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New Canon Patent Reveals Layered ‘Foveon-Like’ AF Sensor

By Anthony Thurston on February 26th 2015

Patents are always interesting to look at from a purely speculative angle, due to the hit or miss nature of if they actually make it to market or not. It gives you a look into the R&D of our favorite companies and what they are thinking the future of their business could be.

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If Canon’s latest patent is any indication, the DSLR king doesn’t feel that mirrors are going any where any time soon. A new patent, discovered by Egami, reveals a new multi-layered auto-focus sensor. Think of it like Sigma’s Foveon Technology, only instead of each layer picking up different colors, each layer is monitoring a different aspect of the scene you are focusing in.

The idea is pretty interesting, if you ask me. I could be wrong, but since this is a dedicated AF sensor, it would seem that this is technology meant for use in a DSLR, which utilizes a dedicated AF sensor (unlike mirrorless systems where the AF must be done on the imaging sensor as well).

Canon-EOS-6D-Sensor

Below you can read the machine translated patent details. It sounds like it could be a pretty accurate system.

Patent Publication No. 2015-37217

  • Published 2015.2.23
  • Filing date 2013.8.12

Canon patent

  • AF sensor
  • In the depth direction, I comprises a first layer, the second layer, the photoelectric conversion portion of the third layer
  • The second layer is for monitoring, detecting the amount of light that is received in real-time, to control the accumulation time
  • The third layer in a bright environment, the dark environment so that the use of the first layer, sensitivity can be switched
  • Furthermore, in a dark environment is used by adding the first and third layers

What are your thoughts on this interesting Canon Patent? Do you see this making it into a future DSLR? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

[via Canon Rumors]

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.

6 Comments

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  2. Jeremy Huynh

    Very clever system.
    Wouldn’t have think about it for an AF sensor.

    But still hoping for a foveon-like image sensor from canon, though.

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  3. Stephen Jennings

    There’s been a lot of talk lately about mirrorless vs mirror, there being benefits to both.. but I think it would take a very significant reason to abandon the traditional DSLR for a mirrorless system entirely. Not just size or weight as that matters little to some. So it makes sense that companies like Cannon are still going to invent and make progress with their mirrored DSLR technology instead of focusing all their R&D to mirrorless development.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Yeah — it’s interesting that, now that Sony finally seems to have set their emphasis on mirrorless, every traditional SLR company that made a successful transition to DSLR is still backing DSLR and treating mirrorless as kind of a hobby.

      But I really question the value of mirrorless for Nikon or Canon, particularly in full frame. Looking at my Canon 6D versus the Sony A7 series, I’d save 7oz on weight. Nothing on lenses, assuming Sony would eventually have E-Mount FF replacements for my Canon lenses. So what did I really get — an EVF. What’s the huge advantage, that would make me go through this switch-up, and Nikon or Canon risk their huge lead? I don’t see it.

      Then, consider if they put an EVF overlay in the DSLR viewfinder, something similar to Fujifilm’s hybrid rangefinder-style viewfinder. So now you can have video live in the viewfinder, or get the EVF auto-gain on manual lenses. And the overlays, even in optical mode. Now the advantage is only 7oz and a little body volume. Plus, then you’ll notice that Sony doesn’t make a pro body, nothing that competes with a 5D or a 1D, in terms of not being destroyed when you fall down a mountain into a river. That matters to many of the people who buy them, too.

      I think EVF cameras make a good option for some, a good alternative for others. You’ll also notice that the EVF market is where everyone without DSLR success has gone: Sony (Pentax is outselling them on DSLRs now), Panasonic (full four-thirds never gelled), Olympus (dropped SLR in the film days, same issue with big four-thirds cameras), Samsung (only just now getting serious about cameras), Fujifilm (made a few Nikon-mount DSLRs, they didn’t sell well), etc. They’re looking at mirrorless because Nikon and Canon aren’t serious about it, and maybe that’s enough to steal away some business from Nikon and Canon’s multi-decade control of around 75% of the ILC market. They can’t go head-to-head.

      For me, mirrorless made sense when the OM-D came out. Great images, small enough to be a viable alternative to my big Canon. If it was the same as the Canon, I wouldn’t have it. If Canon got serious about mirrorless and it didn’t fit my lenses, no chance.

      It would also be risky for Canon and Nikon to do serious mirrorless models. Maybe they don’t think that way and will… but others market leaders have made bad decisions and lived to regret them. The president of Fujifilm said he’d love to see those guys get seriously in the mirrorless market. That move would make mirrorless a viable choice to many photographers who reject it today, and unless they did something magical, they’d be the guys behind the established leaders like Sony, Olympus, and Fujifilm. Why would they do that?

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    • Stephen Jennings

      The lens issue would be the biggest draw back from transitioning for me. I’ve never once said “man I wish I had an EVF” or that my camera weighed a little less. But assuming Nikon, the brand I use, made some super awesome professional mirrorless system it would likely have a different mount and my lenses wouldn’t match. Someone would probably make a converter, but essentially the “upgrade” to a mirrorless system would be the same as switching to a new brand entirely.

      And the only time I could see mirrorless truly benefiting my photography would landscapes, which is just a hobby. BUT .. my Nikon is already essentially mirrorless when shot in a live mode anyways.. soo ..

      If the industry leaders decided to go mirrorless I think it would have to run parrellel to mirrored systems because a lot of people won’t want to switch if it means losing their glass, as well as wanting to wait until all the kinks with mirrorless technology get worked out.

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  4. Gurmit Saini

    Its looks interesting and time will tell what it will be in terms of performance and image quality.

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