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Panasonic announces the new “Micro Color Splitters” Sensor.


Panasonic (Click here) just announced a new sensor Technology for Highly Sensitive Image Sensors Using Micro Color Splitters. That new technique allows to “approximately double the color sensitivity in comparison with conventional sensors that use color filters.“. The trick to achieve that is the complete removal of the color filters that “usually block 50 – 70% of the incoming light before it even reaches the sensor“. Full description of the tech cna be read here:

I hope that’s the reason why Panasonic dind’t unveil the GX1 successor last year :)

  • Anonymous

    No way it is going into m43 cameras.

    You get only two types of color sensing pixels instead of three, and their color separation quality is worse too.
    Such approach will surely make color bad compared to traditional approach.

    Security/robot vision devices will benefit from that, maybe low end smartphones, but nothing where color quality is important.

    Maybe this + some other clever tricks will be next big thing, but this tech alone has no chances.

    • Pavlo

      My initial thoughts were about compact cameras, but look at part 3:

      Layout technologies and unique algorithms that enable highly sensitive and precise color reproduction
      For example, if the structure separates light into a certain color and its complementary color, color pixels of white + red, white – red, white + blue, and white – blue are obtained and, using the arithmetic processing technique, are translated into normal color images without any loss of resolution.

      I think we’ll not see a product bearing new sensor in 2013…

    • Stupig

      They only show the R-G row on the left for comparison. A reasonable guess is Blue is split into the “super white” pixel and leaves yellow behind.

      • Anonymous

        That is better. Math should be tricky, but color should be a bit easier to get right then with Foveon.

        Also may have troubles with resolution after interpolation, as 4 different pixel types will be used.

        So complexity of processing should be like a mix of Fuji X-Trans (for detail) & Sigma Foveon (for color).
        Still very risky path to take with cameras where good RAW support is mandatory.

        Good place to start would be compact cameras & smartphones, anyways it’s a mush on pixel level there )

        • Stupig

          Don’t worry about complexity. There is really no additional computational cost.

          As for color separation – it depends on the “splitter”. I’m guessing it’s something like a mini dichroic filter. If that’s the case, the primaries should be decently separated, unlike in Foveon’s case.

    • Neonart

      I didn’t get that at all from the press release. Here’s what it says in reference to colors captured:
      “Fine-tuning their shapes causes the efficient separation of certain colors and their complementary colors, or the splitting of white light into blue, green, and red like a prism, with almost no loss of light.”

      • Esa Tuunanen

        You think press releases tell all aspects of the advertised thing?

        Just like Foveon this sensor doesn’t output clean data with red, blue and green colour information but bigger parts of light are messed and mixed together.
        And just like in case of Foveon that useless contaminating signal must be removed from photsite signals before you get actual blue, red and green signal.
        In Bayer sensor photosite signals are pure clean R,G,B data.

        So question becomes can removal of colour filter with its light loss more than counterbalance this weakening of actual colour data in photosite signals?
        In case of Foveon it’s big no and its efficiency sucks big time compared to modern sensor with Bayer colour filter array.

    • jim

      No I think this is TOP quality stuff – more colour not less…

      This means the filter will not be absorbing light… (diffraction is pritty lossless) this is whole F Stop (or even 1.5 stop) advantage stuff!

      We Want This In m43 Please!

      So GH3 = 2 stops worse than a D5III so this new sensor might (possibly) just be a 1/2 stop worse than the FF 5DIII… very very nice :)

  • Was thinking Panasonic were working on big things in the background, I wonder whether they’ll be sharing these sensors….

    • Pavlo

      They could supply these to… Leica :) They are definitely not the competition.

  • Well, is there any word on when and in which products it will be used? Maybe they it’ll take another while before it’s used for MFT sensors while they first make compact cameras with the new technology? The better light yield this sensor promises is something smaller sensors are more in need of than bigger sensors. And making smaller sensors is less expensive, as in that it requires less silicon for each component. So it could be that they will wait for production costs to go down before they make larger sensors.

  • Stupig

    So the arrangement is something like:

    [White+Blue, Cyan;
    Yellow, White+Red]

    Getting rid of the dye is exciting, but it also means ISO 400 as base instead of ISO 200. One more reason to push for a global shutter :)

  • Flash

    Interesting! I wonder at what angle the light has to hit for it to work right. That will certainly be different then what the current sensors use.

    • CookieOfFortune

      The microlens at the top takes care of the incident light angle. This could be a drop in replacement for any current sensor although the processing is more complex.

  • adaptor-or-die

    this concept has been in research for some time. Olympus has had their own patent on the same idea listed here some months back? For smaller sensors to improve down the road, approaches have to change. Micro splitting lens systems seem to be that roadway? Besides if you come with a new process, you can trademark and brand it, Foveon is a recent example. Until it comes out as a working product, I don’t see this PR bulletin does a lot for the idea? The graphs and images they’ve supplied are not the best examples are they? Perhaps wait until they’ve got a refined product before showing off it’s “potential”?

    • Ben

      That’s interesting? You put a question mark at the end of every sentence? It makes me wonder what you do for actual questions? Maybe three question marks???

      • AndrewJ

        I’d bet he has no anti-virus? It looks like an old virus that’s been around a long time??? ahhhh chewww??? Oh crap, it’s contagious!

  • Kuba

    damn… ;)

  • Paul Alexander

    Finally, using Diffraction for something useful. Quantum Mechanics on our side.

    • P4INKiller

      The universe and the very nature of reality has no considerations for your trivial human matters.

  • Hard2Xplain

    I don’t think we could see this tech in GX2 (since it should be released this year).

    But still, good to hear that Pana has something up their sleeves in sensor front.

  • Bob B.

    “I hope that’s the reason why Panasonic dind’t unveil the GX1 successor last year ”
    Me too!!!

  • Chris K.

    Excellent! Hope this tech makes it into production sensors.

  • MarcoSartoriPhoto

    I think we’ll see the release of this new sensor around 2020, considering Pana slooooooowwwwwneeeessssss……

    • Flash

      It might be released this decade, but being Panasonic it will not be for sale. at least in the US, till next decade or maybe even the one after. :)

      • Anonymous

        Um, they patented it world wide. We WILL be seeing this tech soon.

  • Randolph and Mortimer

    According to Panasonic although the possibility to do this has been known for some time the “issue” in the past has been the processing power needed. Panasonic apparently believes they can combine modern processors with an improved algorithm and have the horsepower they need to make this work.

    The benefit to photographers? Twice as much light reaching the sensor, which equates to a one stop advantage in high-ISO noise performance, dynamic range, and color reproduction. Basically when you take a shot at ISO 1600 the camera will actually use what would be ISO 800 on any other camera. So a 1 stop benefit over standard sensors.

    I am also curious whether this lets them get rid of the Bayer filter. If it does, then that is a small improvement in apparent sharpness that will be quite nice. Unless of course it is offset by color smearing or inaccuracy.

    • Anonymous

      No sharpness/resolution gain is possible, I’m afraid.
      At very best they will avoid loses compared to Bayer array.

      Can’t guess about color.It will require more complex math for sure, it may be better, worse or just different.

      Looking at difference between Sony an Pana sensors – for m43 it could be cheaper to just buy Sony sensor and don’t bother.

      • Flash

        Resolution gain is possible, though not certain compared to a Bayer Filter. Currently Bayer needs extra green receptors.

        But resolution is no longer a real problem in mFT and above sizes. That is not to say more would not be welcome but it is of limited real value, in my opinion.

        More ISO for mFT and any format would be welcome for sure. Besides the gain of not using the Bayer filter it will also allow for bigger or light direct at more responsive replicators better. Even if the design is better it will need a lot of work till it gets performance of the current design, sometimes mature technology works better despite it not best design, at least for a while.

        I would be fascinated to see how it can be fabricated. Processor speed is still increasing so eventually that will not be a problem.

  • Daymon

    That’s cool! now imagine an FF X-trans Micro Color Foveon sensor…

    • Esa Tuunanen

      You want worst of them combined?

      Because this isn’t best of them.

  • Yun

    Does this mean the ISO performance also go up ?
    I expect by 2 FStop improvement from current mFT cameras .
    Quick , make it happen in 2013 , install it in the L Style camera .

  • Anonymous

    Take that Olympus. Still want Sony sensors in your cameras? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    • Admin should really find the time, after his baby has grown, to introduce some moderation with such characters, if he wants to have a pro site.

      After all this site is worth 50,000 $ according to the ratings, so it is an investment worth protecting against the peabrained.

      • While I’d agree with your comment, the truth is that there are sites worth unmentionable times what this site is worth that have forums filled with peabrains. You can’t get rid of the peabrains. Believe me I know. 51% of my country voted for Bush.
        Sad but true.
        Try hanging out on dpreview sometime… good lord.

        • Fafhrd

          Warning – political discourse – and now we just voted for a President that claims the legal right to kill US citizens within US borders via drone strike. Welcome to endless war. We have sown the wind – we will inherit the whirlwind.

      • DPReview is worth a lot more, and its riddled with peabrains, to the point I think a lot of non-peabrains stay away. Apparently, there is value in peabrains. If nothing else, they will likely part with money easily, as P.T. Barnum understood and so well exploited.

  • tom

    Whether filters or diffraction, blue is the hardest to deal because that is where sensitivity is lowest. If you have a white + blue pixel, the non-blue signal swamps the blue, so the color information for blue is quite low. On an rgb sensor, one approach is to set separate gains for r,g,b, and increase the gain on blue, but then the blue is relatively noisier. This will probably help non-chroma noise more than chroma noise. I am not sure it does much for dynamic range.

    • Not bad choise of Panasonic, the is Blue chanal so blow out in hight light, first. ;-)

  • BdV

    By the way, has the black silicon sensor already been archived?

  • peevee

    “Panasonic announces the new “Micro Color Splitters” Sensor.”

    False, Panasonic did not announce any new sensor, they informed about the technology which may or may not eventually be developed enough to be incorporated in a new sensor.

  • Bernd
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