New Panasonic Sensor Tech Significantly Improves Low Light Performance

The folks at Panasonic just developed an exciting new sensor technology that could significantly improve low light performance in all types of cameras very soon. Calling it a sensor technology is a bit misleading, however, because no improvements have been made to the actual sensor at all; instead, Panasonic has decided to change what sits in front of the sensor: the traditional color filter.

In order to generate a color image, most cameras use the same type of color filter in front of their image sensors. That traditional filter works by placing red, green, and blue filters in front of each individual pixel. While this works just fine, it also decreases the amount of light that hits the sensor by 50 to 70 percent.

By doing away with the filter and installing a film of “micro color splitters” instead, Panasonic is able to allow all of the light to pass through, essentially doubling the amount of light that arrives on target.

Here’s an example of two photos taken using the same type of sensor with the same settings at f/4.0. One was taken using a traditional color filter, the other using Panasonic’s new splitters:


We won’t go into the technical details here since they are a bit dense, but if you’re interested, they’re explained very well in the video at the top.

If you’re wondering why this hasn’t been tried before, it’s because this type of color analysis requires processing speed that wasn’t practical until now. But now that we have the speed, there’s nothing to prevent companies from implementing Panasonic’s tech right away.

Since nothing has to be done to the sensor itself, the splitters can replace traditional color filters on any type of sensor. And best of all, the materials and manufacturing techniques required to make the splitters are no different then ones already in use today, which means us anxious photographers may see this tech on store shelves very soon indeed.

(via DigInfo TV via Gizmodo)

  • johnfelicejohn

    and why not to just remove the filter like Nikon is doing (D800e, D7100, Coolpix A)

  • Dominik Muench

    that traditional color filter is called a bayer pattern and its inventor Bryce Bayer passed away last year without most photographers even realising what this man has achieved for the field of digital image acquisition. I’m pretty sure Sony used to experiment with alternative technologies to the bayer pattern in the past, the sony vx 100 camcorder had a 3ccd chip array with a prism behind the lens which split the light beam into the primary rgb colors and then each color had its own ccd chip which avoided the use of the bayer pattern. advancements in single chip technology made this technology redundant fairly quickly though, not to mention that the 3 ccds caused a few heat issues in some camera models.

  • SpaceMan

    Wow, you should patent that :)

  • Jonathan Maniago

    You’re confusing the color filter for the antialiasing filter. To my knowledge, Leica’s Monochrom was the only recent camera willing to do away with color.

  • Vsevolod Zhovtenko

    In cameras you mention anti-aliasing filter is removed, NOT color filter! Please address Wikipedia and educate yourself before making such comments.

  • Vsevolod Zhovtenko

    As to add to the discussion. Nikon has also patented alternative technology to bayer array years ago – instead of prisms it uses two sets mirrors which split light consequently getting all 3 colors for one pixel,something like Foveon. We also should not forget x-trans tech by fuji. Essentially there is no point in further MPix increase in sensor, as detraction robs all gains in sharpness. Alternatives will develop to achieve better image output for same number of pixels.

  • Dominik Muench

    RED are offering a monochrome version of the Epic, because the sensor is stripped of the bayer pattern the camera offers very sharp & detailed black and white performance:

  • Kamil

    The idea is just brilliant. I’m wondering, how the deflectors bend light that doesn’t fall perpendicular onto the sensor but maybe it’s compensated by micro lenses anyway. Nice to see these innovations in sensor technology.


    Vsevolod’s comment still has me laughing – but this new tech sounds really cool – guess I have a good reason to wait to upgrade my 5D :)

  • Roman

    Leica and PhaseOne with current IQ260 Achromatic back (previous Achromatic+)

  • tertius_decimus

    Diffraction, not detraction.

  • Dominik Muench

    interesting, I wonder what the reason for that is. single chip’s have become such a good performance, wouldn’t the 3 ccd technology use up much more power and processing ?

  • Jamie De Pould

    Better color accuracy mostly. In my experience, comparable cameras do about the same on batteries. The EX3 and FS100 both use roughly similar batteries with roughly similar results.

  • Norshan Nusi

    The bayer filter has been changed for a number of times then.
    1. Leica Monochrome = Removed for higher resolution..
    2. Sigma Foveon Sensor = Sensor designed for higher color resolution.

    And lastly is the one in this topic, modifying the bayer sensor for better low light performance. (by reducing light loss)

  • Ingemar

    I don’t care so much about the brilliance of the tech. As someone who would like to leverage this in a business I’m more interested in how they are going to figure out pricing. If this will significantly increase lowlight performance that will cannibalize other current lines of the major camera companies.

    Which means they must concoct a rationale to substantially increase prices along with this new technology even though the tech does not appear to be expensive to implement.

  • sayithere

    this is a simple smart approach. but I’m still waiting for the quantum dots sensor for dslr.