From Mount to Mosaic, How Gigapixel Images Are Made

By Matthew Braga

Most digital cameras can produce images a few Megapixels in size. The Gigapan EPIC Pro mount, however, measures its photos in Gigapixels — an image one thousand Megapixels in size.

These days, making a panoramic image is relatively simple. A tripod and some good Photoshop stitching is all it takes to create a convincing, large-format image, perfect for impressing family and friends. But at around 14 Megapixels, the average resolution of a modern DSLR isn't much, not when compared to the Gigapan EPIC Pro, at least. This is a rig that does more than just take pictures — it takes thousands of them. And the resulting panoramic image has more megapixels than you ever thought possible.

This is the basis of Gigapixel photography, a means of taking pictures that have resolutions of 1000 Megapixels or more. There are a couple methods for creating such an image, both with film and digital, but the Gigapan method is by far the most prevalent. Because most common digital cameras have only a few Megapixels or more, a bit of creative processing is required to turn one's small compact camera into a Gigapixel workhorse.

immense scale they offer in comparison to a regular panoramas, so much so that people on streets or windows can be identified with staggering clarity. The result is an image like the one pictured below, totalling 45 Gigapixels, and shot using a Gigapan mount. 

Obama's inauguration can be easily viewed in a a large-scale fashion. 

 But how about film? As mentioned, it's also possible to create Gigapixel-sized images using film cameras, but only with special equipment. Before the advent of digital, the Gigapxl Project sought to "achieve a resolution equivalent to [at least] 1000 megapixels." By using 9"x18" format plates, Physicist Graham Flint hoped to achieve what he believed was the maximum possible resolution from currently used film equipment. The results would be digitized using a high-performance film scanner, and filled an entire DVD with data — the size of a final 4 Gigapixel image.

Images via Gigapixel Photography, Gizmodo.