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'First' 1.4?m; 5Mpixel image sensor rolls for handsets

Posted: 06 Feb 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:image sensor? CMOS? handsets?

Eastman Kodak Co. has introduced the KAC-05020 image sensor, claimed to be the first 1.4?m, 5Mpixel device, combining Kodak's Color Filter Pattern technology with a new CMOS pixel.

Designed for mass-consumer camera applications such as mobile handsets, Kodak's new sensor enables a new level of resolution in small optical formats, using significantly smaller pixels. Compared to other small-pixel sensor that offer poor resolution under low light conditions, the 1.4?m pixel used in the KAC-05020 provides image quality that can equal or surpass what is available from current devices using larger, 1.75?m pixel CMOS designs.

Shrinking pixels
"Camera phones and other small-pixel consumer imaging devices often suffer from poor performance, especially under low light conditions. To manufacture sensors that utilize these very small pixelsonly two to three times the wavelength of visible lightwe needed to challenge everything we knew about pixel and sensor design," said Chris McNiffe, general manager of Kodak's image sensor solutions business.

Key to the performance of this new sensor is the Kodak Truesense CMOS Pixel, a re-engineering of the fundamental design and architecture of traditional CMOS pixels. In a standard CMOS pixel, signal is measured by detecting electrons that are generated when light interacts with surface of the sensor. As more light strikes the sensor, more electrons are generated, resulting in a higher signal at each pixel. In the Truesense CMOS Pixel, however, the underlying "polarity" of the silicon is reversed, so that the absence of electrons is used to detect a signal. This change enabled a series of improvements to the design and structure of the pixel that ultimately results in CMOS imaging performance that rivals that available from CCD image sensors.

Lighting factor
Light sensitivity in the new sensor is enhanced through the use of the recently announced Truesense Color Filter Pattern, which adds panchromatic, or "clear," pixels to the red, green and blue pixels already on the sensor. Since these pixels are sensitive to all wavelengths of visible light, they collect a significantly higher proportion of the light striking the sensor. This provides a 2x to 4x increase in sensitivity to light (from one to two photographic stops) compared to current sensor designs, improving performance in low light and reducing motion blur in action shots.

At 5Mpixel, the KAC-05020 is touted to provide the highest resolution in the.25-inch optical format, and enables imagery up to ISO 3200 and support for full 720p video at 30 fps. The sensor is also supported by TI's OMAP and OMAP-DM solutions, enabling a host of Kodak Image Processing and Enhancement Features (such as digital image stabilization, rapid auto-focus, red-eye reduction, and facial recognition) that provide digital camera-like performance in a camera phone.

"For consumers today, high resolution is required but no longer sufficient," said Fas Mosleh, worldwide director of CIS marketing and business development for Kodak's image sensor solutions business. "Smaller and thinner camera phones, high performance under low light, and superior video performance are the types of features that will enable the next generation of consumer imaging devices. And with this new Kodak sensor, camera designers can now put those features directly into the hands of their customers."

Samples of the KAC-05020 are scheduled to be available in Q2.

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