Jean-Piere Luevano, !%Dalsa Corp.%!
It’s your first visit to the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal or some equally breathtaking location. You take numerous photographs in an attempt to capture the awe you felt the first time you saw it. And then your pictures come back dull and flat.
Imagine a photograph that actually captures a place as you experienced it. This idea was the driving force behind the first camera developed more than 50 years ago by Seitz Phototechnik AG, a family-run business that makes high-precision cameras for professional photographers and serious amateurs.
The Seitz 6 x17 digital camera is the result of a collaboration with Dalsa Corp. and Computechnic AG.
Several years ago, the company sought to bring its film-based range of panoramic cameras into the digital age. Working closely with two divisions of Dalsa Corp. of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and with Computechnic AG of Rorschacherberg, Seitz developed a digital scan back and two panoramic cameras that successfully capture the essence of a locale in pictures.
The sensing solution behind realistic images is the result of years of research, design and development teamwork.
“When Seitz started its transition to digital technology in 2003, only time-delay-integration (TDI) technology allowed the high-speed and virtually unlimited resolution options required for Seitz’s scanning cameras,” said Urs Krebs, head of marketing, sales and business development at Seitz. At that time, no color TDI sensor was available off the shelf for the company’s demanding digital photography requirements, which included:
• Horizontal resolution: 7520 pixels, with 200 stages.
• Readout speed: 300 MB/s.
• Dynamic range: 11 f-stops.
Forming a team
Although Seitz had extensive camera hardware and software design expertise, it recruited help to develop the exceptional digital cameras it envisioned. It chose to work with Dalsa for sensor development because it was impressed with the company’s capabilities. “Dalsa was very responsive to our needs and was keen to initiate a project with us,” Krebs said.
Computechnic was brought onboard to develop electronics and image capture software for Zermatt, the digital camera development project. At one point, the team consisted of five engineers from Dalsa’s offices in Canada and Eindhoven, the Netherlands, four Computechnic and four Seitz team members.
To meet the needs of its customers in industries ranging from fine arts photography to computer-generated imagery/3-D modeling to street mapping, Seitz set out to develop a digital platform and scan back that could accommodate two different cameras. When engineering the digital camera system over the course of several years, the Seitz/Dalsa/Computechnic team encountered and overcame many minor – and several major – challenges.
First, the team found that, because of the nature of color TDI imaging, standard ways of working with digital image capture required significant improvements. As a result, processing, calibration and hardware optimization were redesigned practically from scratch to obtain high-quality output.
During this time, Dalsa successfully redesigned the Zermatt sensor to improve some critical performance parameters; e.g., it increased antiblooming to more than 80 dB, the industry’s best performance for CCDs. It also redesigned the module’s electronics, which improved crosstalk among the sensor’s outputs while also reducing noise.
The results were introduced to the public in 2006 at Photokina, the world’s biggest trade fair for the photographic and imaging industries, when Seitz showed prototypes of its model 6 x 17 (160 million pixels) digital camera and its Roundshot D3 360° digital scanning camera.
The Canary Wharf business district in London, as imaged by David Osborn with a Seitz 6 x 17 camera. Courtesy of www.britishpanoramics.com.
With its ability to capture 300 MB/s, the D3 is the fastest digital scanning system available. Providing full medium-format resolution of 60-mm/7520 pixels and gigapixel images, it offers unparalleled image definition. And, with its ability to generate vivid colors (16-bit raw, 48-bit tiff) within a high dynamic range of 11 f-stops, the photographic quality, combined with the camera’s ease of use, is simply “lovely,” according to David Osborn, a London-based fine arts and corporate photographer.
“Setting up and taking your first picture with the Seitz 6 x 17 digital camera is as speedy as using a [model] 5 x 4 camera,” Osborn said. “And the quality is beautiful.”
Osborn is one of several photographers who provided feedback about the Seitz 6 x 17 digital camera as it was being developed.
Westminster Palace, also imaged by David Osborn using the Seitz panoramic camera. Courtesy of www.britishpanoramics.com.
“This camera is a perfect match for my subject matter, which is landscapes and architectural portraits,” he said.
It was such a good match that, in April 2010, he purchased his own 6 x 17 digital camera, with plans to use it to carve a niche for himself taking high-quality, large-format commercial and fine-art images.
Meet the author
Jean-Pierre Luevano is the international sales manager at Dalsa Corp.; e-mail: jp.luev firstname.lastname@example.org.