Digital image

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A digital image is an image composed of picture elements, also known as pixels, each with finite , discrete quantities of numeric representation for its intensity or gray level that is an output from its two-dimensional functions fed as input by its spatial coordinates denoted with x, y on the x-axis and y-axis, respectively. [1] Depending on whether the image resolution is fixed, it may be of vector or raster type. By itself, the term "digital image" usually refers to raster images or bitmapped images (as opposed to vector images).[ citation needed ]



Raster images have a finite set of digital values, called picture elements or pixels. The digital image contains a fixed number of rows and columns of pixels. Pixels are the smallest individual element in an image, holding quantized values that represent the brightness of a given color at any specific point.

Typically, the pixels are stored in computer memory as a raster image or raster map, a two-dimensional array of small integers. These values are often transmitted or stored in a compressed form.

Raster images can be created by a variety of input devices and techniques, such as digital cameras, scanners, coordinate-measuring machines, seismographic profiling, airborne radar, and more. They can also be synthesized from arbitrary non-image data, such as mathematical functions or three-dimensional geometric models; the latter being a major sub-area of computer graphics. The field of digital image processing is the study of algorithms for their transformation.

Raster file formats

Most users come into contact with raster images through digital cameras, which use any of several image file formats.

Some digital cameras give access to almost all the data captured by the camera, using a raw image format. The Universal Photographic Imaging Guidelines (UPDIG) suggests these formats be used when possible since raw files produce the best quality images. These file formats allow the photographer and the processing agent the greatest level of control and accuracy for output. Their use is inhibited by the prevalence of proprietary information (trade secrets) for some camera makers, but there have been initiatives such as OpenRAW to influence manufacturers to release these records publicly. An alternative may be Digital Negative (DNG), a proprietary Adobe product described as "the public, archival format for digital camera raw data". [2] Although this format is not yet universally accepted, support for the product is growing, and increasingly professional archivists and conservationists, working for respectable organizations, variously suggest or recommend DNG for archival purposes. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]


Vector images resulted from mathematical geometry (vector). In mathematical terms, a vector consists of both a magnitude, or length, and a direction.

Often, both raster and vector elements will be combined in one image; for example, in the case of a billboard with text (vector) and photographs (raster).

Example of vector file types are EPS, PDF, and AI.

Image viewing

Image viewer software displays images. Web browsers can display standard internet image formats including JPEG, GIF and PNG. Some can show SVG format which is a standard W3C format. In the past, when the Internet was still slow, it was common to provide "preview" images that would load and appear on the website before being replaced by the main image (to give at preliminary impression). Now Internet is fast enough and this preview image is seldom used.

Some scientific images can be very large (for instance, the 46 gigapixel size image of the Milky Way, about 194 Gb in size). [11] Such images are difficult to download and are usually browsed online through more complex web interfaces.

Some viewers offer a slideshow utility to display a sequence of images.


The first scan done by the SEAC in 1957 NBSFirstScanImage.jpg
The first scan done by the SEAC in 1957
The SEAC scanner SEACComputer 031.jpg
The SEAC scanner

Early digital fax machines such as the Bartlane cable picture transmission system preceded digital cameras and computers by decades. The first picture to be scanned, stored, and recreated in digital pixels was displayed on the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC) at NIST. [12] The advancement of digital imagery continued in the early 1960s, alongside development of the space program and in medical research. Projects at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, MIT, Bell Labs and the University of Maryland, among others, used digital images to advance satellite imagery, wirephoto standards conversion, medical imaging, videophone technology, character recognition, and photo enhancement. [13]

Rapid advances in digital imaging began with the introduction of MOS integrated circuits in the 1960s and microprocessors in the early 1970s, alongside progress in related computer memory storage, display technologies, and data compression algorithms.

The invention of computerized axial tomography (CAT scanning), using x-rays to produce a digital image of a "slice" through a three-dimensional object, was of great importance to medical diagnostics. As well as origination of digital images, digitization of analog images allowed the enhancement and restoration of archaeological artifacts and began to be used in fields as diverse as nuclear medicine, astronomy, law enforcement, defence and industry. [14]

Advances in microprocessor technology paved the way for the development and marketing of charge-coupled devices (CCDs) for use in a wide range of image capture devices and gradually displaced the use of analog film and tape in photography and videography towards the end of the 20th century. The computing power necessary to process digital image capture also allowed computer-generated digital images to achieve a level of refinement close to photorealism. [15]

Digital image sensors

The first semiconductor image sensor was the CCD, developed by Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith at Bell Labs in 1969. [16] While researching MOS technology, they realized that an electric charge was the analogy of the magnetic bubble and that it could be stored on a tiny MOS capacitor. As it was fairly straightforward to fabricate a series of MOS capacitors in a row, they connected a suitable voltage to them so that the charge could be stepped along from one to the next. [17] The CCD is a semiconductor circuit that was later used in the first digital video cameras for television broadcasting. [18]

Early CCD sensors suffered from shutter lag. This was largely resolved with the invention of the pinned photodiode (PPD). [19] It was invented by Nobukazu Teranishi, Hiromitsu Shiraki and Yasuo Ishihara at NEC in 1980. [19] [20] It was a photodetector structure with low lag, low noise, high quantum efficiency and low dark current. [19] In 1987, the PPD began to be incorporated into most CCD devices, becoming a fixture in consumer electronic video cameras and then digital still cameras. Since then, the PPD has been used in nearly all CCD sensors and then CMOS sensors. [19]

The NMOS active-pixel sensor (APS) was invented by Olympus in Japan during the mid-1980s. This was enabled by advances in MOS semiconductor device fabrication, with MOSFET scaling reaching smaller micron and then sub-micron levels. [21] [22] The NMOS APS was fabricated by Tsutomu Nakamura's team at Olympus in 1985. [23] The CMOS active-pixel sensor (CMOS sensor) was later developed by Eric Fossum's team at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1993. [19] By 2007, sales of CMOS sensors had surpassed CCD sensors. [24]

Digital image compression

An important development in digital image compression technology was the discrete cosine transform (DCT), a lossy compression technique first proposed by Nasir Ahmed in 1972. [25] DCT compression is used in JPEG, which was introduced by the Joint Photographic Experts Group in 1992. [26] JPEG compresses images down to much smaller file sizes, and has become the most widely used image file format on the Internet. [27]


In digital imaging, a mosaic is a combination of non-overlapping images, arranged in some tessellation. Gigapixel images are an example of such digital image mosaics. Satellite imagery are often mosaicked to cover Earth regions.

Interactive viewing is provided by virtual-reality photography.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charge-coupled device</span> Device for the movement of electrical charge

A charge-coupled device (CCD) is an integrated circuit containing an array of linked, or coupled, capacitors. Under the control of an external circuit, each capacitor can transfer its electric charge to a neighboring capacitor. CCD sensors are a major technology used in digital imaging.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Digital video</span> Digital electronic representation of moving visual images

Digital video is an electronic representation of moving visual images (video) in the form of encoded digital data. This is in contrast to analog video, which represents moving visual images in the form of analog signals. Digital video comprises a series of digital images displayed in rapid succession, usually at 24 frames per second. Digital video has many advantages such as easy copying, multicasting, sharing and storage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pixel</span> Physical point in a raster image

In digital imaging, a pixel, pel, or picture element is the smallest addressable element in a raster image, or the smallest point in an all points addressable display device. In most digital display devices, pixels are the smallest element that can be manipulated through software.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Raster graphics</span> Matrix-based data structure

In computer graphics and digital photography, a raster graphic represents a two-dimensional picture as a rectangular matrix or grid of square pixels, viewable via a computer display, paper, or other display medium. A raster is technically characterized by the width and height of the image in pixels and by the number of bits per pixel. Raster images are stored in image files with varying dissemination, production, generation, and acquisition formats.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Digital camera</span> Camera that captures photographs or video in digital format

A digital camera is a camera that captures photographs in digital memory. Most cameras produced today are digital, largely replacing those that capture images on photographic film. Digital cameras are now widely incorporated into mobile devices like smartphones with the same or more capabilities and features of dedicated cameras. High-end, high-definition dedicated cameras are still commonly used by professionals and those who desire to take higher-quality photographs.

Digital image processing is the use of a digital computer to process digital images through an algorithm. As a subcategory or field of digital signal processing, digital image processing has many advantages over analog image processing. It allows a much wider range of algorithms to be applied to the input data and can avoid problems such as the build-up of noise and distortion during processing. Since images are defined over two dimensions digital image processing may be modeled in the form of multidimensional systems. The generation and development of digital image processing are mainly affected by three factors: first, the development of computers; second, the development of mathematics ; third, the demand for a wide range of applications in environment, agriculture, military, industry and medical science has increased.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sensor</span> Converter that measures a physical quantity and converts it into a signal

A sensor is a device that produces an output signal for the purpose of sensing a physical phenomenon.

Digital imaging or digital image acquisition is the creation of a digital representation of the visual characteristics of an object, such as a physical scene or the interior structure of an object. The term is often assumed to imply or include the processing, compression, storage, printing and display of such images. A key advantage of a digital image, versus an analog image such as a film photograph, is the ability to digitally propagate copies of the original subject indefinitely without any loss of image quality.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Video camera</span> Camera used for electronic motion picture acquisition

A video camera is an optical instrument that captures videos. Video cameras were initially developed for the television industry but have since become widely used for a variety of other purposes.

Digital Negative (DNG) is a patented, open, lossless raw image format developed by Adobe and used for digital photography. Adobe's license allows use without cost on the condition that the licensee prominently displays text saying it is licensed from Adobe in source and documentation, and that the license may be revoked if the licensee brings any patent action against Adobe or its affiliates related to the reading or writing of files that comply with the DNG Specification. It was launched on September 27, 2004. The launch was accompanied by the first version of the DNG specification, plus various products, including a free-of-charge DNG converter utility. All Adobe photo manipulation software released since the launch supports DNG.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Digital cinematography</span> Digital image capture for film

Digital cinematography is the process of capturing (recording) a motion picture using digital image sensors rather than through film stock. As digital technology has improved in recent years, this practice has become dominant. Since the mid-2010s, most movies across the world are captured as well as distributed digitally.

An image file format is a file format for a digital image. There are many formats that can be used, such as JPEG, PNG, and GIF. Most formats up until 2022 were for storing 2D images, not 3D ones. The data stored in an image file format may be compressed or uncompressed. If the data is compressed, it may be done so using lossy compression or lossless compression. For graphic design applications, vector formats are often used. Some image file formats support transparency.

A camera raw image file contains unprocessed or minimally processed data from the image sensor of either a digital camera, a motion picture film scanner, or other image scanner. Raw files are named so because they are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed, viewed or edited with a bitmap graphics editor. Normally, the image is processed by a raw converter in a wide-gamut internal color space where precise adjustments can be made before conversion to a viewable file format such as JPEG or PNG for storage, printing, or further manipulation. There are dozens of raw formats in use by different manufacturers of digital image capture equipment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Digital photography</span> Photography with a digital camera

Digital photography uses cameras containing arrays of electronic photodetectors interfaced to an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) to produce images focused by a lens, as opposed to an exposure on photographic film. The digitized image is stored as a computer file ready for further digital processing, viewing, electronic publishing, or digital printing. It is a form of digital imaging based on gathering visible light.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Image sensor</span> Device that converts an optical image into an electronic signal

An image sensor or imager is a sensor that detects and conveys information used to form an image. It does so by converting the variable attenuation of light waves into signals, small bursts of current that convey the information. The waves can be light or other electromagnetic radiation. Image sensors are used in electronic imaging devices of both analog and digital types, which include digital cameras, camera modules, camera phones, optical mouse devices, medical imaging equipment, night vision equipment such as thermal imaging devices, radar, sonar, and others. As technology changes, electronic and digital imaging tends to replace chemical and analog imaging.

The following are common definitions related to the machine vision field.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Active-pixel sensor</span> Image sensor, consisting of an integrated circuit

An active-pixel sensor (APS) is an image sensor, which was invented by Peter J.W. Noble in 1968, where each pixel sensor unit cell has a photodetector and one or more active transistors. In a metal–oxide–semiconductor (MOS) active-pixel sensor, MOS field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) are used as amplifiers. There are different types of APS, including the early NMOS APS and the now much more common complementary MOS (CMOS) APS, also known as the CMOS sensor. CMOS sensors are used in digital camera technologies such as cell phone cameras, web cameras, most modern digital pocket cameras, most digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs), and mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras (MILCs).

Tag Image File Format/Electronic Photography (TIFF/EP) is a digital image file format standard – ISO 12234-2, titled "Electronic still-picture imaging – Removable memory – Part 2: TIFF/EP image data format". This is different from the Tagged Image File Format, which is a standard administered by Adobe currently called "TIFF, Revision 6.0 Final – June 3, 1992".

In computing, a bitmap is a mapping from some domain to bits. It is also called a bit array or bitmap index.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Image editing</span> Processes of altering images, digital or traditional photos, adding, pasting, cutting words

Image editing encompasses the processes of altering images, whether they are digital photographs, traditional photo-chemical photographs, or illustrations. Traditional analog image editing is known as photo retouching, using tools such as an airbrush to modify photographs or editing illustrations with any traditional art medium. Graphic software programs, which can be broadly grouped into vector graphics editors, raster graphics editors, and 3D modelers, are the primary tools with which a user may manipulate, enhance, and transform images. Many image editing programs are also used to render or create computer art from scratch. The term “image editing” usually refers only to the editing of 2D images, not 3D ones.


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