Canon Patents Star-Tracking Stabilization and Pixel Shifting for High-Res Photos


Think subject tracking in camera is impressive? Future Canon digital cameras may have image stabilization systems that can track stars. At least, that’s what a recently published Canon patent seems to suggest. The company may also be working on technology that can produce higher resolution photographs by shifting the camera sensor.

Both patents were first spotted by Japanese camera site Egami. The first one is for an astro-tracking image stabilization unit:


Canon already sells a DSLR specifically designed for astrophotography, the Canon 60Da, and this technology would likely be complementary to specialized filters and low-noise sensors (like the ones found in the 60Da).

The patent reveals that the system would be able to automatically track stars and celestial objects using data from the camera (e.g. GPS, electronic level) and by calculating the speed and direction of the stars as they traverse the sky.

A second patent published recently describes a system for capturing high resolution photographs by exposing the sensor multiple times and combining the shots.


The technology appears to use “pixel shifting” by slightly shifting the sensor and/or the lens in order to capture more of the scenes information across multiple photos. These ever-so-slightly shifted photos would them be combined in-camera for an image that has higher resolution than a single exposure.

(via CanonWatch [2])

Image credit: Baja night sky by king damus

  • Amadeusz Leonardo Juskowiak

    Did Hasselblad forget to patent their Multi Shot?

  • Rob

    I wonder if a 7Da or a 6Da is on the horizon?

  • Jon M

    Sensor “shifting” technology has been around for a while in the world of microscopes. The Jenoptic ProgRes CFscan / MFscan uses a 1.4 mega pixel CCD sensor and shifts it to make a 12.5 mega pixel image. I’d be interested to know how they plan on using the technology because the potential is there to make enormous image.

  • SCowdery

    Pentax has had that exact system for a couple of years now…

  • CanonUser

    Pentax has had this for years. It’s called the O-GPS1. ROFL canon

  • A. Jansen

    You are correct – Pentax has had this for quite some time, and for only $199 with the hot-shoe adapted GPS. It calculates the amount needed to shift the sensor (a boon of Pentax’s in-body image stabilization that someone ingeniously put to this task) and does it over the course of one exposure, not the many needed to be bracketed here according to this write up. I’ve seen exposures of 45sec and over with 200mm lenses and not a single star trail. Super impressive.

  • DoverOs

    Given that most stars are too far away to be picked up as meter-able points by most light sensors, I would think that this GPS star system would have to be extremely advanced.

  • benny

    You don’t need to meter astro shots, unless you’re shooting the moon or something. You generally want as much light as you can get. Also, as mentioned above, the O-GPS1 has been doing this for a few years. I assume they’re doing something different to Pentax if they’re able to get the patent though.

  • Michael Flaherty

    Seems like there would be a limit to the time you could track, which is not the case with a conventional tracking mount. If the camera does not move then the lens or the sensor would, thus limiting the time you could track. Not a problem if you use modestly high ISOs, so if the sensor electronics can handle that you’re set.

  • Steffen Graumann
  • sayithere

    Jon, Pentax has been using sensor shifting technology since their first dslr. and this shifting mechanism can be used for panoramic shots as well as for star-tracking using Pentax Astro Tracer.

  • Jon M

    1990 – In cooperation with Kontron Elektronik, Jenoptik Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH developed new digital cameras, the first scanning cameras in the world: ProgResĀ® 3008 and ProgResĀ® 3012