Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.

— George Eastman.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I saw it reported today in that Duke University has built a camera that takes 1 gigapixel images. What? Gigapixel? For someone who has been longing for the 36 megapixel Nikon D800 I had to stop and think a moment. Yep, 1 gigapixel. That is 1,000 megapixels. Talk about large format digital. The article then went on to say that they are now in the manufacturing phase of a 10 gigapixel camera. That is more than 275 times the image size of the Nikon D800 and almost 420 times the image size of the new Nikon D3200.

Duke University's One Gigapixel Camera
So, out of curiosity, I decided to Google  "gigapixel camera" and was really surprised. has a picture of a 4 gigapixel camera that is described as being able to "shoot 4 football fields and capture every blade of grass". Then I see where Microsoft Research in Beijing has a 1.6 gigapixel camera that looks very much like a conventional view camera.

David Brady of Duke University is quoted in the journal Nature as saying that the camera "records a one gigapixel image in less than a 10th of a second", capturing details invisible to the human eye. The article then goes on to say that as the electronics improve, the price should become affordable for professional and serious amature photographers within about 5 years.

So, there it is, not one but several gigapixle-plus cameras that today cost a $100,000 to $250,000 dollars and in 5 years I should be longing for Nikon's latest gigapixel DLSR.

I am saddened by several things around this story, however. I've posted about my experiences with digital photography previously. I mourn the condition of Kodak, which as much as anything or anyone helped shape my photography. Remember that digital photography was invented by Kodak—here, in the United States. As recently as 2005 Kodak was number one in digital camera sales in the United States. Now, not only is Kodak in bankruptcy, it is trying to sell its patents for digital photography and, most recently, has sued Apple to keep them from interfering with the sale of those patents. So, what do I have to look forward to in my dreams of a gigapixel Nikon?
I'm concerned that not only is Microsoft building gigapixel cameras, but they are doing it in China! I would be much happier buying my gigapixel Nikon if it said "MADE IN USA". Why is it that Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes build cars in the US and make a profit and GM couldn't. How did Kodak, the inventor of digital photography, not only let their previous business (film) get away from them, but so badly fumbled on digital photography? I guess the best I can hope for is some American company buying Kodak's patents. I'm just afraid that if that buyer is Apple or Microsoft they will have no problem figuring out how to monetize those patents at the expense of all photographers.

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