Nikon has revealed the development of a 17.84 million pixel, 1-inch stacked CMOS sensor that can record “high-resolution images” in 4K shooting at up to 1,000 frames per second and offers an especially impressive large dynamic range.
The announcement comes after its original unveiling in San Francisco on February 15 at the International Solid-State Circuits Meeting. Nikon says that while it is a manufacturer of optical equipment, it is also involved in the research and development of cutting-edge image sensors. Nikon goes on to say that because of the high demand for compact, lightweight, high frame rate, wide dynamic range, high-resolution image sensors on the market, it chose to invest in this area.
“The technological development of image sensors is indispensable for Nikon, which leads the video industry, and we will continue to research and develop sensors in response to market demands,” the company writes.
The new Nikon sensor claims the “110dB highest level of HDR characteristics and 1,000 frames per second high-speed shooting.” It uses a fine-pitch layered connection technology that can handle 2.7 um pixel sizes, which Nikon says makes it possible to control the top chip directly from the bottom chip’s logic circuit with an image sensor. It can retain its high dynamic range and high velocity of 1,000 frames per second when shooting in 4K (in a 4K by 4K square, noted below).
To display how it organized the pixels on this sensor, Nikon given the graphic below. The top chip has a single block collection of 16×16 pixels, and 264×264 blocks (for a total of 4224×4224 pixels) are separated and arranged. With this configuration, Nikon says that for each region, the exposure time of these blocks from the bottom chip can be finely controlled. This provides a very large dynamic range for the sensor.
A more visual example of what Nikon claims this sensor should do is presented below. A sample image taken with this new sensor is on the left, showing that both the dark and light regions can be revealed. An example of a more conventional camera sensor is on the right, where two images must be taken in order to accurately expose the image’s light and dark regions.
Nikon addresses future uses for this sensor, ranging from compact cameras and laptops to commercial applications such as vehicles, but it is not yet clear what the target market for this unique sensor is for Nikon. What is important to remember is that Nikon produces sensors and focuses on the video space. Not only is the company invested in research and development in a market dominated by Samsung, Sony, and Canon, but it does so with a sensor that seems especially remarkable in terms of frame rate, resolution, and dynamic range right out of the gate.