Canon has developed a 35mm full-frame CMOS image sensor designed for low-light video capture. The 16:9 sensor features a 1920x1080 pixel array, meaning each pixel measures a huge 19 microns along each edge - 7.5 times larger than the ones in the EOS-1D X. The large pixels and low readout-noise circuitry allow the sensor to capture light around 10 times less bright than current CCDs used for astronomy. The sensor will first be shown in public at a security show in Japan. Other applications the company is looking into are astronomy and medical research.

Interestingly, the 36 x 20mm sensor's use of 19μm pixels means it creates its video footage from a 1920 x 1080 array. This means it has only one photosite per output pixel, so won't offer the same color resolution as Canon's EOS C300 professional video camera, which has four capture pixels (a Red, Green, Blue, Green quartet) per output pixel.


Press Release:

Canon develops 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor for video capture

Photos taken before and after increasing sensitivity using the CMOS sensor on a full moon night. Click through to view Canon's video demonstrating more sample images.

TOKYO, March 4, 2013—Canon Inc. announced today that the company has successfully developed a high-sensitivity 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor exclusively for video recording. Delivering high-sensitivity, low-noise imaging performance, the new Canon 35 mm CMOS sensor*1 enables the capture of Full HD video even in exceptionally low-light environments.

The newly developed CMOS sensor features pixels measuring 19 microns square in size, which is more than 7.5-times the surface area of the pixels on the CMOS sensor incorporated in Canon's top-of-the-line EOS-1D X and other digital SLR cameras. In addition, the sensor's pixels and readout circuitry employ new technologies that reduce noise, which tends to increase as pixel size increases. Thanks to these technologies, the sensor facilitates the shooting of clearly visible video images even in dimly lit environments with as little as 0.03 lux of illumination, or approximately the brightness of a crescent moon—a level of brightness in which it is difficult for the naked eye to perceive objects. When recording video of astral bodies, while an electron-multiplying CCD,*2 which realizes approximately the same level of perception as the naked eye, can capture magnitude-6 stars, Canon's newly developed CMOS sensor is capable of recording faint stars with a magnitude of 8.5 and above.*3

Using a prototype camera employing the newly developed sensor, Canon successfully captured a wide range of test video,*4such as footage recorded in a room illuminated only by the light from burning incense sticks (approximately 0.05–0.01 lux) and video of the Geminid meteor shower. The company is looking to such future applications for the new sensor as astronomical and natural observation, support for medical research, and use in surveillance and security equipment. Through the further development of innovative CMOS sensors, Canon aims to expand the world of new imaging expression.

Canon Marketing Japan Inc. will be exhibiting a prototype camera that incorporates the newly developed 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor and sample footage captured with the camera at SECURITY SHOW 2013 (www.shopbiz.jp/en/ss/), which will be held from Tuesday, March 5, to Friday, March 8, at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center in Tokyo, Japan.

*1 An imaging element (aspect ratio: 16:9) that supports the largest image circle size possible when shooting with a Canon EF lens.
*2 A CCD sensor with a readout mechanism that multiplies electrons after being converted from light. Applications include nighttime surveillance and the capture of astral bodies and nighttime nature scenes.
*3 The brightness of a star decreases 2.5-times with each 1 magnitude increase.
*4 Recording of test video footage was made possible through cooperation from ZERO Corporation.