- [pdf] [supp] [arXiv]
Passive Inter-Photon Imaging
Digital camera pixels measure image intensities by converting incident light energy into an analog electrical current, and then digitizing it into a fixed-width binary representation. This direct measurement method, while conceptually simple, suffers from limited dynamic range and poor performance under extreme illumination --- electronic noise dominates under low illumination, and pixel full-well capacity results in saturation under bright illumination. We propose a novel intensity cue based on measuring inter-photon timing, defined as the time delay between detection of successive photons. Based on the statistics of inter-photon times measured by a time-resolved single-photon sensor, we develop theory and algorithms for a scene brightness estimator which works over extreme dynamic range; we experimentally demonstrate imaging scenes with a dynamic range of over ten million to one. The proposed techniques, aided by the emergence of single-photon sensors such as single-photon avalanche diodes (SPADs) with picosecond timing resolution, will have implications for a wide range of imaging applications: robotics, consumer photography, astronomy, microscopy and biomedical imaging.