A 489 Megapixel Camera For Not A Lot

The megapixel wars of a decade ago saw cameras aggressively marketed on the resolution of their sensors, but as we progressed into the tens of megapixels it became obvious even to consumers that perhaps there might be a little more to the quality of a digital camera than just its resolution. Still, it’s a frontier that still has a way to go, even if [Yunus Zenichowski]’s 489 megapixel prototype is a bit of an outlier. As some of you may have guessed it’s a scanner camera, in which the sensor is a linear CCD that is mechanically traversed over the focal plane to capture the image line by line.

In the 3D printed shell are the guts of a cheap second-hand Canon scanner, and the lens comes from a projector. Both these components make it not only one of the highest resolution cameras we’ve ever brought you, but also by no means the most expensive. It’s definitely a work in progress and the results of a sensor designed for the controlled environment of a document scanner being used with real-world light leave something to be desired, but even with the slight imperfections of the projector lens it’s still a camera capable of some fascinating high-resolution photography. The files are all available, should you be interested, and you can see it in action in the video below the break.

It’s by no means the first scanner camera we’ve brought you, though some of the earlier projects now have dead links. It is however easily the one with the highest resolution.

26 thoughts on “A 489 Megapixel Camera For Not A Lot

  1. Scanning backs are an old idea that don’t work well. The problem is that they are only suitable for still scenes. Even landscape photographs often have things moving in portions, which result in unpleasant artefacts that require Photoshop work to remove. Meanwhile standard cameras are available with resolutions that quite happily support poster sized prints.
    Cheap? Yes. Good? No.

    1. I suppose there are two reasons for very high resolution: large prints and a highly zoomable image. Standard cameras are good enough for large prints, but you don’t get all that much zoomability. Even if you get a 100MP medium format camera, after 10X zoom, you’re down to 1MP. (That said, 489MP only gets you down to a little over 2MP at 10X zoom.)

    2. Wouldn’t that depend on the use case? If you wanted a really high resolution image of a thing and not a person or landscape. For example a painting? Or using it for macro photography?
      Isn’t it really just a case of the right tool for the right task?

  2. Cool.. I never considered a still camera. In the early 90s, I built several panoramic cameras from repurposed scanners. The camera was the easy part since most of the hardware needed was in the scanner. But dumping half a TB image into a PC that had a 120 MB HD was a challenge back then.

    1. For astrophoto you typically want bigger pixels to capture more light. Even for images of the moon, where there is plenty of light, you are limited in resolution by the atmosphere, and you are better served by a fast shutter and lucky imaging.

    2. Research astronomy cameras for doing large sky survey pictures are often so-called driftscan cameras. The telescope is pointed in a fixed direction and the rotation of the earth does the scanning as smoothly as could be imagined. If your camera is built to scan out megapixels per second you can imagine the final resolution of the images you get per night. The next night you aim the scope a little more (or less) north and repeat. Then you can cover the entire visible sky in a reasonable period of time at pretty high resolution.

  3. I feel like this camera could definitely have a few specific use cases where it could truly shine. First would be for macro work on subjects that do not move. The second would be product photos for selling items online. Obviously you don’t have to worry about moving subjects for this use case… Plus The good color rendering and ability to zoom in the photo could prove very valuable for enticing potential buyers. The last one would be taking photos of art pieces for digital cataloging. Again, don’t have to worry about subject moving and the ability to zoom in on the image further could prove useful for people who are looking for damage or signs of authenticity…. Idk, for a couple hundred dollars it would be a fun project with some potential useful applications, of course this is assuming you have access to a 3d printer…

  4. Attach macro lens for macro work . Tilt-shift lens for perspective change photos , zoom Lenz for zooming in etc. Need to capture extra? Make it pano and add extra lenses. Lots can be done .

  5. I’ve had a Canon LIDE 200 scanner that can scan an 8.5 x 11.7″ document at 4800 dpi and an Eskofot Ultragon lens that produces an 18″ image circle sitting in a box for this sort of project for years. I should be able to make a camera with 2.3 Gb resolution.

    The Canon scanners like to make a calibration pass before scanning, so I’ll have to figure out some way to disable the RGB LEDs after the calibration is done. Maybe just a switch.

    It’s going to be yuge!

    1. I am guilty of that video, guess I should have had better brakes installed. Will do it proper the next time around 👍
      Please also note that this wasn’t intended to be seen by many people. The drugs part really hit me hard.

      1. Ignore Shod, he is 100% trolling.

        It was clear, concise and well timed, 5 minutes is the perfect length for introducing the basics of a project.
        The music wasn’t my taste but it was relatively quiet compared to your voice so not at all intrusive.
        The Manual subtitles were an extra nice touch for accessibility.

        I look forward to seeing what you do next.

  6. Starting in 1994 I used the Leaf 3 pass digital system. It shot 3 images through primary red, green and blue filters via a rotating wheel attached to front of lens. 4 megapixel sensor x3 at 14 bits produced a very good quality 24mp image for use in advertising and catalog photography. We looked at and dismissed scanning backs as they were extremely slow and required huge amounts of continuous light. Sure, you could get a 340mb image, but it took at least half an hour under very hot halogen lights – this was before LED. Really killed production schedule for high volume jobs. Useless for photgraphing wax candles, ice cream, flowers, etc

  7. I actually built this camera about four months or so back after seeing this video on YouTube.

    Couple of thoughts.
    Focusing this thing is a series of trial an error and can take many attempts.

    The projector lens is not that great, definitely worth looking for something better.

    If you don’t print the gear components with a quality printer the belt will slip giving some interesting but annoying and unpredictable artefacts.

    It needs to be plugged in to a computer to work at all. I did toy with making it work with a pi but the other frustrations got me to give up on that convinence.

    This project got me interested in photography. Sense I’ve gotten a mirrorless camera and am almost done building a 4×5 large format camera.

    Down the line I plan to convert this camera in to a scanning back for the 4×5 camera.

    1. Hi, I am the guy that made the camera. Can’t believe people actually build it, especially since it wasn’t intended to be built just from the resources I provided (for example, I would have noted that a 0.2 mm nozzle is required for printing the gear). This might be an odd request, but could you send me a picture of your build? That would make me really happy :)
      Focusing becomes manageable, with a small aperture. I also hope you figured out that the sensor in the 3d model was oriented wrong. It should actually be flipped around.
      my email: y.zenichowski@gmail.com

  8. This made me wonder if it would be good for scanning photos. I know it seems stupid to convert a scanner to a camera only to scan stuff with but I’ve noticed that these cheap scanners don’t pick up a lot of detail in photos that have been scanned in. I’ve heared that taking a photo of the photo can bring up a lot more detail so I’m wondering if that is due to better lighting or something? Maybe a conversion of a scanner to a camera to scan photos is not as stupid as it seems.

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