Four gigapixel cameras: peek into hotel rooms 3km away

"Ethan Zuckerman has a post about the Really Big Pictures being made by Graham Flint. The photos are being taken with a 4 gigapixel camera and have enough resolution to see inside a hotel room window 3km away. Not only are the results amazing, but the tech to pull it off is really cool too."

So Flint has build a film camera. (Indeed, it's a really, really big camera.) It uses film magazines salvaged from U2 spy planes (Flint used to run one of Lockheed Martin's laser labs, which gave him access to some interesting technologyy.) It shoots 460mm x 230mm film stock using lenses that are anywhere from 200mm to 500mm in length. Those lengths would usually be telephoto lenses – but with film this big, these lenses act like wide angles, letting Flint photograph landscapes from 10-20km away. No commercial lenses are sufficient for this work – he and his team grind their own lenses, made of six different types of glass, and custom fit them to 30 kilogram cameras. The sheer geekery required to build these cameras is astounding – and the geekery to take a shot (laser rangefinders, adjustment screws that are tuneable to a thousandth of a centimeter…) is profound as well. And then scanning and digitizing the picture involves hours, terabytes of storage, and lots and lots of touchups in Photoshop.


(Thanks, Grant!)