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This wasn't taken by Canon, but it claims its camera would be powerful enough to clearly make out the side lettering of an airplane 18km away. Nick Ut/Associated Press

Canon has unveiled an absurdly powerful image sensor

Anyone in need of 250 megapixels?

CANON’S LATEST CAMERA sensor is seriously powerful.

Just how powerful?

According to the Japanese camera company, “when installed in a camera, the newly developed sensor was able to capture images enabling the distinguishing of lettering on the side of an airplane flying at a distance of approximately 18 km from the shooting location.”

On Monday, Canon announced its latest camera sensor. It clocks in at a staggering 250 megapixels — five times higher than its next most powerful sensor.

That’s the 50.6 megapixel one found in the EOS 5DS; the 250 megapixel sensor is also smaller in size than the one in the 5DS. (We first saw this news on The Verge.)

The new sensor, which is APS-H size (29.2 by 20.2 millimeter), is also capable of shooting video at five frames per second. The company say its resolution is 125 times that of Full HD, and 30 times that of 4K video.

The resolution of uncropped photos shot on the sensor is 19,580 by 12,600 pixels. For reference, the resolution of the iPhone 6′s 8 megapixel camera is 3,264 by 2,448 pixels.

When discussing cameras, it’s important to note that megapixels aren’t everything. There are numerous other factors at play that determine image quality, from the size of the sensor to the quality of the lens in front of it, and the on-board software for processing the raw data.

It’s why modern smartphone cameras will be significantly worse than professional DSLR cameras from a few years ago, despite having a higher megapixel count.

Canon produces world-class hardware and lens glass, however: While the company hasn’t provided any example shots, the images the sensor captures are likely to be very, very high quality.

It doesn’t look like Canon intends to use the sensor in consumer camera equipment. In a statement, the company said it is “considering the application of this technology in specialised surveillance and crime prevention tools, ultra-high-resolution measuring instruments and other industrial equipment, and the field of visual expression.”

Here’s a prototype device equipped with the sensor, along with the sensor itself:

screen shot 2015-09-07 at 09.53.51 Canon Canon

Canon is no stranger to devices with far-out specs. In July 2015, it unveiled the ME20F-SH — a device capable at shooting with a sensitivity of 4,000,000 ISO. A higher ISO lets the photographer use a higher shutter speed or in lower light conditions.

The iPhone 6′s has a maximum ISO of just 2,500, while professional cameras rarely go higher than 100,000.

- Rob Price

Read: This camera’s zoom is pretty mind-boggling >

Read: The Irish website that looks like it hasn’t changed in forever is finally getting a makeover >

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