The Big Picture on Nature's Littlest Wonders

Company aims to make macrophotography accessible to citizen scientists and schoolchildren.

If a Mardi Gras beetle went scurrying by, you might not give it a second glance. But as a new technology reveals, the insect deserves a closer look. Zoom in and you can see streams of iridescence that it make it worthy of its vibrant name.

The Macropod is a 3-D imaging system that produces high-resolution pictures of tiny, exquisite objects. College friends Mark Smith, Daniel Saftner, and Annette Evans first used it to photograph a parasitized cocoon. To create a perfectly focused image, they took multiple exposures of the subject, while reducing vibrations and optimizing the use of light. The exposures were then layered and stitched together by a computer. In the end the three researchers were left with a horde of caterpillar-eating wasps, and a 3-D image that was sharp and abound with details.

Now, the trio is working to bring their 15-pound, portable camera to the masses. They've won competitions throughout Connecticut, and are raising funds for their company, Macroscopic Solutions, through a Kickstarter campaign that ends Friday.

"The Macropod is relatively easy to use, costs less, and performs better" than industry alternatives, says Smith, who is a co-founder and managing partner. It can be used for video and broader landscape shots.

The color-rich, hi-res images it produces could prove to be a valuable tool for a variety of scientific vocations, including entomologists, embryologists, geologists, engineers, and even techno-nerds in Silicon Valley, says Smith. And putting Macropod in the hands of students and teachers could open up a whole new world of exploration and education.

The uses aren't just limited to this planet either. Smith dreams of shipping his camera to Mars via rover. On the red planet it would collect data for printing 3D alien objects back on Earth.

Now that's some far-out technology.