New Kodak image sensor technology could redefine digital image capture
By Mike Hanlon
June 15, 2007
June 16, 2007 Kodak has announced a groundbreaking advancement in image sensor technology that provides a 2x to 4x increase in sensitivity to light (from one to two photographic stops) compared to current sensor designs. Kodak’s new technology also enables faster shutter speeds (to reduce motion blur when imaging moving subjects), as well as the design of smaller pixels (leading to higher resolutions in a given optical format) while retaining performance. The first Kodak sensor to use this technology is expected to be available for sampling in the first quarter of 2008.
Image sensors act as the “eye” of a digital camera by converting light into electric charge to begin the capture process.
The new technology advances an existing Kodak technology that has become the standard in digital imaging. Today, the design of almost all color image sensors is based on the “Bayer Pattern,” an arrangement of red, green, and blue pixels that was first developed by Kodak scientist Dr. Bryce Bayer in 1976. In this design, half of the pixels on the sensor are used to collect green light, with the remaining pixels split evenly between sensitivity to red and blue light. After exposure, software reconstructs a full color signal for each pixel in the final image.
Kodak’s new proprietary technology adds panchromatic, or “clear” pixels to the red, green, and blue elements that form the image sensor array. Since these pixels are sensitive to all wavelengths of visible light, they collect a significantly higher proportion of the light striking the sensor.
By matching these pixel arrangements with advanced software algorithms from Kodak that are optimized for these new patterns, users can realize an increase in photographic speed, directly improving performance when taking pictures under low light.
“This represents a new generation of image sensor technology and addresses one of the great challenges facing our industry – how to capture crisp, clear digital images in a poorly lit environment,” said Chris McNiffe, General Manager of Kodak’s Image Sensor Solutions group. “This is a truly innovative approach to improving digital photography in all forms, and it highlights Kodak’s unique ability to differentiate its products by delivering advanced digital technologies that really make a difference to the consumer.”
Kodak is beginning to work with a number of leading companies to implement this new technology in system-wide solutions and to streamline the design-in process.
Kodak is developing CMOS sensors using this technology for consumer markets such as digital still cameras and camera phones. As the technology is appropriate for use with both CCD and CMOS image sensors, its use can be expanded across Kodak’s full portfolio of image sensors, including products targeted to applied imaging markets such as industrial and scientific imaging.