Megapixels don’t mean much anymore.
Late last week Microsoft applied for a patent at the US Patent & Trademark Office for a 1.4 Gigapixel camera. What makes the camera unique, apart from the ridiculous resolution, is the way it creates an image.
Basically there are 4,096 CCDs inside the camera’s body, each capable of taking 0.34 Megapixel pictures. Each one of the 4,096 pictures will have an overlapping margin over the sensor next to it, so that when the entire gallery is combined as one image, the result is a smooth image of the subject. There’s an secondary camera inside the main body which wil have a field of view larger than the main lens in order to assist the main camera controls.
Furthermore there will be a thermoelectric device inside the main camera body to keep all the CCD sensors cool. There seems to be a “light source synchronized with the one or more digital sensors” in order to reduce the exposure time of an image. This isn’t necessarily a fancy way of saying the 1.4GP camera will have a flash.
The use of such cameras may well become integral for museums and even astrology as more detail is captured in a single image. The Dead Sea Scrolls coming online was made possible through a similarly high-res (although not as high as this) camera. This is an example of a 1.4 Gigapixel picture which is a combination of over 220 images stitched together. Imagine seeing a picture like this of space, from your backyard!