When we think of sensor tech we generally think of Sony, and we really don’t tend to think of Canon, but Canon is making moves there in some respects and giving us something to talk about. Just a few weeks ago Canon unveiled 3 new sensors, each with specialized functionality, and has been dripping out info on each since then.
First was the ultra high-resolution 120MP APS-H sensor, the 5MP Global Shutter CMOS, and then the 35MMFHDXS CMOS. The latter of which they’ve just released some more information on, and it’s quite impressive. Its claim to fame? Low light and low noise abilities beyond that which we are remotely accustomed primarily due to its extremely large pixel size of 19μm x 19μm. For reference, good phone camera sensors have pixel sizes around 1-1.5μm and other full frame and some medium format sensors will have around 4.5-8μm, so 19μm is out of the ordinary.
And so is what it does:
“The 35MMFHDXS CMOS sensor delivers high-sensitivity, low-noise imaging performance, enabling the capture of Full HD video even in exceptionally low-light environments. The sensor’s pixels and readout circuitry employ new technologies that reduce noise, which tends to increase as pixel size increases. High sensitivity and increased well depth have been achieved through a larger pixel size of 19μm x 19μm (square) with proprietary device design technologies. The 35MMFHDXS CMOS sensor is available in RGB, RGB+IR or Monochrome.”
Of course, pixel size isn’t everything, but the new sensor also has some new readout circuitry, to help process the information and as stated above, has low light and low noise, which is one reason they’re able to capture full HD video at 100FPS in almost no light. At only 2.2MP this isn’t a sensor we can expect to see in a still camera ever, but perhaps the technology will make its way in some form to Canon cameras in the future.
The obvious use for something like this, however, is video, where it can deliver high quality color imagery in extremely low lit scenarios.
“This CMOS image sensor was specifically developed to allow implementation of an HDTV camera that can deliver full color images in extraordinarily low scene illumination levels. It achieves this by using a 16:9 sampling lattice within a single 35mm full frame image sensor (that utilizes a Bayer color filter array) – which supports a very large photosite. This, in turn, provides a large number of electrons released by the photo conversion process. Special design strategies are mobilized to ensure efficient capture of all of those electrons during each reset period – thus enabling an HDTV camera of extraordinary sensitivity. The anticipated uses of the ME20F-SH multipurpose HDTV camera are many – and they include documentary production, natural history (especially capture of nocturnal and deep water animals), special scenes in movie and television episodic origination, and a variety of military and law enforcement applications that entail unusually low scene illumination.”
You can find out more details from Canon’s own whitepaper here, and check out the sample video below: