Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

A gigapixel image is a digital image bitmap composed of one billion (109) pixels (picture elements), 1000 times the information captured by a 1 mega pixel digital camera. Current technology for creating such very high-resolution images usually involves either making mosaics of a large number of high-resolution digital photographs or using a film negative as large as 12" × 9" (30 cm × 23 cm) up to 18" × 9" (46 cm × 23 cm), which is then scanned with a high-end large-format film scanner with at least 3000 dpi resolution. Only a few cameras are capable of creating a gigapixel image in a single sweep of a scene, such as the Pan-STARRS PS1 and the  Gigapixel Camera.

Gigapixel images may be of particular interest to the following:

  • Artists
  • Astronomers
  • Curators and art historians, to better study artworks
  • Genealogists
  • Health care providers, such as pathologists, for virtual microscopy utilizing whole slide images (digitally scanned glass microscope slides, also called virtual slides)
  • Physicists viewing the results of supercomputer stimulations.
  • Viewers of satellite composed  images for various purposes, including agricultural policy, land use planning, and  military intelligence .
  • Visual effects industry, where gigapixel images can enable the creation of immersive digital environments

Gigapixel technology is improving exponentially. It also suggests that we have an insatiable appetite for information beyond what our senses provide. We’ll soon be demanding gigapixel detail not only in exhibits and films, but in our home media viewing experiences as well.

While making a gigapixel image (a billion pixels) was considered an achievement in the 1990s, it may not be long before terapixel (1 thousand billion) and petapixel (1 million billion) images are as passé as the gigapixel. One can already go on a virtual tour and visit Paris at  26 gigs

Making the highest quality gigapixel images still takes specialized expertise, however, and extraordinary effort. Anyone today can buy a gigapixel robotic camera mount for $500 and start taking gigapixel images with their digital SLR.

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