SYDNEY: Capturing a billion pixels in a single snapshot could be one step closer to becoming mainstream, with the development of a new prototype gigapixel camera.
A team of U.S. engineers described the camera, called AWARE-2, in a letter in the journal Naturetoday.
Gigapixel imaging captures details covering the entire human visual field at five-times better resolution, meaning the image can later be examined by zooming in without losing clarity.
“With a camera capable of simultaneously focusing on everything, the photographers job becomes looking for the interesting events in the already captured images, rather than predicting the events before they happen,” said David Brady, an optical physicist at Duke University in North Carolina, and co-author of the study.
Device weighs 45kg, costs more than $100k
“With such a photograph, one might say – when observing Sydney Harbour, for example – ‘This is beautiful, but I wish I could examine it in more detail with a photograph.’”
The AWARE-2 optical system consists of a 6cm ball-shaped lens surrounded by an array of 98 micro-cameras, each with a 14-megapixel sensor. The device is housed in a 75cm x 75cm x 50cm box and the optical system and case combined weighs about 45kg. The cost for such a system today would be similar to that of a high-resolution digital movie camera, Brady said – between $100,000 and $250,000.
Gigapixel photography has several uses for science, including observing “dynamic events in the sky, such as meteor showers and asteroids, which cannot be captured in narrow-field telescopes,” said Brady. Other uses include wildlife and environment monitoring over a wide field, or even live-streaming sporting events online: viewers could zoom in and watch the game from whatever perspective and resolution they choose.
A pixel is a small light point in a digital image, concentrations of which together form a picture. Today's cameras capture images measured in megapixels – one million pixels – normally between eight and 40 for an average consumer device. A thousand megapixels or a billion pixels, make a gigapixel.
Already in use today are highly specialised gigapixel astronomical telescopes and airborne surveillance systems, which are comparatively large and have a narrow field of view, said Brady. There are also some film-based gigapixel cameras. Most of today's gigapixel images are made by digitally merging several megapixel pictures.