Take a photo with any camera from far away -- whether it be with your smartphone or even high-end DSLR camera -- and then zoom in on one small part of the picture. That zoomed-in portion will appear pixilated -- not as crisp as the original shot.
But imagine a camera that could preserve the detail, even when you zoomed in on the tiniest detail of your shot.
That imagined camera is a reality, or at least it is at Duke University. Engineers at the Duke Imaging and Spectroscopy Program (DISP) have been working on the AWARE-2 camera, which has 98 sensors of 14 megapixels each, creating a 1-gigapixel image. That's 98 individual cameras. And to give you an idea of the detail, from 1 kilometer away (0.62 miles) the camera can show objects just 1.5 inches wide.
And the first images are pretty amazing. Click one of the links below and you will see a faraway shot, but when you zoom in you can see the detail of the image.
But it's going to be a while before we can pick up a gigapixel camera from Canon or Sony, or find a camera of that sort in a new smartphone.
"Everything works, but the challenge right now is that the electronics are too large. With the next generation we are shrinking the electronics," David Brady, a professor of engineering at Duke and Principal Investigator at DISP, told ABC News.
The version being used by the engineers weighs over 100 pounds and it only takes photos in black and white. DISP receives funding from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Still, Brady hopes to have a professional model of the camera ready before the end of the year. Brady hopes media companies will use the cameras to capture big events.
If and when it will be available for consumers is still up in the air. Lytro came out with the first consumer-grade light field camera this year, which allows you to focus after you take a shot, but it's not without its shortcomings (see our review).
Brady says that isn't the initial plan for the gigapixel camera. "Our initial market isn't for consumers; rather, we want to be able to give consumers these detailed photos that they can interact with."
To that end, Brady and his team has already been successful. You can interact with some of those first images at the links below.