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New Sony Sensor Patent Highlights Multilayer Technology With A Built-In Lens

By Anthony Thurston on April 3rd 2015

By now, we all know that many companies are working on multi-layer sensor technology, not unlike that in Sigma’s Foveon sensors. The latest patent along those lines comes by the way of Sony, which has an interesting solution for fixing an inherent problem in their FE mount.


The small flange distance of the Sony FE mount means that lenses have to be longer in order to correct the incident angle at the corner of the sensor. This means lenses you would normally expect to be quite small and compact, become long and heavier than ideal.

This new Sony sensor patent would eliminate this issue by building a lens over the sensor, which would correct the incident angle. This would eliminate the need of that in the actual lenses, thus making them smaller and more compact.

The other interesting note about this new patent is that it features multi-layer technology, similar to Sigma’s Foveon. It seems like just a matter of time now before someone besides Sigma brings a camera to market using this technology and with the run of innovation Sony has been on, would you really be surprised if it was them?

What are your thoughts on this sensor patent? Do you see Sony releasing a multi-layer sensor-based camera in their FE line anytime soon? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. 

[via SAR]

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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. robert garfinkle

    Is it me, or is it Sony’s philosophy to have every consumer buy in whole sets – i.e. buy camera “A” with all the lenses that fit camera “A”, then buy camera “B” with all those lenses that fit that… that’s the sense I’m getting – as quite a few people speak about limited lens availability for a particular new camera etc… what gives? educate me… (I call this “Nintendo” thinking…)

    I did not know it at the time, but when I invested in Nikon – DX on up (to FX) cameras, I did not realize that the mounts were the same, of course short time later I learned that, and now, come to realize I would have wanted that choice anyway – had I known up front…

    It’d drive me nuts to have one set of this, one set of that… now, thank god for adapters / converters which pillows the effect of having “last years” technology go to the wayside – sit in a drawer – or have to lug around a ton of hardware / bags to keep using it…

    but let me stop here for a moment – all this garbage I spew here, is because I’m reading that an advancement of sensor, with it’s own lens, dictates (appears to dictate anyway) that there will be difficulty using current lens technology which has this lens built in to all lenses, yes? So, let me ask then, if this is true – in order to use a lens which has the corrective “incident angle” technology in conjunction with a sensor that has this feature, would a mfr have to come out with an adapter which effectively reverses the effect which’d go in between your “old” lens and the camera with this new lens/sensor combo – not too dissimilar to the D800e’s anti-antialias filter (yes, that was not a typo, I said anti-antialias filter) which effectively cancels out the anti-aliasing – just another element in the way… i.e. a layer of abstraction…

    while in theory factoring out a common part and placing it, in this case, on the sensor itself makes perfect sense, not knocking it at all – it’s very smart thinking – it should have been thought of from the get go… hindsight is 20/20 (with the “incident angle” correction built into your eye…)

    Finally, and I’m done here a rantin’ – could I find something to complain about, sure – as I have :), I like simple tethered with freedom – yet think about it too complexly (yup that’s a word); I like going from camera to camera without the threat of having to toss away my lenses, knowing that the technology in both the cameras and the lenses are improving along the way – I’ll still buy,” maybe” (a guarded maybe) not spend as much (more appropriately – throw away as much…); and like Nikon’s (I think Canon does this too) implementation – Now, one might say with Nikon I’m not saving money (depends on how you look at it) but Sony is expensive too… and it may balance out…

    all this technology don’t make me the photographer that I want to be or can be…

    Just shoot the picture stupid…

    and so it goes…

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    • oishi nekotama

      “Is it me, or is it Sony’s philosophy to have every consumer buy in whole sets – i.e. buy camera “A” with all the lenses that fit camera “A”, then buy camera “B” with all those lenses that fit that”

      Yes of course the mirrorless have different philosophy from DSLR, you can also apply your statement that with eos M and Nikon 1 mount, just wait until Canikon release a fullframe mirrorless cameras, big chances it will have different mount then their current DSLR counterpart no? adapter will be playing a big roles here.

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  2. Rafael Steffen

    This new sensor technology is going to increase image quality a whole lot! Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Dave Haynie

    That’s an interesting solution. However, it does preset the problem that current cameras don’t have this extra lens. So does this imply yet another variation of the Sony E-Mount, since those now smaller lenses wouldn’t work well, or at all, with existing hardware. Or maybe there’s an adapter?

    The 3-layer sensor is interesting, but unless they have some way around the problems Foveon has with light sensitivity at the lower layers, it’s going to be a special purpose thing. The latest Foveon sensor isn’t a true pixel-by-pixel RGB sensor anymore, because of this. The top layer (blue) has the full sensor resolution, but layers 2 (green) and 3 (red) are at 1/4 of the full resolution. Even at that, they’ve only gone from “horrible” to “so-so” at moderate-high ISOs.

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  4. J. Dennis Thomas

    The sensor micro-lens array is something Leica did years ago to address that same problem.

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    • oishi nekotama

      Sony also used micro-lens array on their FE cameras sensor, and both of Sony and Leica still have problems with ultra wide symetrical design lenses. This patent is different then the mirco lens array concept but similar.

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      Leica doesn’t have the problem the Sony does with their wide angle lenses That’s why Leica wides perform great on Leica cameras and terribly on Sony cameras. Leica has optimized their micro-lens array (by the way sensors in all cameras have a micro-lens array, it’s just that Leica was the first to specifically have to design theirs to compensate for the short flange distance, something Sony obviously didn’t do)

      I understand that this patent is different. It copies Leica’s micro-lens array idea, but also adds elements of Sigma’s Foveon technology.

      Basically Sony isn’t treading on new ground here they are simply co-opting two existing ideas into one.

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    • oishi nekotama

      uh, leica do have the problem with ultra wide lenses just google them. Do you know Leica implementing 6-bit code correction for color shift/magenta and vigneting?

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    • oishi nekotama

      and also the differences in the patent here is, this is not array of micro-lens, but a whole lens (a layer) for the whole sensor, some sort of collective lens.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Yeah, OISHI NEKOTAMA, I think this is some kind of collimating lens. The idea would be to take the angled light rays and basically straighten them, to run parallel to each other, normal to the sensor surface.

      Fujifilm has a different solution to the same problem… they offset the microlens from the photo sensor as you get toward the edge of the sensor.

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  5. Jerry Jackson

    The integration of new lens technology directly on the sensor has been rumored for a while. I remember reading an interview with someone at Sony a couple of years ago when they addressed the fact that many adapted lenses had horrible softness in the corners when mounted on the “NEX” cameras (original branding for the E-mount).

    The latest interest in multilayer sensor tech is really being fueled by the fact that we’re getting closer to the point at which we will get “diminishing returns” in terms of squeezing more pixels into a 35mm (or smaller) fame while still getting decent light sensitivity, color accuracy, a high signal-to-noise ratio, etc.

    Every camera company knows that changes in the spec lists (or perceived technical innovation) are a big part of what fuels new camera purchases. If we can’t pack 60mp into a 35mm full frame sensor without losing image quality in some way then we need to develop sensors that improve image quality in some other way.

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  6. Paddy McDougall

    Sony seems to be throwing lots of money at their R & D and Nikon owners can testify to the excellent DR in their sensors, however, I would like to jump ship to there a7 range but don’t feel confident in selling my L glass until Sony sorts out their lens line up. It will probably be fuji I jump to when they release their rumoured 25mp sensor

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