup 1 US10002411 Image processing apparatus, image pickup 2 US10002411 Image processing apparatus, image pickup 3