Canon’s Full-Frame Sensor Philosophy: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

In addition to analyzing the use of Sony sensors in Nikon DSLRs, Chipworks has also published an article that explores Canon’s full frame sensors. It’s quite technical, but the main points can be grasped without understanding the terms being thrown around:

On the process side, the 1D X is remarkable in that Canon continues to stay with the 0.5 µm process generation it has used for every APS-C and FF device analyzed. While the use of a mature fab likely gives Canon a competitive edge via lower manufacturing costs, it may also weigh heavily in its product development […] Given the geometric constraints of 0.5 µm design rules, Canon seems content to hang around the 21 Mp resolution for recent FF sensors through the use of shared pixels […]

So, back to the rumors of Canon allegedly readying a high resolution competitor to the Nikon D800. Will Canon finally move off that 0.5 µm generation? It is worth noting that September 2012 marked the 10 year anniversary of Canon’s announcement of the world’s first CMOS FF sensor, the EOS 1Ds […] every Canon FF sensor analyzed since has used the same 0.5 µm design rules. It is a credit to Canon that it has remained competitive by continuing to optimize its pixels fabricated in a relatively mature process.

What they’re saying is: if Canon wants to continue fighting in the megapixel wars with Nikon and Sony, it’s going to need to shake things up a bit in its sensor department.

Canon stays the course [Chipworks via CanonWatch]

P.S. If you’re into comparing the technical aspects of camera sensors, check out Digital Camera Database. It has a sensor comparison tool designed for you.

  • t_linn

    Yep. Canon is seems content to rest on its laurels while Sony laps it in sensor technology. The same cannot be said for the new glass Canon has been introducing the last few years which has been as impressive as it is expensive. One would think with all the resources available to it, Canon would be able to focus on both.

  • kaja12

    it´s simply to maximizing profit.
    until now canon had no need to invest in another process.

    now that nikon/sony have great sensors with a 18µm process canon has to react.
    and canon surely will. i bet the next generation of FF cameras will see a smaller process.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    Looks like sensors are pretty low on Canon’s current list of priorities; probably on par with their development for mirrorless cameras.

    On the flip side, they’re still doing well in terms of frame rate, focus speed, glass, ergonomics, etc. (for the top of the line models anyway. *glares at the 6D*). But all these improvements seem evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and they WILL be left behind unless they make a proper response to their competitors’ offerings.

  • Carlos Garcia

    “Its quite technical” Unless the technical stuff is being whispered into your ear, I dont see how it can be quiet technical. Haha all in good spirit, I love this site.

  • Michael Zhang

    Many thanks, sir! :)

  • John

    Sony operates at a loss and is subsidized by the branch that sells insurance, the TV division in particular has been hammered, they announced they are targeting cameras, probably leveraging strength in sensor knowledge and patents due to many years in video. Nikon outsourced to Sony, which is dangerous and canon learned that third parties are not the answer years ago via Kodak. Since the soul of the camera is the sensor, in a way Nikon has sold itself into dependency on Sony -a competitor – not a long term good idea. Canon at least makes its own sensors which allows some freedom, but given the very stagnant nature of their sensor advances one wonders about their technical capabilities in engineering and sensor design. They are long overdue for major dynamic range and resolution improvements and will be eclipsed permanently and in Market share if they don’t react soon. Tweaking the knobs wont do it much longer, they will be SOL like Henry Ford and his model T. It has cost them a bunch of my business, several thousand dollars in sales that went elsewhere because they just don’t really innovate enough. I have zero reason to upgrade my 5dii and lots of reason to look elsewhere. Look at their pathetic mirrorless offering -glacially slow focus, no real commitment to it from them, just trash. Panasonic, Fuji, Olympus and Sony all are deep into innovation while Canon jacks up prices and stands still. Look at the outrageous price for the 5diii – all they did was improve the focus, which they should have done in the previous model at a lower price.