Canon has announced it has successfully developed an APS-H-size CMOS sensor that delivers an image resolution of approximately 120 megapixels (13,280x9184 pixels) the world’s highest level of resolution for its size.
Compared with Canon’s highest resolution commercial CMOS sensor of the same size (the 16.1 million pixel sensor that's in the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV DSLR) the newly developed sensor features a pixel count that, at approximately 120 million pixels, is said to be nearly 7.5 times larger and offers a 2.4-fold improvement in resolution.
With CMOS sensors, while high-speed readout for high pixel counts is achieved through parallel processing, an increase in parallel-processing signal counts can result in such problems as signal delays and minor deviations in timing. By modifying the method employed to control the readout circuit timing, Canon successfully achieved the high-speed readout of sensor signals. As a result, the new CMOS sensor makes possible a maximum output speed of approximately 9.5 frames per second, supporting the continuous shooting of ultra-high-resolution images.
Canon’s newly developed CMOS sensor also incorporates a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) video output capability. The sensor can output Full HD video from any approximately 1/60th-sized section of its total surface area.
Images captured with Canon’s new 120 megapixel CMOS image sensor, even when they are cropped or digitally magnified, maintain higher levels of definition and clarity than ever before. Additionally, the sensor enables image confirmation across a wide image area, with Full HD video viewing of a select portion of the overall frame.
Canon has also announced it has successfully developed the world’s largest CMOS image sensor, with a chip size measuring 202x205mm. Because its expanded size enables greater light-gathering capability, the sensor is capable of capturing images in one one-hundredth the amount of light required by a professional-model digital SLR camera.
At 202x205mm, the newly developed CMOS sensor is among the largest chips that can be produced from a 12-inch (300mm) wafer, and is approximately 40 times the size of Canon’s largest commercial CMOS sensor (the 21.1 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor that's in the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III and EOS 5D Mark II DSLRs).
In the past, enlarging the size of the sensor resulted in an increase in the amount of time required between the receiving and transmission of data signals, which posed a challenge to achieving high-speed readout. Canon has solved this problem through an innovative circuit design, making this massive video-compatible CMOS sensor possible. Additionally, by ensuring the cleanest of cleanroom environments during the production process, the sensor minimises image imperfections and dust.
Because the increased size of the new CMOS sensor allows more light to be gathered, it enables shooting in low-light environments. The sensor makes possible the image capture in 1/100th the amount of light required by a 35mm full frame CMOS sensor, facilitating the shooting of 60 frames per second video with a mere 0.3 lux of illumination (approximately half the brightness of a moonlit night). Potential applications for the new high-sensitivity CMOS sensor include the video recording of stars in the night sky and nocturnal animal behaviour.