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A 195 Gigapixel Photo of Shanghai

The picture below may seem like just another panorama image of Shanghai, and it is, in a way. What distinguishes this image, at least when you look at it from the original source here, is that it is enormous.

It’s so big and so high-definition that you would be able to make out shop names, license plate numbers and people taking selfies if you wanted to. And yes, we tried and found all of the above-mentioned things. When we first saw this image, several questions popped up in our minds:

Just how big is it and how was it created? Who shot it and, most importantly, why? In this article, we will answer these questions and share with you some of our and other website’s best finds in this picture, some of which are just bizarre..
Shanghai HD panorama zoomed out

Just How Big Is This Picture?

Good-quality images are nothing new, but this picture brings high-definition to a whole new level. It is 195 billion pixels big. However, generally speaking, we measure image quality in megapixels, which makes this image 195.000-megapixel big.
For comparison, an excellent phone camera produces 12-megapixel images. Surprisingly, it’s only the world’s 3rd biggest picture. However, it is the biggest picture taken in Asia. The photo is a 360-degree panorama and offers a complete view of the city on a bright sunny day.
Shanghai HD panorama zoom in demonstration step by step
This lets the viewer zoom into any part of the image, changing the direction and the closeness of the image with either special handles or with hand gestures from touch-screen devices. And boy can you zoom in… As you can probably tell from these photos, the precision is so alarmingly high that it causes goosebumps.

How Was the Image Created?

The photo was taken from the city’s second tallest point, the Oriental Pearl Tower. It was combined together from thousands of photos taken by ordinary cameras with special lenses that can capture close up images.
Shanghai HD panorama cars
The creators used a special image-stitching technology, and all in all, they combined 8,700 photos together. The final product occupies 2.6 terabytes of memory.

Who Created This Photo and Why?

This is by far the most controversial subject. The image was created in 2015 by a Chinese company called Bigpixel Technology to let people from all corners of the Earth see the city close-up.
Shanghai HD panorama people eating
Sadly, the photo was made popular by western media sources in 2018 under a false story. What popularized the picture was a classic example of scare tactics. The media spread rumors about the photo being a test of a Chinese spying device, mounted on a satellite using "quantum technology".
And in a sense, they are right, as being able to zoom in to someone’s facial expression while they are eating lunch can be considered spying. Jokes aside, not by any stretch of the imagination, the possession of such technology could very well be used in all kinds of purposes, including spying.
Shanghai HD panorama people waving

And even if we trust hi-tech companies not to sell this kind technology to potentially-dangerous agencies, this photo itself can already be considered an invasion of privacy.

No matter what your stance is on the morals of the matter, we hope you enjoyed this article. We write a lot about all sorts of amazing photography and technological advancements, so here’s a random taste: Teach Kids to Use Technology Wisely and 14 Impressive Moments That Scientists Have Documented.

Shanghai HD panorama close up demonstration
Image source: bigpixel
H/T: dezeen
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