David Brady, a professor of Photonics at Duke University and the leader of the team that developed the camera, said: "Each one of the microcameras captures information from a specific area of the field of view. A computer processor essentially stitches all this information into a single highly detailed image."
He added: " While novel multiscale lens designs are essential, the primary barrier to ubiquitous high-pixel imaging turns out to be lower power and more compact integrated circuits, not the optics."
Michael Gehm, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona who lead the team that developed the software that combines the input from the microcameras added: "Our current approach, instead of making increasingly complex optics, is to come up with a massively parallel array of electronic elements.
"A shared objective lens gathers light and routes it to the microcameras that surround it, just like a network computer hands out pieces to the individual work stations. Each gets a different view and works on their little piece of the problem. We arrange for some overlap, so we don't miss anything."
The prototype camera measures 76 x 76 x 50 cms. However, according to the researchers, the optics occupy only about three percent of this volume. The electronics and processors needed to assemble and process all the information gathered take up the bulk of space but miniaturisation, made possible in part by volume production would reduce this significantly.
"The camera is so large now because of the electronic control boards and the need to add components to keep it from overheating," Brady said, "As more efficient and compact electronics are developed, the age of hand-held gigapixel photography should follow."
The camera was developed by a team led by Brady along with scientists from the University of Arizona, the University of California – San Diego and Distant Focus Corporation with support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Details have been published in Nature.
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