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Canon’s new 120-megapixel CMOS sensor

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August 24, 2010

Canon's 120-megapixel CMOS sensor

Canon's 120-megapixel CMOS sensor

There are many factors other than the megapixel count that affect the quality of images a digital camera will produce – sensor size, lens quality, organization of the pixels, etc. However, consumers often use the number of pixels each dollar buys as a basic measure of value for a digital camera and there has been a steady increase in the “pixels per dollar” for new cameras that roughly follows Moore’s Law. Depending on its cost and when it will hit the market, a new APS-H-size CMOS image sensor developed by Canon could put a bit of a dent in that line with its image resolution of approximately 120-megapixels.

Canon’s current highest-resolution commercial CMOS sensor of the same size (approx. 29.2 x 20.2mm) delivers approximately 16.1-megapixels, so with 13,280 x 9,184 pixels the newly developed sensor offers roughly 7.5 times more pixels. Pixel counts of 21.1-megapixels can be found in Canon’s EOS-1Ds Mark III and EOS 5D Mark II digital SLR cameras, but these use a larger (36 x 24mm) CMOS sensor.

With CMOS sensors, while high-speed readout for high pixel counts is achieved through parallel processing, an increase in parallel-processing signal counts can result in such problems as signal delays and minor deviations in timing. Canon says it was able to achieve the high-speed readout of sensor signals by modifying the method employed to control the readout circuit timing. As a result, the new CMOS sensor makes possible a maximum output speed of approximately 9.5 frames per second, supporting the continuous shooting of ultra-high-resolution images.

The newly developed sensor also incorporates a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) video output capability. The sensor can output Full HD video from any approximately one-sixtieth-sized section of its total surface area. Additionally, the sensor enables image confirmation across a wide image area, with Full HD video viewing of a select portion of the overall frame.

Canon is just teasing us for the moment and haven’t given an indication of its plans for the new sensor just yet.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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2 Comments

Canon (and others) currently makes small 10 Mega pixel CMOS sensors for compacts on the order of 5x4mm. Apply that density to this 29x20 size and you get about (10 x 5 (across) x 6 (up) = 300MP. Looks like they used a pixel site area almost as small as a current compact, and about as dense as a compact of a few years ago, so I would not expect SLR image quality at anything other than perfect conditions. There are reasons SLRs use pixels 10-20 times the size of a tiny compact camera's pixels (dynamic range, higher ISO sensitivity...).

This appears to be an exercise in high pixel CMOS readout, which was successful. I bet it will be used for larger sensors made for laboratory, scientific, or surveillance satellite use. Or further in the future when tiny sensors are able to achieve acceptable image quality at higher ISO sensitivities (take a decent picture in low light without long motion-blurring exposures).

Mark in MI
25th August, 2010 @ 07:57 am PDT

Manufacturing larger sensors with same pixel density with a higher yield is the trick which is being mastered with improving and repeatable manufacturing process.

Companies like Canon and Fuji have always developed their own technology and never gone the licensing route.

I wonder what kind of frame rate would this sensor allow for action shots considering the inherent slow response of cmos as compared to ccd.

pmshah
24th March, 2013 @ 10:24 pm PDT
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