Museum of Brisbane

What is a Gigapan camera?

We recently launched an exhibition of photographs of Brisbane between 1890-1940, mostly taken using a glass-plate negative camera. The technology is very old, however the quality of photo produced using one of these cameras is still better than many digital cameras today. This got us wondering, what are some of the more interesting cameras people are using today?

Brian Hand image

Coincidentally, Brain Hand contacted us about some photos he had taken of Brisbane using his gigapan camera and we needed to find out more. Meet Brian.

Museum of Brisbane (Museum): What is a Gigapan camera?
Brian Hand (BH): The Gigapan camera is a Camera Gantry System that was developed for NASA to take panoramic photographs of the surface of Mars in great detail.

Museum: What makes this camera so special?
BH: The Gigapan makes a very detailed single image from hundreds of full size images. The file size of a photograph can be around 5 Gigabytes, which is very large.

Museum: How many people are using Gigapan cameras?
BH: This is still a fairly new system and is used by few to date.

Museum: Why are they so rare?
BH: The equipment in heavy, the system is challenging and very time consuming. Each photograph takes an average of 5-10 minutes to expose, or longer.

Museum: You have taken many photos of Brisbane over the years. What is it about our city that interests you as a photographer?
BH: I am particularly drawn to the use of local sandstone in Brisbane’s architecture and historical buildings and the way it works alongside contemporary buildings of glass and steel. The green spaces are exciting and the Brisbane River runs as lifeblood through the city.

Museum: We are currently looking back on Alfred Elliott’s photos for the exhibition The view from here and making assumptions (educated guesses, some would say) about what Brisbane was like then. If someone found your collection of images in 100 years from now, what would you expect them to think of our city today?
BH: Perhaps … “Look how few buildings and people there are! And look they’re still driving personal petrol cars! I’m glad I don’t have to wear those outfits and where are all the drones?”

Click on the photo of City Hall to see how much detail a Gigapan camera can capture!