We all got excited when Apple announced that the iPhone 14 Pro will boast of an upgraded 48-Megapixel camera. How does that compare to the rest of phone cameras or even the actual cameras? Does that mean that the industry standard should now be shifting to the new iPhone? Actually, what IS the industry standard when it comes to pixels and how does that relate to art?
Commercially available digital cameras come in the range of 20 to 50 Megapixels and phone cameras usually hovers to the limit of 20 Megapixels. With the iPhone 14 shooting close to the 48 Megapixel mark, shows that Apple is ready to tackle renowned brands like Nikon and Canon. Of course, that is almost like comparing apples to oranges, because what an actual camera can do, when it comes to capturing reality in its truest focus and aperture, even an upgraded 48-Megapixel phone camera cannot do. Which does explain the size of an actual camera to the miniature technology in a mobile phone.
So, when it comes to taking a picture of an artwork, what do we use to capture the most detail?
The museum industry decided to go with a Hasselblad H6D, which is a USD 30K+ monster, capable of depth of field of just 125 micrometers, which is equivalent to one-eighth of a millimeter (0.005 inch.)
Museums went to work on the celebrated “The Night Watch” by Rembrandt. Or we can go with the more formal titles of “The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch” or “Militia Company District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banning Cocq.”
(I understand why they would simply call it “The Night Watch.”)
The actual painting measures a whooping 363 cm by 437 cm (142.9 in by 172 in) and is a perfect example of how Rembrandt could tell a whole story in just one painting.
The photograph of this artwork had to come up to the magnificence of the original and the Hasselblad was put to test to deliver details to such precision that the distance between pixels were averaged at 5 micrometers (0.00002 in). Each pixel came down to less than the size of a human red blood cell.
The images captured were processed digitally using a deep neural network, which worked to make sense of the tons of images that needed to be put together, polished, restored and arranged to match the real painting to the most fidelity technology can allow for.
The result is a 717-billion-pixel image of “The Night Watch” that provides more detail to the naked eye than ever before, more than if you could press your nose against the panting (which the museum will not allow – so no, not an option) and scrutinize using a lens.
It took 8,439 actual 100-Megapixel shots to conjure this magnificent tribute to one of the most celebrated artworks in the world.
Rembrandt did not deserve any less.
By comparison, the previous record holder for the highest resolution photo was the 127-billion-pixel image of New York City made by EarthCam.