MIT scientists have designed a new camera that will never overexpose a photograph, no matter what the lighting situation is. Called a “modulo camera,” it captures a high dynamic range photo with every exposure.
Instead of capturing multiple photos at different exposures, as with traditional HDR imaging, the camera only requires a single exposure.
In conventional camera sensors collect photons like buckets collecting raindrops. When a “bucket” gets filled up, any additional “water drops” (i.e. photons) will be discarded, and that information is lost. In the resulting photo, that pixel will show up as pure white.
With the modulo camera, each bucket is emptied whenever it fills up during an exposure. This means that when the exposure ends, all the buckets have some kind of useful information in them. By taking into account the number of resets for each bucket, the camera can figure out the relative brightness for each pixel.
“No more will photographers or even ordinary people have to fumble with aperture size and exposure length,” writes lead scientist Hang Zhao. “The algorithm would enable people simply to click the camera button and let the computer deal with exposure problems.”
“The modulo camera can potentially transform the way everyday photography works.”
Here are some sample images showing the differences of the same scene captured with a traditional camera and with a modulo camera:
Here’s a short 2-minute video that explains how the modulo camera works:
No word yet on if or when we’ll see modulo cameras arrive in the photography industry and disrupt the way cameras are made. If you’re interested in learning more about the technology, you can read the research paper for yourself here.