Virtually all digital still cameras capture light using either a CCD or a CMOS sensor. Most consumers don’t know the difference, and — given the rate at which CMOS sensors are improving — both sensors perform equally well in most cases (Leica is rumored to be switching over to the CMOS camp with its upcoming M10).
However, that’s not what a PC World store in Ireland wants you to believe. The photo above shows an informational placard that was on display recently in one of its stores. The top image shows a scene shot with a CCD sensor, and the bottom image allegedly shows the “same scene” shot with a CMOS sensor. Hmmm… Read more…
Some time ago Sony announced a new series of “stacked” CMOS sensors that would bring a new level of quality to smartphone cameras. And now, several months later, rumors are floating about that Sony’s new LT29i smartphone — codenamed the Hayabusa — will be packing a 13-megapixel version of the new tech. Read more…
Samsung has developed what the company claims is the world’s first CMOS sensor that can capture both RGB and range images at the same time. Microsoft’s Kinect has received a good deal of attention as of late for its depth-sensing capabilities, but it uses separate sensors for RGB images and range images. Samsung’s new solution combines both functions into a single image sensor by introducing “z-pixels” alongside the standard red, blue, and green pixels. This allows the sensor to capture 480×360 depth images while 1920×720 photos are being exposed. One of the big trends in the next decade may be depth-aware devices, and this new development certainly goes a long way towards making that a reality.
Here’s a photograph by the The Bangkok Post showing Sony’s sensor manufacturing plant in Thailand submerged under flood waters roughly 3 meters (~10ft) high. The shutdown of the 502,000 square foot, 3,300 employee plant doesn’t just affect Sony, as other companies — including Nikon and Apple (in the iPhone 4S) — rely on Sony image sensors as well.
Last year Canon announced the world’s largest CMOS sensor — an 8-inch chip that’s 40 times the size of those found in Canon’s full frame cameras. Now, a year later, the sensor is finally being put to good use, having found its way into the Schmidt telescope at the University of Tokyo’s Kiso Observatory. The extreme-sensitivity of the sensor has allowed astronomers to detect more faint meteors during a 1 minute period than could previously be seen during an entire year, and has the ability to record those meteors at 60fps. Now we’ll just patiently twiddle our thumbs and wait for the sensor to appear in an upcoming digital camera.
When learning about ISO, you’ve probably heard that the lower the number, the lower the noise and the higher the image quality, but did you know that this isn’t always the case? The reason is something called the base (or native) ISO of a camera — the ISO achieved without amplifying the data from the sensor. This is usually somewhere between ISO 100 and ISO 200. Why does this matter? Bob Andersson of Camera Labs explains:
We all know that using high ISO numbers results in more sensor noise. More surprising, perhaps, is that using an ISO number below the native ISO number also degrades the image.
An interesting example is that when shooting on a Canon EOS 1Ds MkII, ISO 50 has roughly the same signal to noise ratio as shooting at ISO 800. This explains why the lowest possible ISO numbers can only be accessed through custom functions on some cameras.
Ever wonder what actually happens between the time you press the shutter button on a DSLR and when the image shows up on the LCD screen? Canon made these two videos explaining how their DSLR cameras work and how they use CMOS sensors to turn photons into photos. You’ll probably find this pretty interesting if you’ve never learned about CMOS sensors before. For a more in-depth lesson, check out the sensor tutorial over on Cambridge in Colour.
Toronto-based artists Brad Blucher and Kyle Clements have an exhibition titled “Take a Picture” which features paintings that are invisible to the human eye but visible to cameras. To do this, they use a frequency of light that is outside the visible spectrum but visible to the CCD and CMOS sensors found in digital cameras. Read more…
An interesting story that popped up a couple days ago is that Sony is planning to outsource some of their CMOS sensor production to Fujitsu in an attempt to reduce production costs. Sony is currently the 6th largest maker of CMOS sensors, with an output of 16,000 sensors a month. Fujitsu will be taking some of the load off Sony’s hands, producing “several thousand” per month. Finalizing the sensors requires proprietary technology, and will still be done behind closed doors in Sony’s facilities.
This is an interesting development that is relevant not just to Sony digital camera users, but possibly to Nikon camera owners as well. Nikon has had a long history of designing their own sensors but having Sony manufacture them. The origins of current Nikon DSLR sensors is an oft-discussed topic in online forums, through Nikon has officially confirmed their use of Sony sensors in the past (e.g. the D3X).
A week ago Canon announced the development of a APS-H CMOS sensor that delivers a staggering 120 megapixels. Not content with ruling the megapixel race, they’ve just announced a physically gigantic sensor — the largest CMOS sensor in the world.
In the photo above, the sensor is shown next to a standard 35mm full frame sensor. The thing measures 202 x 205 mm (or 7.95 x 8.07 inches), or 40 times the size of current sensors, and is extremely sensitive. It can supposedly record 60fps video under moonlight. Potential applications of this kind of sensor include capturing the night sky and documenting nocturnal animal behavior, though (like the 120MP sensor) you probably shouldn’t expect this to hit the consumer market anytime in the near or semi-distant future.