A megapixel equals one thousand pixels or, as George Bush referred, one thousand tiny points of light. Light sensors of thousands of pixels brought about digital cameras. While most cameras range around 16 megapixels, researchers at the University of Arizona and Duke University are synchronizing sensors together to produce the first camera to capture 50 gigapixels. That’s 50,000 megapixels. Imagine it as five times the acuity of 20/20 vision.
The evolving quest of finding the right digital camera brings new studies that revolutionize the scale of camera design and use. A few years ago, the SLR camera floundered on how to maintain the comfortable and precise professional camera in a digital world. Nikon developed the D200 as its first serious entry. A commercial success, the camera showed several weaknesses on where the sensor was positioned and the type of sensor being used. The new Nikon D800, at nearly $3,000 for the body alone, is likely to be the popular successor to the D200. What dreams lie ahead?
The researchers believe that within five years, as the electronic components of the cameras become miniaturized and more efficient, the next generation of gigapixel cameras should be available to the general public. For now, this camera is an approximate 2-1/2 foot cube.
Theoretically, the concept of developing a 50-gigapixel camera tends to redefine theories central to photography as an art and a science. In cameras of conventional design, lens speed and field of view decrease as lens scale increases. The experimental system suggests that lens speed and field of view can be scaled independently in microcamera-based imagers resolving up to 50 gigapixels. This may transform the central challenge of photography from the question of where to point the camera to that of how to mine the data.
Sophisticated photo sensors are used in satellites, telescopes, and many other types of scientific observation equipment. Surgically, research has been slowly evolving to develop bionic eyes for the visually challenged.
The concept of having the ability to, one day, have miniature 50-gigapixel sensors in our reach may shed new light on how we see the world around us.