Imagine trying to spot an individual pixel in an image displayed across 1,000 high-definition TV screens. That's the kind of resolution a new kind of "compact" gigapixel camera is capable of producing.
Developed by David Brady and colleagues at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the new camera is not the first to generate images with more than a billion pixels (or gigapixel resolution). But it is the first with the potential to be scaled down to portable dimensions. Gigapixel cameras could not only transform digital photography, says Brady, but they could revolutionize image surveillance and video broadcasting.
Until now, gigapixel images have been generated either by creating very large film negatives and then scanning them at extremely high resolutions or by taking lots of separate digital images and then stitching them together into a mosaic on a computer. While both approaches can produce stunningly detailed images, the use of film is slow, and setting up hundreds of separate digital cameras to capture an image simultaneously is normally less than practical.
It is not possible to simply scale up a normal digital camera by increasing the number of light sensors to a billion, because this would require a lens so large that imperfections on its surface would cause distortion.