A supercamera that can take gigapixel pictures — that’s 1,000 megapixels — has now been unveiled. Researchers say these supercameras could have military, commercial and civilian applications, and that handheld gigapixel cameras may one day be possible.
The gigapixel camera uses 98 identical microcameras in unison, each armed with its own set of optics and a 14-megapixel sensor. These microcameras, in turn, all peer through a single large spherical lens to collectively see the scene the system aims to capture. Since the optics of the microcameras are small, they are relatively easy and cheap to fabricate. A specially designed electronic processing unit stitches together all the partial images each microcamera takes into a giant, one-gigapixel image. In comparison, film can have a resolution of about 25 to 800 megapixels, depending on the kind of film used.
“In the near-term, gigapixel cameras will be used for wide-area security, large-scale event capture — for example, sport events and concerts — and wide-area multiple-user scene surveillance — for example, wildlife refuges, natural wonders, tourist attractions,” said researcher David Brady, an imaging researcher at Duke University in Durham, N.C., told InnovationNewsDaily.
The gigapixel device currently delivers one-gigapixel images at a speed of about three frames per minute. It actually captures images in less than a tenth of a second — it just takes 18 seconds to transfer the full image from the microcamera array to the camera’s memory. The camera also currently only takes black-and-white images, since color pictures are more difficult to analyze.
In addition, the camera is quite large, measuring 29.5 by 29.5 by 19.6 inches (75 by 75 by 50 centimeters), a size required by the space currently needed to cool its electronics and keep them from overheating. The researchers hope that as more efficient and compact electronics get developed, handheld gigapixel cameras might one day emerge, similar in size to current handheld single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras. The scientists detailed their findings in the June 21 issue of the journal Nature.
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