MIT researchers build an overexposure-proof HDR camera

Any photographer who's ever overexposed a digital image is familiar with the results of that mistake: portions of the image are pure white, and even post-processing raw files can't bring back detail in those areas. That's because digital image sensors have only so many bits per pixel for recording intensity levels, and once the available bits are exhausted, or saturated, that pixel clips to white.

Researchers at MIT may have found a way around this problem, though. Their invention, called a "modulo camera," doesn't stop recording information once a pixel saturates its available bits. Instead, the modulo camera's pixels reset each time they're saturated during an exposure, and a count is made of the number of resets per pixel. Once the image is recorded, the researchers' accompanying algorithm uses this reset count to reconstruct the brightness of the actual scene at each pixel, before mapping those tone values into a viewable image.

As a result, not only is the modulo camera practically overexposure-proof, it can produce high-dynamic-range images from only one exposure, eliminating image degradation from blur due to subject movement in multiple-exposure HDR. MIT believes this technology could bring true one-click photography to the average camera user, and it also believes that the tech could be used in applications like computer vision and HDR video. We'll have to see whether those claims come to pass, but it'd be nice to never lose an important moment again due to the limitations of current camera technology.

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