First Image of Sony’s Revolutionary Curved Sensor Released, May Change Everything


Sony has officially released the very first image of what promises to be an impressive leap forward in digital imaging technology: the curved full-frame sensor.

Initially unveiled in April, Sony hasn’t taken any pains to keep this one a secret — and why should they? The process for making and stabilizing these curved sensors was developed entirely in-house, using machines Sony’s R&D department designed, and the company says it’s closer to mass manufacture than any previously-attempted curved array.

With a curvature equivalent to that of the human eye, this sensor promises 1.4x better sensitivity in the middle and 2x better sensitivity in the corners! All of this while actually reducing noise caused by ‘dark current’ (which sounds like something out of Star Wars but is actually the current that is flowing through pixels even when they’re not receiving light).

The followup to the Sony RX1 will supposedly be the first camera to use one of these ground-breaking sensors.

The followup to the Sony RX1 will supposedly be the first camera to use one of these ground-breaking sensors.

Also, because the light is hitting the corners directly and not at an angle, many of the issues that have to be corrected with additional glass when using normal sensors go away, allowing for flatter lenses with larger apertures. Sony fan or not, this tech should have image nerds borderline giddy.

Sony presented the tech this week at the 2014 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits, where it showed off both full-frame (43mm) and mobile phone-sized (11mm) versions of the curved sensor. The former is rumored to appear in the wild when Sony unveils the full-frame RX2 compact.

(via sonyalpharumors)

Image credits: Sensor photograph by Sony via Spectrum

  • Marius Budu


  • OtterMatt

    I really want to make a comment about how it’s fad tech, and only pocket protectors care, and it’s going to be priced at the “stupid expensive” end of the scale—but my geek half is too busy dancing in circles and laughing to care. That’s just awesome.

  • Aaron Karnovski

    Continually impressed by Sony. They are innovating and pushing the boundaries much more than Canon or Nikon seem to be. I can see them becoming leaders in the DSLR market within the next few years at this rate.

  • OtterMatt

    I kinda feel bad for Nikon. I wonder what they could do if they had all the labs and tech Sony has just lying around from its other departments.

  • RMJ

    Nikon doesn’t produce sensors, so this is not their field anyways. Nikon is using Sony’s sensors, among few others (and designing sensors, produced by other manufacturers).

    Canon on the other hand, yeah… they are still living stone age.

  • David Guerra

    This sounds a bit strange to me. When looking at a photo straight on, corners are always seen at an angle. Which turns out to be ok because of the fact that light was received on the sensor at an angle as well, so there is a correspondence, a reversability between what is seen on the screen and what would be seen on the scene. This is also why curved screens make no sense to watch images originating from flat sensors. A image from a curved sensor however would be different from the normal ones due to the lack of edge distortion, unless some sort of algorithm is used to simulate this distortion, making the image appropriate for print or flat screen viewing.

  • Jeremiah Washington

    This isnt fad tech, this is the future. The benefits of a curved sensor are way above that of a flat sensor. I woudnt jump on the first camera manufacture to do it but this is definitely something that will be the new standard. Advances like this will only make photography better for everyone

  • earlycj5

    Not to be a Nikon fanboi, I’ve owned a few and still do and own a few Sonys for the mirrorless aspect, but Nikon does make sensors. See exhibit D4, for example.

    That said, all my cameras (Nikon and Sony) have Sony sensors in them…

  • AluKed

    They help designing sensors, but they don’t make them.

  • Jeremiah True

    Really interested and excited to see this. I shoot Canon but have been pretty impressed by what Sony has been doing recently.

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  • Joven

    Yay! Another Sony mount!

  • tonyc0101

    Oh boy! Can’t wait to see the first cat-in-the-messy-living-room image to come from this so that I can compare it to current cameras’ images :)

  • dimitrisservis

    Ha! This is one of two things I always wanted to have in a sensor, the other one being variable exposure.

  • reignoffire

    don’t feel bad for them. if they had the tech, they would have been busy innovating new paint scheme for their 1 series.

  • Dave Wilson

    Makes you wonder though, if the sensor is such a leap forward, why did they post such a crappy photo of it?

  • J.D. Tyre

    alright…so they have done , at a sensor level, what good glass manufacturers have been (trying…) to do since the beginnings of photography; cut edge degradation. And I applaud them for doing the hard work for other manufacturers….BUT, this technology will only see its greatest gains in perception while using glass specifically designed to project onto this curved surface. so, in the end, whether or not it gets into mass consumption or will remain a Sony only idiosyncrasy will depend on Sony licensing the tech or Sony selling a whole lot of Sony systems. This kind of thing will move at a crawl! I think I’ll stick with the PILE o’ Canon I already have…..good luck kids…you’re the ones who will see this be the revolution ….or the BetaMax of photo sensors

  • JordanCS13

    The tech has serious promise for amazingly good lenses to be created. The only downside is that Sony has generally had pretty good commitment to releasing new camera bodies, but their track record on releasing high quality lenses has been pretty poor. There are certainly some very good lenses for the Sony cameras, but they have trickled out slowly.

    This is especially important with a camera based on this sensor since this will eliminate the ability to use legacy lenses via adapter (at least if you want any sort or resolution outside the center.) As a result, the lens lineup for a camera system based on a curved sensor needs to be fleshed out quickly for this to have a shot.

  • Neato!

    The problem is Sony has no real lens lineup.

  • Neato!

    Agreed. Nikon’s biggest hindrance is it’s executive staff and board of directors.

  • dannybuoy

    big tings a gwarn

  • aj1575

    I wonder how this sensor will work with different lenses. The angle of the lightbeams hitting the sensor, is changing with the focal length. Another problem could be, that existing lenses are opimized for flat sensors; I think this curved sensor could demand specialy designed lenses.
    We will see how much of the promised improvments will be visible in the final picture.

  • Ganea Paul Marius

    Not only that but to repair the problems they had with the D600 and D800 series

  • Chang He

    Very cool. The only problem I can see is that the field curvature will vary by lens, so for interchangeable lens cameras this will be no significant benefit (since the angle will change to some extent), and will definitely complicate focus and distortion correction. For a fixed lens RX1 replacement, it will likely be dynamite. Given Sony’s weakness with lenses in general, this is probably just spark another mount, and another dilution of their fanbase.

  • Mike

    That should be the name for Sony’s new line featuring these sensors.

  • Rob Jackson

    You realize the flagship Nikon 1 has more processing power and throughput than any other compact camera on the market, right? Nikon’s own high-end DSLRs have a hard time keeping up with it. I think Nikon currently has 3 other cameras with that much processing power on tap.

    It’s why the J4 can shoot at 20 fps. And of course, it’s a pretty major component responsible for the fast, predictive AF and exposure tricks.

    Those cameras are really pretty amazing. Nikon’s just done a terrible job of marketing them.

  • Rob Jackson

    That’s because that production facility was completely under water not long before the planned introduction of those cameras. Nikon should have just pushed back their debut, but with electronics a delayed intro means your product is ancient by the time it’s available. The market just shifts so fast.

  • GroundUpJon

    1. Is this curved screen tech primarily for video?
    I can’t see much utility in it for print… though I don’t have any concave walls in my house and good luck getting that mounted.

    2. Does the human eye’s lens project flat or curved?
    I would think it projects flat onto a curved “sensor” and as attention is directed to the edges of the projected image (even if the eye doesn’t refocus), the brain stitches things into focus (like focus stacking).

    3. I would think a curved surface will make every shot I’d take with every lens I own look like a photoshop effect. If this tech makes it to Hollywood, heads are gonna start exploding – Voila! All your ARRI Master Primes now look like sh*t!

  • Ken Elliott

    Nikon does not fabricate their own silicon wafers, but they might fab the CFA, LPFA, and other components, and perform the sensor assembly. This somewhat clouds who “makes” the sensor.

  • Ken Elliott

    Agree. I thought the Nikon 1 was a fail, until I picked up a refurb V1. While some things are annoying (forced image review in the viewfinder!!!), overall it is a really fun camera.

  • Ken Elliott

    It’s not my field of expertise, so someone else may step in here with a correction or two.

    1 – the resulting image is “flat”. Your existing workflow is fine.
    2 – curved.
    3 – not how it works.

    A simple lens has a curved focal plane. It takes a lot of design work and lens elements to make it project to a flat plane. A curved sensor removes the need for all those extras, and should result in a simpler lens and/or better optical results. Less darkness in the corners, sharper corners for wide angle lenses, etc. But the best results will come from a lens designed for the exact curve of the sensor. Longer lens will likely work better with slight curves, while super wide lenses will want more. I’ll bet you see this sensor in a non-interchangeable lens cameras first.

  • Kiltedbear

    Sounds nice, but I hope it works as well as the promises. I heard similar boasts albeit for different reasons about the foveon chip years ago.

  • johnlsl

    I may be good for fix lens camera but i belive i will create more problem For interchangeable-lens system,

    Just think for it, What will happen if every company create a different curved rate Senser

  • GroundUpJon

    Thanks for the answers. :)

    I actually don’t care for the curved televisions I’ve seen (strange that we’ve gone from convex to concave).
    I like a curved theater screen, because I bought the ticket and want the ride. However, I actually don’t want or need that in my television. In my home, a television functions primarily as an appliance, not an experience. I don’t want to have to sit in a sweet spot to watch it. That’s just my preference… not knocking the tech.

    But if a curved sensor means cheaper lenses, then I’m 100% for it. That would be fantastic. Even better if you could use your existing lenses and calibrate (microlens array?) to use whatever kind of lens you want (flat, curved, whatever).

    That said, this technology solves a problem in a way that undermines 100+ years of an industry’s solutions to that problem. It’s going to HAVE TO trickle UP from phones, P&S’s, etc.

  • DantheMan

    Indeed. Constantly impressed how much Sony is pushing the envelope, both in terms of their incredible sensors and their willingness to push into uncharted waters.

  • DantheMan

    I did not know that. That’s…. crazy! I’ll have to take a look at getting one when I see an overstock…

  • DantheMan

    The sensor was taking a selfie in the bathroom, give it a break!

    I agree… I guess maybe the sensor they took a pic of was the small one? I mean, they could have still gotten a macro lens to take a proper pic if it WAS, but….

  • Ken Elliott

    Well, it allows for simpler lenses (in theory), which may or may not be cheaper. The larger the sensor/format, the greater the problem. So I doubt it will hit phones or compact cameras. The fabrication cost is likely to be much higher than a flat sensor, so you need a cost savings or quality improvement to justify the higher sensor cost. That pretty well means larger cameras. Phone camera have tiny lenses and this is not as big an issue.

    I doubt you’ll be able to adjust the sensor for various lenses. I’d expect flat field lenses (long lenses and macro lenses) to perform worse with a curved sensor.

    It’s all about tradeoffs. Generally, solving one problem creates another. A curved sensor benefits some lens, but hurts others. Let’s see what Sony does with this.

  • AluKed

    CFA is usually part of the sensor package, so they probably don’t do it either.

  • joshua

    That first image does not impress me. Its clearly out of focus. The technology sounds great but what is the point of having a larger aperture if you can’t keep your subject in focus like this tech promises.

  • Woody ONeal

    At best, it creates an new category of lens development and is a revolutionary hit.

    At worst, well, Sony did also create Betamax, SACD, and the mini-disc player.

  • Monteraz

    Man, that is just a photo of the sensor, not an image produced by the sensor itself …

  • Truelight

    Interesting how when technology emulates natural design (in this case the eye), it gets better and better.

  • joshua

    I get it. But this article states “Sony has officially released the very first image….”. This is a not a leaked image. This is an image released by Sony. I was being partly satirical because its dealing with image sensors which touts clearer imagery yet the image they use is clearly out of focus and noisy. This could have easily have been an “the onion” article with the title and the image shown.

  • Pete Stewart

    I’m curious why this hasn’t been done before with film cameras, bending the film around the ‘gate’. If the advantages are to things like len construction and corner sensitivity, surely this would have been easy to impliment in a film camera

  • Ganea Paul Marius

    Sir, don’t blame the flood for Nikon’s problems. It’s Nikon’s fault, they have 0 quality control ;)
    I-m a Nikon user and my D800 has entered service twice in 6 months.I have friends that are Canon and Nikon users and never heard one of the Canon guys complaining about their cameras but those with Nikon….af problems,af problems,af problems,af problems, af problems on D7000,D600,D610,D800.The more i love my D800 the more i hate Nikon for having 0 quality control.

  • Wayne Baldridge

    A lens system that projects an immage onto a flat surface with minimum barrel / pinicle distortion, color separation and other effects is quite complicated. On the other hand, a simple lense naturally has a focus field that is curved. The curved sensor then fits this curved focus fiend. The image has no depth therefore is the projection to a flat surface. The pixal is just intercepted early or out of flatness but has its place on the flat plane.

    The big deal is simpler lens designs.

  • Rob Jackson

    I have a D700 I bought in November of 2008 and it’s never given me a bit of trouble. Same with my old F5, which is over ten years old now. Of course, they were both made in Japan.

    Nikon’s production lines in Thailand and Malaysia have had issues, there’s no doubt about that. They had a very good reputation with their Japanese lines, but they wanted to take advantage of inexpensive labor and it hasn’t gone as smoothly as they’d hoped.

  • Dan Tauro

    Stupid-Expensive….S-EX SEX yup covered already. :)

    not sure that they are bending the sensor to the eye and not the curvature of the the back of the lens. That would make more sense.

  • Ganea Paul Marius

    D700 was released in 2008 ,D7000/D600/D800 came after 2009-2010 and since then, internet is full of complainings about Nikon’s AF system and white balance.
    What’s bothering me is that they had the balls to make a second version of these cameras and even to sell them as “better”, “improved” cameras (7100/610/800e) but simply they are the first models with some tweaks!(and the most important of them are the fixes on AF)
    Just look at the differences between these models!!! even the stupidest person on earth could see that this is scam!
    Compared with they predecessors, D7100/D610/ have a weaker AA filter,focusing problem solved and +1/2 FPS in burst or/and better EV.
    Why did they made an expensive D800e when they could give a free option to remove the AA filter at service? because they had to solve focus,display and wb problems on the D800!!!

    F5 is a very, very well build camera but with D700 they belong to the past, in witch the quality of nikon’s cameras was very good.

    In this past 3 years i noticed that Nikon’s using a very aggressive marketing promotion and selling consumer build products like Samsung used to do ;new technology on cheap materials that would not last.
    And one last thing, do not forget that Nikon buy’s technology from Sony.
    D3x,D300,D7000,D3000,D3100 and not for last D800, they all use Sony sensors.
    D600/610 it’s just a D7000/7100 with a FX sensor (that right now i don’t know from where they got this sensor)