Gigapixel imaging technology can capture an incredible amount of detail that would otherwise be invisible to the human eye. Gigapixel cameras are not a new phenomenon; they are used in various surveillance systems and utilised in astronomical telescopes.
Up till now, gigapixel cameras have been very expensive and bulky in size (like the SLAC’s 3.2 Billion pixel camera), but the AWARE-2 device may just spark the beginning of a new generation of gigapixel cameras.
The AWARE-2 is a prototype gigapixel camera that is sealed inside a box the size of a bedside cabinet (75 centimeters x 50 centimeters x 50 centimeters). It weighs about 45 kilograms and consists of 98 micro-cameras (each with a 14 megapixel sensor) which surrounds a six centimeter ball-shaped lens.
According to project member David Brady, the AWARE-2 camera can record one gigapixel image in less than 1/10th of a second. Brady believes that the electronic system in the camera will shrink by (up to) a factor of four in the next generation. If this is true, and assuming the price drops to an affordable level for professional and amateur photographers, the next generation of gigapixel cameras may well be handheld devices that transform the art of photography.
Brady states that that the technology behind gigapixel cameras can be used to broadcast live events on the internet. Now, this is already possible, but the new perspectives, detail and resolution options provided by gigapixel cameras have not been seen before.
Currently, the cost of gigapixel cameras ranges from $100,000 to $250,000. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the price to drop to an affordable rate for the general public; I imagine that once the electronic systems improve the prices should gradually decrease.