The BLINC digital camera, a prototype developed by the Sarnoff Corporation claims a massive 17 stops of dynamic range. This tiny digital camera uses a CMOS sensor which captures VGA images. "While Kodak and others were emphasizing image sharpness in their CMOS chips, Sarnoff's researchers were more concerned with its dynamic or exposure range". This particular digital camera isn't aimed at digital still acquisition or to produce images of that quality it is definetly noteworthy for the potential it may offer future digital still cameras.

BLINC™ Miniature Smart Digital Camera Now Available for Delivery in Prototype and Small Quantities

CMOS APS Sensor Captures Details across Highlights and Shadows; Fast Response, Low Power Draw for Still and Video Images

Princeton, NJ (April 17, 2001)—Sarnoff Corporation, a pioneer in the development of video cameras and imagers, today announced the availability of its BLINC™ smart digital camera in prototype and small quantities for use in surveillance, automotive, and machine vision applications. The announcement was made at a demonstration of the camera at the SPIE Aerosense conference in Orlando, Fl.

BLINC delivers over 100X the dynamic range of typical cameras, capturing all details in scenes even when they include simultaneous sunlight and deep shadow. It goes from power-down to image capture in under 1/10th second, provides both still image and 30 frame per second video capture, and offers digital and analog output at VGA resolution (640 X 480). The complete camera assembly is only 30mm (1.2 in) square by 2.5mm (1.0 in) deep

"We’re pleased to offer this advanced camera in prototype and small quantities, from 10 to 100 units or more, to those who need its special capabilities. Our focus, however, is developing the high-volume applications of the future," said Niel McCaffrey, Sarnoff’s Head of Advanced Imaging.

"BLINC has the proven ability to acquire excellent video with full details in every frame even when scene lighting rapidly varies over a range of 17 photographic stops. No other video camera can do that. BLINC’s wide dynamic range and fast response make it ideal for automotive and surveillance applications."

The BLINC assembly is built around Sarnoff’s proprietary CMOS Active Pixel Sensor (APS) technology. Automatic contrast detail enhancement is performed with an on-board real-time 16-bit DSP. The camera operates on a single 3.6 volt power supply, requiring less than 90 mJ to capture a frame.

BLINC’s response speed of 1/10th of a second allows it to remain in standby mode at zero power until just before exposure, further reducing power requirements. Other cameras require as much as 2 seconds to set exposure and capture an image. The camera offers a 110 dB dynamic range, resulting in natural-looking electronic images that closely approximate photographic film.

Sarnoff Corp. press releases: April 25, 2000 / April 17, 2001