Fujifilm and Panasonic have joined forces and created an image sensor that blows everything currently on the market completely out of the water. By using Fuji’s patented “organic photoelectric conversion material” to collect light instead of the traditional silicon photodiode, they’ve created a sensor that nearly doubles the dynamic range of the best sensor currently on the market.
No, that’s not a typo. According to the joint Fujifilm/Panasonic press release, the new sensor can capture 88dB signal-to-noise ratio, which translates into approximately 14.6 stops of dynamic range in each direction or 29.2 stops EV. By comparison, the best sensor currently on the market (according to Adorama) is found in the Nikon D800E, and clocks in at only 46dB or approximately 7.7 stops in each direction or 15.3 stops EV.
Together with the newly-developed noise-cancelling circuit also packed inside, the sensor is said to “[prevent] highlight clipping in bright scenes and captur[e] a vivid and texture-rich image in low light.”
The improvements don’t stop there either. In addition to the giant leap in dynamic range, the organic layer can also detect light from a wider angle because of how thin it is (1/7th that of the traditional silicon layer). Normal sensors detect light between 30 and 40-degrees of incidence, this one can expands that number to 60-degrees.
In the real world, this translates into more accurate color reproduction, no color mixing, expanded lens-design options, and the possibility of developing smaller cameras.
Last, but certainly not least, each pixel in the new sensor offers 1.2-times the sensitivity of traditional pixels. In a traditional sensor, some light-detecting surface area is taken up by the connections between pixels, but those “metal interconnects” have also been coated in the Fuji’s organic material in this sensor. All of the pixel’s surface area can be used:
To be sure, this is an exciting breakthrough. While it’s no 1000x more sensitive graphene sensor, the organic sensor has already cleared reliability tests, “paving the way for the use of the organic CMOS image sensor in a wide range of applications.” Translation: we could be seeing these sensors on the market within a couple of sensor generations.
For the full technical overview, you can check out the entire press release over on Fujifilm’s website.
P.S.: There was actually some rumors of a “revolutionary organic sensor” coming to Fujifilm cameras all the way back in 2011.