Get your gigapixels on if you really want to get into your next photos

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Cameras keep getting smaller but at least in some quarters, pictures are getting limitless in size. A few companies are starting to offer the ability to make digital images that are measured in gigapixels, not megapixels.

Giga imagery isn't that new, but it's getting more prevalent, cheaper and easier for the general public to attempt with even the least expensive point-and-shoot digital cameras on the market.

What's that mean? It means you can take an image like this shot from President Obama's inauguration, which is fairly standard as a long-range image ...


And zoom in nearly limitlelsly and without quality degradation to something like this ...


In fact, this image, which really is best viewed for full effect here, has made quite an impression online because of the zoomability. Viewers make a game of scanning the crowds in high detail to find famous faces and unusual people. Give it a try if you have an extra hour of time and a good attention span.

Photographer David Bergman gives these details of the shot:

I made this Gigapan image from the north press platform during President Obama's inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009. It's made up of 220 images and the final image size is 59,783 X 24,658 pixels or 1,474 megapixels.

These images can be produced with anything from a simple point-and-shoot camera to and expensive digital SLR and a piece of fairly inexpensive equipment you can get for yourself from a company called GigaPan.

And there are plenty of studios, like Gigapixel in Canada, shooting images that can be commissioned, as well. Here's a look at a particularly cool work of theirs, which again, is best viewed on the zoomable link here:


Which gets you ultraclose like this:


As Gigapixel explains it, these aren't enlargements like you might be used to, but huge patchwork quilts, in essence, made up of hundreds or even thousands of smaller images that are stitched together.

Gigapixel images are created by tiling a large number of photographs, or scanning a large film negative (8" x 10"). Gigapixel images are displayed on-line using streaming technology which breaks the image into small tiles and loads them as you look. This allows you instantly view high-resolution images that are over several gigabytes in size.

It's probably not the type of photography you'll be hanging on a wall - unless you have REALLY big walls, but it sure is cool to poke around and find all the details that go unnoticed in standard photography, hidden in the small corners and details that everyday photo technology can't deal with.

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Since the moment I started to use this camera, I have been having so much fun with it. It takes beautiful pictures. Years ago, in the old film days, I had a Canon EOS slr, but once digital came along I just drifted into a point and shoot. If I tried to do anything slightly interesting with the little camera, it would come out grainy or cartoonish. So going from that to this is just WOW. And it's actually very easy to use. It also has a nice feature that helps clean dust from the sensor. The lens that comes with the camera is great. But you will probably also want to buy an additional zoom lens to get started. At any rate, I really can't say enough about it. I would definitely buy this camera again.

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