Super sensitive Seiko cam stares into the Sun

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Jun 26, 2007
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Anyone over four years old still strugglingwith the ability of the human eye to look directly into the Sun is probablyalready barking mad, but at least Seiko Epson can cheer them up with news ofits new super-sensitive camera.

The Japanese firm which has,apparently, been troubled by the problem of getting its cameras to work inconditions as bright as the aforementioned star-gazing or as dark as a moonlitnight claims a solution in the shape of a working prototype video camera [Subscription link].

Contrasting results

The ‘High Dynamic Range Video Camera’specialises in sharply contrasting backgrounds, such as trying to work out whatit sees in the foreground when bright light illuminates it from the rear.

This might happen in the case of acaller on a door videophone on a bright day or when automatic train systemsstruggle with seeing inside a dark tunnel as the highly illuminated exitapproaches.

Technically, this is known as abroad contrast ratio, something that’s rated in this case as 120dB. That’s 50dBbroader than current video cameras.

Smart processing

The magic is achieved by capturing120 frames of video per second and splitting them into three groups accordingto their brightness. Algorithms pick out the clearest from each group andcombine them into a final 30fps video.

Although it all soundsslightly esoteric, Seiko does see a market for its camera in these situationsand also, possibly, as a rear-facing navigation aid for car drivers. It alsohopes to have something on the market within nine months.