Canon shows off prototype image sensor that can see in the dark

By on March 5, 2013, 7:30 AM

Canon is actively developing a video sensor that is able to see in the dark with just a smidgen of light. The sensor collects light by using very large pixels that have 7.5 times the surface area of the ones found in Canon’s 18-megapixel EOS-1D X DSLR despite the fact that the sensor is the same size.

It’s worth pointing out before we dig any deeper that the 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor is being developed exclusively for video recording. That said, we are told that the sensor’s pixels and readout circuitry use new technology that is able to effectively reduce noise, a common problem with sensors as pixel size increases.

Canon says the sensor is able to facilitate shooting of clearly visible images in dimly lit environments with as little as 0.03 lux of illumination which is roughly the amount of light that a crescent moon gives off. At this intensity, it’s difficult for the naked eye to perceive objects, the company says.

Canon was able to pair this new sensor with a prototype camera and capture some stunning images showing stars in the Milky Way galaxy and even shooting stars. The sample video also shows what the sensor can do in a dark room that’s only being lit by three burning incense sticks. The subject isn’t even visible when using a three-EMCCD camera but with the new sensor, we see so much more.

The imaging company plans to demonstrate a prototype camera that uses the new sensor at the Security Show 2013 which starts today and runs through March 8 at the Tokyo International Center in Tokyo, Japan.

User Comments: 4

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TS-56336 TS-56336 said:

Another technique used by still cameras is dark frame subtraction, after recording the image, the shutter is closed and another image of equal exposure time is taken, and subtracted from the original. Some noise tends to remain fairly constant, at least between two successive shots. This is partly why a DSLR set to expose for 10s will spend another 10s 'processing'.

avioza said:

Very cool. I always wanted clear shots of a starry sky. I wonder how expensive this sensor is to reproduce.

misor misor said:

I don't know how night vision goggles work but if this canon technology becomes cheap, readily available, and easily manufactured/incorporated into nvg systems, then I'm so

Tygerstrike said:

Well it would be considered new tech so its going to be pricey. Much like any new item that we as the consuming public find interesting. The price point wont drop for about a year maybe two. Then it will be standard in damn near every camera and phone. It will even be a selling point for phones, we have the best low light pictures. We will then see a slew of manufaturers trying to find ways for this tech to improve existing tech. So on its face this is a great idea, but we are several years from seeing this hit our local stores.

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