A Look at the Use of Sony CMOS Sensors in Nikon DSLRs

Electronics reverse-engineering company Chipworks has published an article that discusses and reviews Nikon’s use of Sony CMOS sensors in certain DSLRs:

The recent high profile Apple vs. Samsung patent infringement case further emphasizes the incestuous nature of the supply chain for components in consumer electronics. Apple has traditionally sourced a great many components for its smartphones and tablets from its competitor Samsung. An analogous relationship exists in the DSLR world where Nikon both designs its own CMOS image sensors (CIS) to be fabricated by a foundry partner, and sometimes uses CIS components from its camera competitor Sony […] What is somewhat interesting is that after a run of Nikon-designed CIS devices in Nikon FF and APS-C cameras, Sony has muscled its way back in for the FF format D800 […]

Sony supplies the CIS for the D800, a camera with the resolution (36.3 Mp) and performance that approaches the performance of medium format cameras for some applications […] While there are certainly those who groan at the prospect of cranking up the resolution of a FF sensor, the D800 appears to be a disruptive event in the FF camera segment – one that Canon is rumored to likely respond to.

Chipworks notes that the D800 has the smallest pixel size of any full frame sensor it has examined so far. Canon is reportedly hard at work testing tiny pixels of its own.

Full Frame DSLR Cameras – Nikon vs Sony [Chipworks via Image Sensors World]

  • kaja12

    im printing on a epson 3880…. i never had need for more pixels then my 5D MK2 delivers.
    and i doubt that most D800 customers even have a printer in that class.

  • David Dvir

    I have the same printer. I also used to have an Epson 9900, but I have never “doubted any canon shooter would have one, too”. I currently shoot with two D800. I don’t know why you think your printer is so special.

  • t_linn

    I don’t doubt that Canon can produce a similarly spec’d high res sensor. What I doubt is that it will be competitive with Sony’s groundbreaking sensor. Canon has demonstrated relatively little progress in its own sensor designs, making small evolutionary steps compared to the near physics-defying progress evident in Sony’s designs. In particular, as a 5D3 owner, it is not the resolution of the D800’s sensor but its dynamic range that leaves me envious.

  • tonster

    i am not a nikon experd, but i have noticed an ‘active D-light’ feature the nikons have. Sounds to me like ‘HDR-kind-of-post-processing’ resulting in bigger dynamic range. But does this really count as dynamic range when comparing two cameras? Correct me if i am wrong please.

  • t_linn

    I’m not referring to D-lighting, tonster. I’m referring to the native dynamic range of the sensor. This would be evident in the ability to recovery clean, quality data from highlights and (particularly) shadows in RAW files. It is possible to take a D800 RAW files with shadows that are black—no apparent detail at all—and pull out clean, noise-free detail. Try that same thing with a 5D3 (for example), and it is not unusual to get reddish shadows filled with pattern noise that is extremely difficult to deal with. This ability can be a huge advantage when shooting in high contrast situations.