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Scientists create new camera technology

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Category: Technology

Science shaping the cameras of the future - How will we take photographs in the future? A group of Scientists have a plan.

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Research finds new way to take stills and video at the same time
Scientists from the University of Oxford have developed a revolutionary way of capturing a high resolution still image alongside very high-speed video – something that  could be used in both the science and consumer industry.

By combining off-the-shelf technologies found in standard cameras and digital movie projectors the scientists have successfully created a tool that will let you capture high-speed video and high resolution images at the same time.

In a press release, One of the scientists from the project, Dr Peter Kohl said: "Anyone who has ever tried to take photographs or video of a high-speed scene, like football or motor racing, even with a fairly decent digital SLR, will know that it's very difficult to get a sharp image because the movement causes blurring. We have the same problem in science, where we may miss really vital information like very rapid changes in intensity of light from fluorescent molecules that tell us about what is happening inside a cell. Having a massive 10 or 12 megapixel sensor, as many cameras now do, does absolutely nothing to improve this situation. Dr Gil Bub from my team then came up with a really great idea to bring together high-resolution still images and high-speed video footage, at the same time and on the same camera chip."

The new technology is already attracting interest from the scientific imaging sector but the scientists believe its low costs make it perfect for the consumer market.

Dr Kohl told ePHOTOzine: "Scientific imaging is what drove the development. Applications beyond that depend on moving from bench-top systems to compact on-chip implementation. Clear contenders range from consumer photography to high-end movie making...just think of the implementations to improve on 'bullet time' as used in The Matrix, for example."

During the research, which has been published in Nature Methods, the scientists found a way to divide all the camera's pixels into groups. These pixels act as if they're part of many individual cameras which can all take a picture during one normal exposure. The result is a high resolution image which can be used to create a picture or high-speed film.

The press release explained: "If you use 16 pixel patterns and sequentially expose each of them for one sixteenth of the time the main camera shutter remains open, there would be 16 time points at which evenly distributed parts of the image will be captured by the different pixel groups. You then have two choices: either you view all 16 groups together as your usual high-resolution still image, or you play the sixteen sub-images one after the other, to generate a high-speed movie."

Dr Kohl said: "The nice thing is that you can use slow frame rate capture, data streaming, etc. and you get both high-res images and fast (lower res) movies. You could even pick and combine for neat special effects."

The image at the top of this article was taken at the same time as a 400 fps video, on the same camera and it shows a drop of milk falling into a beaker of water. The BBSRC website says: "the still image has a 16 fold greater spatial resolution and can be decoded into the video frames played in sequence to reveal the high-speed motion content".

Dr. Mark Pitter from the University of Nottingham is planning to compress the new technology into an all-in-one sensor that could be put inside normal cameras.

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