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.