Industry News: Sony Develops World’s First Stacked CMOS Sensor With 2-Layer Transistor Pixel

Sony

Sony announced the development of a new image sensor with 2-Layer transistor pixels.

Sony press release:

Sony Develops World’s First*1 Stacked CMOS Image Sensor Technology
with 2-Layer Transistor Pixel

Widens Dynamic Range and Reduces Noise by Approximately Doubling*2 Saturation Signal Level*3

*1: As of announcement on December 16, 2021.

*2: Based on comparison, on a one square μm equivalent basis, between existing image sensor and the new technology applied to Sony’s back-illuminated CMOS image sensor; as of announcement on December 16, 2021.

*3: A single pixel’s maximum electron storage capacity.

Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation (“Sony”) has succeeded in developing the world’s first*1 stacked CMOS image sensor technology with 2-Layer Transistor Pixel. Whereas conventional CMOS image sensors’ photodiodes and pixel transistors occupy the same substrate, Sony’s new technology separates photodiodes and pixel transistors on different substrate layers. This new architecture approximately doubles*2 saturation signal level*3 relative to conventional image sensors, widens dynamic range and reduces noise, thereby substantially improving imaging properties. The new technology’s pixel structure will enable pixels to maintain or improve their existing properties at not only current but also smaller pixel sizes.

Sony announced this breakthrough at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting that started on Saturday, December 11, 2021.

Stacked CMOS image sensor architectures

A stacked CMOS image sensor adopts a stacked structure consisting of a pixel chip made up of back-illuminated pixels stacked atop a logic chip where signal processing circuits are formed. Within the pixel chip, photodiodes for converting light to electrical signals, and pixel transistors for controlling the signals are situated alongside each other on the same layer. Increasing saturation signal level within form-factor constraints plays an important role in realizing high image quality with wide dynamic range.

Sony’s new architecture is an advancement in stacked CMOS image sensor technology. Using its proprietary stacking technology, Sony packaged the photodiodes and pixel transistors on separate substrates stacked one atop the other.
In conventional stacked CMOS image sensors, by contrast, the photodiodes and pixel transistors sit alongside each other on the same substrate. The new stacking technology enables adoption of architectures that allow the photodiode and pixel transistor layers to each be optimized, thereby approximately doubling saturation signal level relative to conventional image sensors and, in turn, widening dynamic range.

Additionally, because pixel transistors other than transfer gates (TRG), including reset transistors (RST), select transistors (SEL) and amp transistors (AMP), occupy a photodiode-free layer, the amp transistors can be increased in size. By increasing amp transistor size, Sony succeeded in substantially reducing the noise to which nighttime and other dark-location images are prone.
The widened dynamic range and noise reduction available from this new technology will prevent underexposure and overexposure in settings with a combination of bright and dim illumination (e.g., backlit settings) and enable high-quality, low-noise images even in low-light (e.g., indoor, nighttime) settings.
Sony will contribute to the realization of increasingly high-quality imaging such as smartphone photographs with its 2-Layer Transistor Pixel technology.

[via Sony Alpha Rumors]

Canon Opens A New CMOS Sensor Factory, Increases Production Capacity

Canon EOS R6 Mark Ii Rf Mount Eos R6 Mark Ii Rf 300mm Rf 35mm Canon Eos R100 Rf 24mm F/1.8 Rf-s Canon Eos R7 Eos R100 Canon High Resolution Eos R R10 Eos C5 Canon Eos R1 Eos R5c Canon Rf 16mm Rf 35mm F/1.2L EF Lenses Tilt-shift Lenses Rumor

Canon is set to establish a new CMOS sensor manufacturing factory at Hiratsuka Plant, Japan. The production will fulfill primarily Canon’s own imaging sensor needs but they may also sell to third parties in the future.

The report comes from Newswitch and as spotted by Digital Camera Info, which summarizes what it is about (emphasis mine):

Canon will utilize part of the site of the Hiratsuka Plant (Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture) to build a new CMOS image sensor manufacturing building. The investment amount is over 21 billion yen. Scheduled to start operation in July 2023. In addition to increasing the production capacity of CMOS image sensors installed in its own products such as cameras, it will also respond to growing demand for external sales.

Originally, Canon produced CMOS image sensors for the purpose of in-house production for its own cameras, but started selling them outside a few years ago. It is used in applications such as surveillance cameras and inspection equipment.

I wonder if this plant will also produce imaging sensors for consumer cameras. Guess it will, given the global supply chain issues.

Canon Patent: Imaging Sensor Protection Mechanism

Canon Patent

Here is an interesting Canon patent: a mechanism to protect the sensor from dust and dirt while no lens is attached.

Canon patent application P2021-103248A discusses a technology able to protect the imaging sensor of a camera from dust and dirt when no lens is mounted (e.g. while changing lens). From the patent literature:

PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED: To provide an image pickup apparatus with a barrier mechanism capable of being arranged in a small space while avoiding interference with components other than the barrier mechanism.

When the interchangeable lens is removed from the interchangeable lens type image pickup device (camera), dust may enter the camera through the opening of the mount and adhere to the image pickup element. Therefore, the image pickup device may be equipped with a barrier mechanism that protects the image pickup element by closing the opening of the mount. Patent Document 1 discloses a barrier mechanism configured such that a barrier closes an opening of a mount when the lens is not attached and the barrier is opened by rotation when the lens is attached.

As asobinet.com rightfully notices, the patent is not for a “compact shutter unit”, as wrongfully stated by some sites:

Some overseas information sites misrepresent it as a “compact shutter unit”, but it is just a shutter mechanism for “sensor protection” and a technology to prevent dust from adhering to the sensor when changing lenses. is. The compact sensor barrier seems to be a space-saving design that suppresses interference with other parts.

More Canon patents are listed here. Some particularly interesting patent applications we think might get into production are these:

Canon develops groundbreaking image sensor, calls it eye of the future

Image Sensor Canon Eos R

Canon published a technical article about the world’s first 1-megapixel SPAD image sensor. A groundbreaking image sensor and distance measurement sensor that will be the eyes of the future.

The advanced technology discussed in the Canon article is for applications involving augmented and virtual reality, ultra-high frames-per-second shooting speeds, robot automation, computer vision, and driverless vehicles. Here are some excerpts from the article:

Both SPAD and CMOS sensors make use of the fact that light is made up of particles. However, with CMOS sensors, each pixel measures the amount of light that reaches the pixel within a given time, whereas SPAD sensors measure each individual light particle (i.e., photon) that reaches the pixel. Each photon that enters the pixel immediately gets converted into an electric charge, and the electrons that result are eventually multiplied like an avalanche until they form a large signal charge that can be extracted.

[…] it was considered difficult to create a high-pixel-count SPAD sensor. On each pixel, the sensing site (surface area available for detecting incoming light as signals) was already small. Making the pixels smaller so that more pixels could be incorporated in the image sensor would cause the sensing sites to become even smaller, in turn resulting in very little light entering the sensor, which would also be a big problem.

[…] Canon incorporated a proprietary structural design that used technologies cultivated through production of commercial-use CMOS sensors. This design successfully kept the aperture rate at 100% regardless of the pixel size, making it possible to capture all light that entered without any leakage, even if the number of pixels was increased. The result was the achievement of an unprecedented 1,000,000-pixel SPAD sensor.

image © Canon
image © Canon

Canon sees many applications for their new and revolutionary image sensor:

In the fields of AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), which involve superimposing virtual images on top of real ones, being able to use the SPAD sensor to speedily obtain accurate three-dimensional spatial information enables more precise alignment of positions in real time. There are also high expectations for the application of SPAD sensors in solving one of the greatest challenges in designing driverless vehicles: the measurement of distances between a vehicle and the people and objects in its vicinity.

The article is very interesting and if you are into these technologies we recommend you give the article a try. The whole thing was spotted by Image Sensors World. More tech stuff is listed here.

Did Canon Make The EOS R3 Sensor, Or Did They Not?

Eos R3

Some questions arose after Canon UK made a small change to the wording for the EOS R3 sensor presentation on their homepage.

Spotted by DC Life, the small change seems to mean something. As you can see in the image on top, Canon UK stated that the EOS R3 sensor was “designed and manufactured by Canon“. Canon USA and Canon Japan just stated the sensor was “developed by Canon“. A small but indeed significant difference. The best part: Canon UK changed their wording shortly after the presentation, and now it’s on line with the other Canon sites. According to DC Life the change was made on April 24. See image below.

eos r3
Canon UK’s wording after the change

So, without starting wild conspiracies: what’s the reason for the change in wording? What immediately comes to mind is that it might be a sensor developed by Canon and manufactures by Sony, as for instance Nikon does. Or it means Canon makes just a part of the sensor which is then assembled with parts manufactured by others. Or it might just mean nothing, a glitch in the text that has been corrected to align it with other Canon sites.

I am pretty skeptical that Canon did not made the EOS R3 sensor in house, i.e. on their own. They have the skills and capabilities. As far as I know, only certain PowerShot cameras have imaging sensors not made by Canon.

What are your ideas on this? Just a glitch, or did Canon not make the EOS R3 sensor and doesn’t want to make too much noise around it? Let us know.

P.S.: you can get notified when the Canon EOS R3 will be available for preorder.

canon eos r3 specifications
The upcoming Canon EOS R3

Industry News: Sony Set To Release a 128MP Imaging Sensor With Global Shutter

Global Shutter

Sony is set to release another innovative imaging sensor, with 128MP resolution and global shutter.

Canon is also rumored to work on an entirely new sensor. Sony, so it seems, will release its imaging sensor before Canon..

Sony press release:

Sony to Release Large Format CMOS Image Sensor with Global Shutter Function and Industry’s Highest Effective Pixel Count of 127.68 Megapixels

Delivering Increased Pixel Count, High-Speed Imaging Performance, and Contributing to Solutions in the Field of Advanced, Diversified Industrial Equipment

Tokyo, Japan — Sony Corporation announced today the upcoming release of a large format 56.73mm diagonal CMOS image sensor “IMX661” for industrial equipment with a global shutter function and the industry’s highest*1 effective pixel count of 127.68 megapixels.*2

This product features an increased pixel count that yields an optical size nearly 10 times larger than the common 1.1-type image sensor corresponded to the C mount*3 for industrial equipment. It also features Sony’s original global shutter pixel technology “Pregius™”, which enables capture of motion distortion-free images. Furthermore, the Sony’s original device configuration and interface technology employed enable high-speed image readout at a data rate nearly four times faster*4 than conventional products.

Sony expects that the new sensor, when used in industrial equipment cameras for a wide variety of applications, will help to solve a variety of complex challenges, thereby contributing to the development of industry.

  • *1Among CMOS image sensors equipped with a global shutter. According to Sony research (as of announcement on March 9, 2021).
  • *2Based on image sensor effective pixel specification method.
  • *3The joining mechanism between lens and the camera body.
  • *4Compared to Sony’s “IMX253” 1.1 type, 12.37 effective megapixels CMOS image sensor equipped with a global shutter function.

Model name Sample: IMX661 3.6 type (56.73 mm diagonal) 127.68-effective-megapixel CMOS image sensor
Shipment date (planned)*5: April 2021(*5 The dates given for sample shipment date (planned) are for the color model. Black and white model samples will be available for shipment approximately one month later.

Needs for automation, labor-saving and other benefits of digital transformation continue to grow in recent years in various fields of industrial equipment. This has accelerated the adoption of cameras for a wide variety of applications, driving demand for CMOS image sensors with higher imaging performance.

The new product couples Sony’s Pregius technology with the 3.6-type (56.73mm diagonal) large optical size, delivering an increased pixel count and motion distortion-free imaging. The original device configuration, which employs a chip-on-wafer process, together with Sony’s original interface technology, enables high-speed readout nearly four times faster than conventional products*4 in full-pixel readout mode. This design delivers highly efficient imaging that captures a wide viewing angle with no motion distortion in a single imaging operation. It also improves recognition precision thanks to the high-resolution imaging and delivers a high level of processing performance. It can contribute to solutions for a variety of industrial equipment applications, for example, inspection processes for production of displays and electronic substrates, wide-area monitoring, and aerial photography, where its improved precision and quicker readout will help meet the need for a high level of productivity.

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