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Canon Patents New 5 Layer Sensor Technology

By Anthony Thurston on June 27th 2014

It seems the camera sensor world could be getting very interesting here in the near future. A new patent from Canon shows off an exciting new 5 layer sensor that includes UV, RGB, and IR layers.


The most similar technology currently available is likely the Foveon sensor from Sigma, which includes 3 layers. That technology is currently only seen in Sigma’s DP line of cameras. There have been rumors before that Canon was looking to produce a sensor similar to the Foveon, but until today, all of those rumors talked about Canon working on “just” a 3 layer sensor.

[REWIND: Canon 7D Mk II To Feature New Sensor Tech]

This new design from Canon, as mentioned, features UV and IR layers, in addition to the RGB layers. According to the rumor, the UV and IR layers are used for better color reproduction, specifically the color reproduction of skin tones.


Patent Details (translated with Google)

  • Patent Publication No. 2014-103644
    • Publication date 2014.6.5
    • Filing date 2012.11.22
  • Canon patents
    • I get the visible light
    • I get the ultraviolet light
    • I get the infrared light
    • I want to extract the skin area
    • The skin region of visible light, I will correct the image from the difference of the skin area of ​​ultraviolet light
    • Signal value of the infrared light is regarded as the skin area, the high part

Overall, it looks like some interesting tech, and would appear to be a fairly unique sensor. The rumored 7D Mark II is supposed to be coming with some sort of revolutionary new sensor tech, and while the latest rumors say that tech will not be Foveon like, it is still possible that this could be what is featured on the upcoming camera.


What are your thoughts on this new tech? Do you think it will come to market anytime soon? Leave a comment below!

[via Canon Rumors, Patent Diagram via Northlight Images]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Rafael Steffen

    Very intersting article. I can imagine bigger dynamic range.

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  2. Stan Rogers

    I wouldn’t look for this sensor on a 7DII, mostly because reducing high ISO/low light performance—even a little bit—would put the 7DII outside of the 7D’s primary niche (which, essentially, is “cheating” with shorter versions of longer lenses in genres like sport and birding, genres that crave fast shutter speeds under often less-than-ideal lighting). After making folks wait for a whole 5 years in an industry that has sort of come to expect the revolutionary new model every 18-24 months, I can’t see “we’ve repurposed the 7D for optimum skin tones in a studio setting; sorry about the ISO 1600 noise” going over very well.

    It’s not that I’m skeptical about a new sensor from Canon or taking a cheap shot at their relative sensor performance to date; whatever reputation they garnered by staying too close to a sensor design that was once leaps and bounds ahead of the industry norm for, perhaps, a little too long can easily be wiped out with any given camera release. But a sensor that relies on wavelength-based pass-through (like the Foveon and this new design) is going to be, of necessity, less efficient at the deeper layers. That will mean chroma noise in the IR and red, a little less in the green, with the blue and UV providing most of the luma information. (One has to assume that both the “UV” and “IR” will be near-visible, overlapping with the visible, in the actual implementation, even if that means surface filtration.) The Foveons (original and Quattro) have demonstrated that when the light levels are high enough to make the noise levels from the deeper layers irrelevant, a Bayer-free sensor can render impeccable detail and the colours can be magnificent. Even if we assume that Canon can apply more engineering might than Sigma can to the sensor design, I think it would be optimistic to the point of foolishness to believe that they can wrangle, say, two full stops of improvement over the Foveon in the first commercial release. So putting the sensor in a camera that follows on from a model that sees much of its use in lower-budget evening stadium and arena sports wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    This sounds more to me like a design intended for a killer studio/commercial camera, something that can offer a rendering very close to current medium format CCD-based cameras in a 35mm-sized package, something that might be intended to erase the very memory of the D8x0 and the α7R from the collective consciousness. Perhaps an excuse to revive the 3 series? Or maybe (and this is a *very* long shot with almost no hope of hitting the target) that persistent rumour about a MF Canon on the distant horizon might be more than a fairy tale? I think the 35mm format studio machine is far more likely.

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  3. Christopher Rankin

    I am personally looking forward to some new sensor tech. The current crop of sensors seems to have been pushed pretty close to the max at this point.

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  4. Dave Kai Piper

    I still want a camera that can shoot with layered PSD files on the export so that you add Colour Look up tables and curves direct from camera.

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  5. Randy Frum

    It will be interesting to see if their new sensor rumored will be of worthy note. I am hoping so. Regardless… I am happy with the latest equipment they have now (5D III and 1DX).

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  6. Dave Lyons

    I’ll believe it when I see it… How many years has it been? Then probably take a couple of releases to get close to being solid so thats what… maybe 8-10 years down the road to get to where everyone else is today… youch

    Funny how this comes out the day after the D810 announcement kicked them in the nuts

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  7. Servando Miramontes

    So we’ve got Curved sensors AND sensor with layers coming out…. Im holding out for the smell O’ vision sensor that not only captures the moment, but the smells as well….

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