Imaging: the future

FARHAT BASIR KHAN zooms in on the heart of motion in a picture  

Published: Thursday 15 April 2010

When an invention gets experts as varied as photographers, heart researchers, biotechnologists, physicists, security strategists and academicians interested, it merits discussion.

imageWe are talking about the new camera that captures high megapixel images and videos simultaneously. The way our eyes perceive motion is about to change. The most expensive digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera would give you either a still or a high definition video but never both together.

The new camera combines technology of existing cameras and video projectors, credit for which goes to two heart researchers, Peter Kohl and Gil Bub, from the UK’s Oxford University. When photographers try to capture motion or scientists record an event that occurs in the fraction of a second there is motion blur; critical details are lost. Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the British Heart Foundation, the camera manages to capture motion in its entirety and without a single blur.

The device takes still images at high speed and then superimposes the entire stack of images onto each other. The resultant picture can be viewed in two ways—single images or a motion video in which the stills come alive in quick succession. When a camera takes an image, it fires the shutter and activates all the photo sites on the sensory chip. There is a time gap if you want to click again immediately because the photo sites take time to re-activate. In other words, several bursts of the shutter can capture several images of motion but with an obvious time lag.

Intricate details are lost in the rigmarole. This camera manages to overcome that by equally dividing its chip into simultaneously activated photo sites and sequentially exposes each of them during the same time that the shutter remains open. So this camera is like several cameras clicking toge - ther to get you the real motion picture. The research was published on February 14 in Nature Methods.

A whole new world

To a photographer the camera means a brand new pair of eyes that can capture and replay each moment of life. Motion cannot get more real. Mapping the second-to-second changes in Formula One racing events to a trained athlete’s manoeuvres, the camera will revolutionize sports photography.

The possibilities in science are endless. It could help researchers map something as unique as the meticulous unfolding of a calcium molecule in the heart to the perfect discharge of a drop of milk on a surface. The discovery of animal and plant species and their protection would be significantly enhanced. In astronomy, planetary positions could be mapped more accurately. The CCTV industry is set to progress. Missing any detail of a terror attack would be impossible.

Farhat Basir Khan teaches at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.