Here’s something fun for a friday afternoon! If you’ve read our article explaining megapixels, then you will know that modern digital cameras are getting more powerful by the day, and now have the ability to store far more information in a photograph, meaning you can zoom in far closer while keeping perfect detail.
This is great, and it’s amazing that such power can fit in a small personal camera, but have you ever wondered how far the tech can be pushed? Well, megapixel photos are old and busted - gigapixel images are the new hotness!
Gigapixel images, as the name suggests, are an order of magnitude larger than the standard megapixel images taken by your digital camera or smartphone. In fact, they can contain more than 1000 times the information of a normal smartphone photo! This means they contain an amazing amount of visual data, allowing for panoramic shots where you can zoom in several miles and read the writing on a sign!
For a good starting example, Gigapixel.com have taken a magnificent sunset photo of Edinburgh taken from atop Carlton Hill. I can see my old house!
So how are such enormous images put together? Well it’s actually a bit of a cheat - the gigapixel images are actually composite images created from a large group of individual high-resolution photos, stitched together with special software to form one unbroken image. To make sure the images are taken precisely a special robot camera mount is used, that will pan across the desired photoscape and take precise images far faster than any human could ever do.
Very powerful telephoto lenses allow the camera to take extremely detailed images of points far far in the distance, which would normally lack the context and information by themselves - but joined with hundreds or thousands of other images, and a giant gigapixel image starts to take shape! That is a very basic rundown of the tech - ‘Digital Synopsis’ has a better explanation.
The impetus for this article is an enormous image captured by a group called BigPixel - a 195 gigapixel image of Shanghai. 195 gigapixels is a ridiculously giant image - it has around 180,000 times the information of a standard smartphone photo! This enormous image can be viewed directly on their website - go take a look at Shanghai Lujiazui and just zoom around the image: you can spend ages just spotting small details of everyday life captured by the camera from miles away. It’s like a real-life ‘Where’s Wally’ picture!
Yet despite how large BigPixel’s photo is, it’s actually nowhere near the largest gigapixel photo in the world - that honour is currently held by a 2014 image of Kuala Lumpar. This is an astounding 846 gigapixels, and made up of over 55,000 individual photos! You can find more information on the Panaxity website, and we have included the image below for you to play around with. I apologize in advance if you lose a couple of hours just exploring this amazing snapshot of the city!