Canon Develops World’s First 1 Megapixel SPAD Image Sensor

SPAD Image Sensor

Canon’s research labs are developing the world’s first 1 megapixel SPAD image sensor, another highly specialized sensor for scientific applications.

The camera utilizing the sensor described in the press release below were jointly developed with scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. A scientific article was also published: Megapixel time-gated SPAD image sensor for 2D and 3D imaging applications

Canon press release:

TOKYO, June 24, 2020—Canon Inc. announced today that the company has developed the world’s first1 single photon avalanche diode (SPAD) image sensor with signal-amplifying pixels capable of capturing 1-megapixel images. SPAD image sensors are ideal for such applications as 2-dimensional cameras, which capture and develop still image and video in an extremely short span of time. These sensors also hold potential for use in 3-dimensional cameras due to their ability to obtain information about the distance between them and a subject as image data.

A SPAD sensor is a uniquely designed image sensor in which each pixel possesses an electronic element. When a single light particle, called a photon, reaches a pixel it is multiplied—as if creating an “avalanche”—that results in a single large electrical pulse. The ability to generate multiple electrons from a single photon provides such advantages as greater sensitivity during image capture and high precision distance measurement.

The SPAD image sensor developed by Canon overcomes the longstanding difficulties of achieving this effect with high pixel counts. By adopting new circuit technology, Canon’s sensor uses a method known as photon counting to realize a digital image resolution of 1 megapixel. What’s more, the sensor employs a global shutter that allows simultaneous control of exposure for every pixel. Exposure time can be shortened to as little as 3.8 nanoseconds2, making possible clear and distortion-free image capture. In addition, the sensor is capable of up to 24,000 frames per second (FPS) with 1 bit output, thus enabling slow-motion capture of fast movement within an extremely short time frame.

SPAD Image Sensor

Thanks to its ability to capture fine details for the entirety of events and phenomena, this technology holds the potential for use in a wide variety of fields and applications including clear, safe and durable analysis of chemical reactions, natural phenomena including lightning strikes, falling objects, damage upon impact and other events that can’t be observed with precision by the naked eye.

The sensor also features a high time resolution as precise as 100 picoseconds2, enabling it to determine the exact timing at which a photon reaches a pixel with ultra-high accuracy. Leveraging this functionality, the sensor is capable of Time of Flight distance measurement. What’s more, with a high resolution of 1 megapixel and high-speed image capture, it is also able to accurately perform 3D distance measurements in situations where multiple subjects overlap—useful in such scenarios as a vehicle distance measurement for self-driving automobiles and grasping 3D spatial information for xR3 and similar devices.

Canon’s development of a SPAD image sensor enables 3D cameras capable of recognizing depth information to achieve a resolution of 1 megapixel is expected to rapidly expand the use of such cameras as the “eyes” of high-performance robotic devices. Going forward, Canon will strive to anticipate the needs of industry by continuing to advance its innovative image sensor technology, further expand the possibilities of what is visible, spur evolution in science and industry through high-precision detection of information and contribute to the development of fields yet to be discovered.

[more about SPAD sensors after the break]
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Does Sensor Size Matter And Can You Tell The Difference? (sensor size comparison)

Sensor Size

Does sensor size matter that much and can you even tell the difference?. A sensor size comparison from medium format to Micro 4/3 Sensors.

The people at The Slanted Lens wants to know and compares four sensor sizes:

We compare 4 sensor sizes to see how they compare in print image quality: Hasselblad X1D II 50C, Sony a7R IV, Sony a6600 and Panasonic GH5. See how much difference there is in the Medium, Full-frame, APS-C and Micro 4/3 Sensors.

More posts talking sensor size and formats are listed here.

Canon Believes The Future Is HEIF Image File Format And Not JPEG – Here Is Why

HEIF Image File

Canon seems to be committed to the HEIF image file format over the traditional JPEG format.

Let’s start with what the HEIF file format is. According to Wikipedia:

High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF), also known as High Efficiency Image Coding (HEIC), is a file format for individual images and image sequences. It was developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and is defined by MPEG-H Part 12 (ISO/IEC 23008-12). The MPEG group claims that twice as much information can be stored in a HEIF image as in a JPEG image of the same size, resulting in a better quality image. HEIF also supports animation, and is capable of storing more information than an animated GIF at a small fraction of the size.

So far so good. But why would Canon embrace HEIF over JPEG? In the video below, Gordon Laing from Camera Labs discusses what sets HEIF apart and what the differences are compared to JPEG.

What do you think, do you prefer JPEG or HEIF?

Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS Teardown (complex beast with organized complexity)

Canon Firmware Update RF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS Review

Roger Cicala over at Lens Rentals tore down the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens for the EOS R full frame mirrorless system. This is the stuff nerd dreams are made off.

It seems Canon was (again) able to impress people with their completely new lens design. There have been discussions and speculations about Canon RF lenses compared to Canon EF lenses (have a look here). Once more the people at Lens Rentals prove that RF mount lenses have an entirely new design, and are in every meaning impressive.

The Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L is a complex beast, but you get a quick feel for it being organized complexity, and it’s actually a much simpler layout than those other lenses. Some of that is from the improved optical design; there’s less glass floating around. Some of it is the use of linear focusing motors.

[…] This lens was a new design from the ground up. There’s no ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ holdovers. That’s a lot more work for the designers, but the result is a beautifully engineered, fully modern lens. It’s clean, functional, and straightforward.

[…] It’s obviously very robustly engineered from a mechanical standpoint. The internal composites are strong as hell. There are double cams, rods, and posts everywhere. There’s no play in any moving parts. We can’t imagine there will ever be play in the moving parts unless you run over it with a truck. 

See the whole teardown at Lens Rentals.

More RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS coverage is listed here

Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS: B&H Photo, Adorama, Amazon USA, Amazon CA, KEH Camera, BestBuy, Canon CA, Canon USA

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Canon vs Sony vs Fuji vs Nikon: Continuous 4K Video Shooting With Eye AF

Eye Af

Geek alert! A Canon vs Sony vs Fuji vs Nikon shootout on Eye AF performance.

Here is a 22 minutes video where Hidema Nakajima compares the Eye AF of various mirrorless cameras. To be more precise, he compares the Eye AF performance while shooting 4K video. The compared cameras are the Canon EOS R, Nikon Z 6, Sony a9, and Fujifilm X-T3.

Canon released firmware updates for the Canon EOS R and EOS RP that dramatically improved AF performance. More Canon EOS R Eye AF comparison reviews are here and here.

Here Is How Canon’s Defocus Smoothing Technology Works (featured on new RF 85mm f/1.2L)

Canon RF 85mm F/1.2L DS Defocus Smoothing

Today Canon announced the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS and Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L DS lenses for the EOS R system.

The Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L DS features Defocus Smoothing technology (the “DS” in the moniker). What Defocus Smoothing is about and how it works is explained in the videos below.