Super Resolution Images

The past several posts have been on panoramas. While classic landscape panoramic images are interesting, they are hard to display at a size where they can be appreciated and enjoyed. However, the technique used to make classic landscape panoramic images has other uses even for those of us without a 30 foot long wall.
Here’s a good non-panoramic image application for image stitching software, specifically a program capable of stitching multi-row, multi-column images – like ICE mentioned yesterday. Have you ever looked (drooled) over the digital medium format cameras – maybe a top of the line Hasselblad with 60 megapixels and a $42,000 price tag? Me either, but that sort of resolution could come in handy for some users. I’m a volunteer national park service photographer and may soon have access to a Hasselblad (roughly half the price and resolution of their top of the line). The park service has this Hassey because of their requirement for very large prints in places like visitor centers.
Well that’s interesting, but what does it have to do with panorama stitching software? Using stitching software, I could turn my 12 megapixel Nikon D300 into a high resolution monster extending into the gigapixels if needed. (If you’re not familiar with the GigaPan rage check it out.) All that it takes is a little time (to shoot lots of images that will be stitched together). Or, I could make the same 31-megapixel image with the D300 as with the park service’s Hassey by shooting something like nine overlapping images – 3 rows x 3 columns. There are some drawbacks using my little SLR besides having to make nine images rather than just one. Most notably – the subject can’t be moving (much). And, of course, there’s the extra post-processing. There are some pluses though – one notable advantage (with today’s designs, at least) is that higher end DSLR’s have far better noise performance than the Hassey (ISO in the 10,000’s vs. 800) meaning that there may be shots that could be made with the stitched approach that the Hassey would miss.
To illustrate my point, consider these two images. The top image is a single wide angle shot made with a 16mm lens. After making this shot I changed lenses to a 135mm lens and reproduced this scene (actually only the top half) with 51 (17×3) stitched images for a resulting 250 megapixel image (500 if I’d finished the entire scene). The 2nd image below is a segment from the stitched image showing the view at the end of the street. This “slice” is 12 megapixels in size (exactly the same WxH dimensions as the original wide angle shot).  The benefit of the greater resolution is obvious (and, trust me, the names on the street sign are readable when viewed at full size) – and this is at 135mm, just imagine what you’d see with a long telephoto.
Unless someone has some questions or suggestions of things to try, this is probably it for panoramas and stitching software. Have fun!

For some mind boggling panoramic images (click on the slide show button for some amazing examples of the detail available – in 10 gigapixels!).

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