This ‘High Sensitivity’ Canon Sensor Can Shoot 1080p Video at just 0.08lux

Canon Japan recently announced a new “high-sensitivity CMOS Sensor” that can capture high-quality, color footage a 1080p and up to 60fps even in extremely low light. The sensor is meant for industrial use, but it shows what’s possible, even when you’re using relatively tiny pixels.

The announcement went live in Japan at the end of July, and then in Singapore earlier this month, but given that the sensor is meant for “network and industrial cameras” it didn’t get much (if any) attention in the photo press. That’s a shame, because based on the sample footage below, it’s an impressive little chip.

You can see the specs below:

As you can see, the sensor is tiny: just 1/1.8-inches and 1936 x 1096 pixels that are all 4.1µm in size. What makes it special, though, is the “pixel architecture” that allows for a lot of dynamic range. In normal mode it claims to offer a DR of 75dB, or approximately 12.5 stops; in HDR mode, that goes all the way up to 120dB, or about 20 stops.

In terms of real world performance, that means that the sensor’s HDR mode combines two exposures per-1080/30p video frame to accurately capture scenes where the lighting ranges from 0.08lux all the way up to 80,000lux without blowing out the highlights or crushing the blacks.

“Conventional nighttime monitoring employs infrared cameras and records video in monochrome. However, network cameras equipped with the LI7050 can capture video at night in such locations as public facilities, roads or transport networks, thereby helping to identify details including the color of vehicles or subjects’ clothing,” writes Canon. “What’s more, this compact, high-sensitivity sensor can be installed in cameras for such use cases as underwater drones, microscopes and wearable cameras for security personnel.”

You can see the sensor in action in the video below:

While this is definitely a sensor meant for industrial use and not consumer cameras, the applications to traditional photography and video capture are obvious. The ability to capture clean, high-quality color footage or shoot clean, high-quality photos in the dark without increasing your shutter speed is high on many a photographers’ wish list. And the special pixel architecture used here might help consumer cameras get there some day.

To learn more about the Canon LI7050 high-sensitivity CMOS sensor, you can read the full translated press release on Canon Singapore. The first samples are already going out as of this month, with sales to commercial customers in Japan scheduled to begin in October.

(via Image Sensor World)