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Sony breaks new ground with camera sensors curved like the human eye

Posted: , by Victor H.

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Sony breaks new ground with camera sensors curved like the human eye

Sony has developed a radical new kind of camera sensor that improves light sensitivity and allows for the use of simpler lenses. While all current camera technology relies on a flat sensor to capture light, Sony’s newest development is a CMOS sensor that is curved, mimicking the curvature of the human retina.

Compared to traditional flat sensors, the new curved CMOS sensor is 1.4 times more sensitive to light in its center and an impressive 2 times more sensitive at the edges, according to a report at the Symposium on VLSI Technology in Hawaii, delivered by Kazuichiro Itonaga, a device manager for Sony R&D Platform in Atsugi-shi, Japan.

The pure geometry of a curved sensor allows it to be used with a flatter lens, with a higher aperture, a key factor in allowing more light to pass to the sensor. The most obvious advantage of the curvature, however, is that light can now hit photodiodes more directly rather than obliquely. In addition, the curved form results in reductions to the noise from current flowing through a pixel even when its not receiving any external light (the so called “dark current”).

Sony uses a sophisticated process with a custom “bending machine” to flex the sensor and achieve a human retina-grade curvature. Itonaga specified that the machine first bends the sensor, but it’s also fortified with a ceramic coating after the bending for stability.

Sony's new curved CMOS sensor could improve camera light sensitivity up to 2 times

Sony's new curved CMOS sensor could improve camera light sensitivity up to 2 times

The most exciting part of Itonaga’s report, however, might be the size of the two sensors that Sony has developed: the first one is a full frame 43mm one clearly aimed at high-end stand-alone cameras, and the second one is a 11mm one. The sheer size would not tell you much, but a quick check reveals that this is in fact a 2/3” sensor, the same size as the camera sensor in the Nokia Lumia 1020. What this means is that we could well see this in a future smartphone camera, and why not in a future Sony Xperia Z series flagship?

Being a new sensor that requires a new system of lenses, it is a great fit for devices like smartphones with a fixed-focus (prime) lens, and no interchangeable lens support. Sony already showed one of a few if not the only compatible lens (a prime lens), at the presentation, and it also demonstrated an image shot with the new system.

Best of all, all of this innovation is not just in patent imagination land - Sony has already manufactured around 100 full-size sensors with their custom bending machine. 

When is this coming to market, though? While we have no fixed time frame, Itonaga concludes that this is not purely hypothetical: “We are ready.”

source: Spectrum

49 Comments
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posted on 13 Jun 2014, 08:33 31

1. karamelakimo (Posts: 57; Member since: 26 May 2014)


Oh that's a real innovation :D

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:49 8

20. InspectorGadget80 (Posts: 6684; Member since: 26 Mar 2011)


I just hope SONY won't sell this camera to Apple.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 10:07 1

21. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3204; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)


You mean like selling the whole technology or just letting them use it?

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 12:13 4

31. InspectorGadget80 (Posts: 6684; Member since: 26 Mar 2011)


BOTH of them

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 12:36

33. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3204; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)


Well why would they sell the whole technology to them...?

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 10:21

22. xperian (Posts: 60; Member since: 10 Apr 2014)


why? If it's good enough then why not?

posted on 14 Jun 2014, 16:42

49. techperson211 (Posts: 707; Member since: 27 Feb 2014)


Well 1 thing for sure they'll not sell them they already patented it. I think all other company will just pay for royalty. Most OEM use Sony camera on their phones.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 13:30 4

36. akki20892 (Posts: 3621; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


This Sony curve lens and huge Nokia 41mp sensor..... Just imagine.......

posted on 14 Jun 2014, 02:08 2

41. spiderpig2894 (Posts: 438; Member since: 10 Jan 2012)


Uhm. It's a curved SENSOR. Not curved LENS.

posted on 14 Jun 2014, 09:59 1

46. akki20892 (Posts: 3621; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


Oh OK...my mistake sorry

posted on 14 Jun 2014, 11:11

47. zhiae (Posts: 179; Member since: 26 Aug 2012)


Im not expecting this in a phone cuz it will be thik but i say cristal lenses is the way not curved sensor

posted on 14 Jun 2014, 16:40

48. techperson211 (Posts: 707; Member since: 27 Feb 2014)


Innovation at it's finest!! Kudos Sony. I will expect this to your Z4-Z5

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 08:34 6

2. hipnotika (Posts: 305; Member since: 06 Mar 2013)


maybe with this tech, they will give us quality photos.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 08:35 5

3. CyberFalcon (Posts: 171; Member since: 17 Apr 2014)


combine this sensor with a ground breaking OIS Technology and show them the u r the king of all smartphone cameras...

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 10:26 3

23. Bjray (Posts: 98; Member since: 29 May 2014)


Better yet, use this plus MEMS focusing system.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 11:14 2

26. shuaibhere (Posts: 1660; Member since: 07 Jul 2012)


Sony always had best lenses...but their post processing is what sucks...
I hope they improve on that aspect...
And not to take credit away...
This is real innovation....

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 08:42 13

4. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3204; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)


Imitating the nature is the best way of engineering! After all, nature has slowly tested the best possible solutions for billions of years!'

Can't wait to see how this works :D

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:03 12

11. mrblah (Posts: 528; Member since: 22 Jan 2013)


"Imitating is the best way of engineering!" -Samsung

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:24 6

16. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3204; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)


lol They imitate something else though ;)

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 11:19 4

27. shuaibhere (Posts: 1660; Member since: 07 Jul 2012)


Lol...you dunno how innovative is samsung....
They innovate on the basics of technology...like DRAM, and in data transfer....
But unfortunately they all come under FRAND...which is sad..because without that smartphone wouldn't work...
Unlike the fancy slide to unlock...

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 08:54 9

5. KenAdams (Posts: 55; Member since: 17 Feb 2014)


Sony and Nokia/Microsoft are the only companies who take their cameras seriously. Kudos to Sony!

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 13:28 1

35. akki20892 (Posts: 3621; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


U mean Nokia not Nokia/Microsoft.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 08:58 5

6. hunted (Posts: 348; Member since: 21 Sep 2011)


great work Sony. Love your products including my PS3 and Bravia TV

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:02 2

9. hipnotika (Posts: 305; Member since: 06 Mar 2013)


ps4 ? :D that's amazing. now i am not playing game on pc or on mobile anymore :D

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:19

15. hunted (Posts: 348; Member since: 21 Sep 2011)


yet to buy PS4

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:24 1

17. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3204; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)


Wii U ! ! !

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 23:59

40. Neo_Huang (Posts: 542; Member since: 06 Dec 2013)


You're kidding, right?

posted on 14 Jun 2014, 02:40

42. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3204; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)


Nope I'm dead serious.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 11:20 8

28. refillable (Posts: 652; Member since: 10 Mar 2014)


PC all the way.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:01 8

7. PapaSmurf (Posts: 8840; Member since: 14 May 2012)


I'm actually really excited to see how this pans out. Props to Sony.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:02 1

8. rency0722 (Posts: 68; Member since: 12 Jun 2013)


Spoiling the math, 11 inches diagonal measures 0.43307 inches, which is equal to 1/2.3" sensor, the same exact size of current Xperia Z2 camera.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:15 4

13. hmmm... (Posts: 61; Member since: 05 Jun 2013)


Sigh!!! It seems that people who actually care and know about cameras are very few. I don't even consider myself an amateur photographer, but even I know that when it concern sensor size, the diameter of the tube is taken. You have to multiply your number by about 1.5. When an advert says a 1 inch sensor, it does not mean that the sensor's diameter is 1 inch. It is the tube's diameter. Maybe this link will help, read the first two pharagraph. 11mm is housed in a 2/3inch tube.
http://www.dpreview.com/news/2002/10/7/sensorsizes

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 11:36 1

30. refillable (Posts: 652; Member since: 10 Mar 2014)


That means the new 'curved sensor' has the same sensor size as the Nokia 1020's sensor.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:02 7

10. mokhtar (Posts: 265; Member since: 06 Jan 2014)


Sony = innovation, the only company who push hard, dont tell me htc or samsung ( apple.died years ago ;()

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:05 4

12. mrblah (Posts: 528; Member since: 22 Jan 2013)


Cool story, bro.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:26 6

18. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3204; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)


Not the only one. There are many other innovative companies too out there.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:17 6

14. InspectorGadget80 (Posts: 6684; Member since: 26 Mar 2011)


Truly innovation. Love my EXMOR camera. I just hope Sony won't sell that technology to the big fruit.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 09:42 5

19. RandomUsername (Posts: 529; Member since: 29 Oct 2013)


Yes! We need that sensor in the Z3!

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 10:45 1

24. vuyonc (Posts: 343; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)


One step closer to Terminator androids

posted on 14 Jun 2014, 04:18

45. vuyonc (Posts: 343; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)


Now just slap on hybrid autofocus that's nearly as fast as your a6000 camera, a BIONZ X processor, WhiteMagic 1080p display and you can have my wallet!

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 11:02 3

25. N3Z1droid (Posts: 87; Member since: 02 Jan 2014)


Add it to Z3, then take my money again

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 11:27 1

29. Amir1 (Posts: 269; Member since: 20 Aug 2013)


more like in z4 or z5...

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 12:16 2

32. starandmountain (Posts: 51; Member since: 01 Apr 2012)


very nice story to read! I wish there were more articles explaining things in mobile phones. Even about the smallest things in smartphones that are in every smartphone. Just to understand the complete phone. I'm following this site for quite long and i miss stories like this one. There is still one thing that I don't really understand, to some of us here it will sound very stupid. Here comes the question: How does the connection between software and hardware works? I know that there a programs in which you can code (obviously) but i just don't get it how hardware can 'read' these codes. Can someone explain it to me?

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 13:11 3

34. Odiin (Posts: 295; Member since: 23 Apr 2013)


all the best SONY!

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 19:44 1

37. justsayit (Posts: 229; Member since: 09 May 2013)


Inspired by Curved TV?

Anyway, BIG Thumb Up for Sony!

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 20:19 2

38. Lyngdoh (Posts: 225; Member since: 06 Sep 2012)


No, inspired by the human eye.
I just hope that this sensors will be exclusive to Xperia smartphones.

posted on 13 Jun 2014, 23:12

39. justsayit (Posts: 229; Member since: 09 May 2013)


i hate exclusive thing, it should be on every smartphone,not everyone like sony product

posted on 14 Jun 2014, 02:41 2

43. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3204; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)


Then they better learn to like them ;)

posted on 14 Jun 2014, 02:55 1

44. dil2abu (Posts: 201; Member since: 09 Nov 2011)


Exactly :-)

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