Canon Developed Sensor Capable Of High-quality Color Photography In The Dark

Eos R Canon Rf 14-35mm

A new imaging sensor is coming from Canon’s R&D laboratories. A new SPAD (single photon avalanche diode) imaging sensor that can take high-quality photos even in the dark.

Digicame Info summed up what it is about:

  • Canon has developed an image sensor that enables high-quality color photography even in the dark. The CMOS sensor used in digital cameras can recognize up to about one-tenth the brightness of light that can be detected, and can take clear pictures even in situations where nothing can be seen with the naked eye. It will be mass-produced from 2022. It may lead to improved image recognition performance in a wide range of industrial applications such as autonomous driving and crime prevention / monitoring.
  • We have developed a light receiving element called a SPAD (single photon avalanche diode) image sensor. You can shoot clear color images even in total darkness, which was difficult with the CMOS sensor. The number of pixels of the sensor that holds the key to the sharpness of the image is 3.2 million pixels, which is more than three times that of the conventional SPAD, which is the highest in the world.
  • The SPAD sensor also has the feature of measuring the distance to the object from the time it takes for the reflected light from the object to return, and capturing the space in three dimensions. Therefore, it is expected to be used in a wide range of fields such as the high-performance sensor “LiDAR” that is indispensable for autonomous driving and augmented reality (AR).

Don’t expect this sensor to come to your next PowerShot or EOS M or EOS R camera. It is more likely suited for scientific applications.

[via Nikkei Asia]

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.

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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