It was only a few years ago that the first "megapixel" digital cameras arrived on the market at an affordable price. Now, you can pick up an 11 megapixel camera for around $100. Those first-generation 0.3 megapixel models, once the marvel of their time, are only found in cereal packets as giveaways.
After megapixels comes gigapixels, and the gigapixel photgraphy market has changed things again. Partly because such pictures are too large and detailed to view as a printout unless you happen to have a large building to paste the sheets onto. Which means dedicated viewer apps for computers and web browsers.
One of the first examples of gigapixel photos was a crowd scene at Barack Obama's inauguration, which weighed in at 1.47 GP. You can see it at http://www.davidbergman.net/gigapan/. But technology moves on quickly, and there's a shot of London at http://www.360cities.net/london-photo-en.html which is 80 GP. The current world record, though, is a massive 111 GP, featuring a panorama of Sevilla, Spain. You can see it at http://www.sevilla111.com/default_en.htm.
Interestingly, the technology to create such enormous pictures is easily available and not very expensive. All you need is a standard digital camera, and a device such as the Gigapan (http://gigapansystems.com/index.php?page=system-page) which starts at just $450. The Gigapan is a robotic platform onto which you mount your camera. The platform also has an arm which you attach to the shutter release button on your camera. The unit then takes a series of hundreds or thousands of pictures,moving the camera slightly each time, ready to be stiched into a single image with some special software.
Clever stuff indeed. Though I do wish that the industry would standardize on the way that the online viewers work. In some cases, moving your mouse to the left will pan the picture to the right, and in some cases it's the other way round.
My thanks to site user Jim for the pointer to the Seville picture and inspiring this article.