Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The World's Highest Resolution Photo

Well, actually it's a amalgamation of 220 photos using a robotic "gigapan machine" to create a single photo of President Obama's inauguration that is 59,783 X 24,658 pixels, or 1,474 megapixels. (To give you an idea of how big that is, the average digital camera these days is 10 megapixels.)

You can go to gigapan.com and browse the photo. (No, you don't have to download it all at once.) You can zoom in close enough to see Justice Clarence Thomas dozing off. You can see individual faces way out in the crowd. You can even see that YoYoMa uses a cheapo Canon digital camera. Amazing stuff, really.


83bj60 said...

It is truly unbelievable, in this age of multimegapixel cameras, that this post got no reponses whatsoever since it came out more than 5 months ago!!!

THANK YOU for putting this up, It's a perfect example of what is wrong with modern computer display technology!!!

Why a response only 4 months after? Simple: people like me have simply LOST HOPE of ever being able to even simply DISPLAY their ORDINARY digital camera's pictures full screen!

There are just NO adequate products in the marketplace to VIEW IN TRUE RESOLUTION what is produced by even the lowliest digital camera out there!!!

Can you tell me how come there are TONS of 32" and higher displays out there, and that most can't even attain TWO MEGAPIXEL? WHY would anyone want to see pictures with pixels the size of lentils?! Even worse, how can people even THINK they "NEED" a greater than 3 megapixel camera when they will most likley never be able to view than at higher than ONE MEGAPIXEL?! Why, in this day and age of 30 inch and larger so-called 'high-resolution' computer monitors, I am having so much trouble finding any that will beat my run-of-the mill, 15 year-old, 21 inch, 2048x1536 (3 megapixel) Trinitron monitor in image resolution?

WHAT'S WRONG WITH _THIS_ PICTURE?! WHY are there NO computer monitors able to view more than FOUR MEGAPIXEL (Dell's so called 'amazing', 'superb' 2560x1600 30 inch monitor, that BARELY exceeds my 6 year old digicam in resolution)?! THAT IS THE QUESTION!

Jungle Jil said...

Actually, there are several reasons why digital displays do not offer higher than 1920 x 1080 resolution.

The first is the human eye. I have a 60-inch HD TV in my house. Sitting at 9 feet away, my 20/20 vision is only barely able to detect a difference between 720 lines of resolution and 1080. If viewing devices were to double in resolution, there would be no change that could be visible by the human eye. (Or so little as to make it generally pointless.)

Take your old Trinitron monitor and set it next to another 21-inch monitor set to 1280 x 1024 or 1600 x 1200. Put the same picture full screen on both of them and lean back a couple of feet, and see if you can see major differences in clarity. You probably can't.

The second reason, of course is cost. Nobody is willing to pay the cost of manufacturing or purchasing a 2160-horizontal-line (or higher) screen.

I imagine the future will have higher resolutions, when plasma screens are wall-sized, and the desire to watch 2, 3, or 4 (or more) video sources in hi-def windows becomes popular.

But for now, with sizes under 100 inches, the inability of the eye to see lower detail, and the cost involved with the added resolution, monitors will stay at their current resolution.

There are high resolution displays out there. Digital projectors in theaters are 8 times HD resolusion.... 8,000-plus horizontal lines. They'll set you back $300,000 or more... but if you want to see your photos at high resolution, well there you go.

Or if you can't swing that kind of cash, you can always get to see more detail on the picture by just zooming in.

83bj60 said...

Your response is well taken and makes perfect sense when taken from the perspective of TV viewing of motion picture images viewed from very far, but makes no sense at all when taken from the perspective of still photography, especially landscapes.

I do agree with you that a picture such as the one you linked to in your post does have such a high resolution that, even when printed at 600 DPIs (which is the standard printing resolution), would make a perfectly crisp print, even close up, to such an extent that it would be impossible, when looked at maximum image detail, to view the whole scene at once (the actual dimensions in this case would be around the size of a sheet of gypsum board!)

Understanding human eye acuity (resolving power), we know that the standard human eye will see all the way down to about 0.1mmm at closest focusing distance of 8 inches (About 250 PPI - Printing needs DPI at a higher level because each pixel is made of several dots, hence the discrepancy between DPI and PPIs). How does that correspond with display resolution?

Well, for your 60 inch display at 9 feet distance (108 inches), the 0.1mm detail corresponds to .1 * (108/8) or about 1.35mm. Any screen with pixels smaller than that would not be able to generate more detail at that distance.

In your case, an HDTV screen of 1920x1080 with a 60" diagonal in that aspect ratio would have dimensions of roughly 52.3" x 29.4" or 1328 x 747 mm. Putting 1920 pixels on 1328 mm is indeed beyond human eye acuity, as it comes to a pixel size of .7 mm, much smaller than what the human eye would be able to distinguish at 9 feet.

It's no wonder you say you cannot gain benefit from that screen at much beyond 720 lines, which would theoretically make pixels of .7*(1080/720) or about 1.05mm, still below normal human eye acuity!

But what about viewing a landscape photograph taken at 8 megapixel (3264x2448) full screen? For viewing at 24 inches, a sharp image would require (0.1mm at 8 inches is 0.3 at 24) 3264x.3mmm in width or 38.5 inches, which coresponds at that image resolution to a display size with a diagonal of 48 inches!!!

So how can anyone truly grasp the beauty of a landscape and other moderately high resolution still photography, without resorting to paper prints, which are notoriously limited in dynamic range (typically a maximum of 5 f-stops, which corresponds to a contrast ratio of 1:32!!!)? Apart from the now discontinued IBM T221 (9 megapixels on a fairly small 22 inch screen), the best high resolution large monitor available today, the Dell 30" running at 2560 x 1600 (also sold under other brands), hardly breaks the 4 megapixel barrier!

As long as there are not going to be truly high resolution monitors for viewing digital photographs in their true splendor, what is the use of cramming ever more megapixels into any camera? What are the LCD manufacturers waiting for? Aren't there enough photographers out there to justify monitors with the same resolution that a standard modern digital camera can produce?

If this post is too far off topic, feel free to let me know. Thank you for posting my previous comment. It's just that I feel that the discrepancy between resolution in digital photography and display technology is so enormous that it must be adressed. Hence my initial comment, "What's wrong with this picture"! ;)

Jungle Jil said...

I suppose that the main reason, once again, for the fact that there are not computer monitors that have such high resolution (let's say 0.1 mm pixels) is (a) technology limitations, (b) cost limitations, and (c) market limitations.

Thanks for starting the discussion. It is interesting.

83bj60 said...

Thank you for giving me this forum to talk about the question! This has indeed been an interesting excercise in thinking more clearly about the issue. I'm glad I'm not the only 'nut' who likes high resolution imaging. It would seem that the conlusion is that for now, the best bet would be to get one of the Dell 30" LCDs, although one would have to be ready to spend something on the order of $1,500 (although I have seen it at below $1000 last year).

As for gigapixel size images, the first gigapixel photograph that I know of was created back in 2003 in a similar fashion to the one you posted, from many pictures stitched together. The author posted an interesting artcile on how it was done here: http://www.tawbaware.com/maxlyons/gigapixel.htm. I believe he also was one of the original pioneers in panoramic stitching software, PTAssembler. There is also a website dedicated to gigapixel size images, www.gigapixel.net, with a profusion of super high resolution pictures :)