LONDON – Engineers from Duke University and the University of Arizona have developed a camera with the potential to capture up to 50-Gpixels of data with a resolution over a 120 degree horizontal field that is five times better than 20/20 human vision.
The camera was created by synchronizing 98 lower resolution cameras in a single device and although the camera is desktop unit much of this is processing electronics with scope for integration. The research team reckons handheld gigapixel cameras could be in use by consumers within five years.
The camera was developed by a team led by David Brady, Professor of Electric Engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, along with scientists from the University of Arizona, the University of California San Diego, and Distant Focus Corp. The work was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and details were published in journal Nature.
The method of operation is simular to other multi-sensor cameras in which each sensor captures information from a specific area of the field of view and then a processor combines and correlates the data to produce a single detailed image.
"While novel multiscale lens designs are essential, the primary barrier to ubiquitous high-pixel imaging turns out to be lower power and more compact integrated circuits, not the optics," said Professor Brady in a report on the Duke University website. "A shared objective lens gathers light and routes it to the microcameras that surround it, just like a network computer hands out pieces to the individual work stations. Each gets a different view and works on their little piece of the problem. We arrange for some overlap, so we don’t miss anything," said Michael Gehm, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona.
The 50-Gpixel camera has 98 image sensors inside a main frame
The prototype camera measures 2.5 feet on a side and is 20-inches deep. Most of the volume is occupied by electronics and the optics occupies only 3 percent. This gives a great deal of scope for further integration and to reduce the size to make the camera more practical. "As more efficient and compact electronics are developed, the age of hand-held gigapixel photography should follow," Professor Brady said in the Duke University account.
I time lapse gigapixel image would be really awesome. I don't think you'd want to take a picture in real "video" frame rates and at native resolution for the reasons you mention here.
That being said, people to love to look at stuff on Google Maps. This camera can do the same thing in a single snap.
Think of being able to watch your favorite sport and being in control of where you're pulling the HD (or better) video from. That is one of the great advantages over traditional cameras. The end-to-end frame rate does not support this yet but the sensors are running 14Mpx @ 10+FPS.
Using binning and clipping on the sensor dramatically increases the frame rate and could probably reach reasonable video rates end-to-end.
There are obvious advantages of digital data for lossless transmission and copying. Nevertheless, for the illustrated application of capturing isolated details of panoramic images for subsequent analysis, the region of interest on the negative could be enlarged, printed, and scanned at any desired resolution. Until the massive digital cameras are practical, current film technology can actually meet the need for Gigapixel image data capture.
Sounds like photographic film can still put up a good fight. 50 gigapixels is a square of 224,000 by 224,000 pixels. This could be achieved with a piece of high resolution film [citation below] 2.25 inches by 2.25 inches in an easily portable camera. Large view cameras can achieve extraordinary pixel counts on a wide range of film media.
["Agfa 10E56 holographic film has a resolution of over 4,000 lines/mm—equivalent to a pixel size of 0.125 micrometres—and an active dynamic range of over five orders of magnitude in brightness, compared to typical scientific CCDs that might have pixels of about 10 micrometres and a dynamic range of 3-4 orders of magnitude." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photographic_film]
Many cameras are "better than the human eye" using wavelengths to see things that we cannot or magnification to pick up microscopic details or distant features that we cannot resolve. What I see remarkable about this one (which will eventually be miniaturized) is the extraordinary resolution of distant details. Actually there is historical precedent. Traditional film has very high resolution and recently historians have been examining old photographs with microscopes and recovering extraordinary detail from panoramic images. We're going full circle.
Pictures taken by a gigapixel camera can be broken out into small photos. It may be helpful to journalist to get a good snap shot of a situation, e.g. protest or in a battle zone.
The question is how to squeeze a 2.5 feet by 20 inches camera into a small form factor. The current size is very difficult to keep into a pocket. ;)
"The research team reckons handheld gigapixel cameras could be in use by consumers within five years"...what is the use if human eye cannot differentiate between the picture taken by some Megapixel camera and this monster camera.