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First OEM 3.17 megapixel CMOS sensor

By dpreview staff on Sep 6, 2000 at 04:00 GMT

Today Y Media have announced the YM-3170A, a 1/2" 3.17 megapixel (2056 x 1544) CMOS sensor with a 3.3 µm pixel pitch which is aimed at "digital still cameras, video cameras and HDTV camcorders" (the inclusion last two kind of make you wonder what quality of image this device produces). It can also run up to 30fps @ 640 x 480 (for live video previews / movie capture).

YM-3170A specifications (as published)

Array 2056 x 1544
Reference Rows / Columns 8 / 8
Pixel Pitch 3.3 µm
Processing Geometry 0.25 µm
Camera Sensitivty (F1) 0.5 lux
Conversion Gain (unity gain settings) 35 µV/e-
Cross Talk @ 600nm <5 %
Dark Current Density 1 nA/cm2
Dark Current Noise @ 295 K full res <2 e-
Dynamic Range (saturation capacity/read noise) 66 dB
Frame Rate (max) 30 fps
Optical Fill Factor (with microlenses) 80%
Optical Fill Factor (without microlenses) 40%
Photoresponse (non-linearity) 2%
Photoresponse (non-uniformity) 5%
Power Dissipation (nominal) 250 mW
Quantum Efficiency @ 540 nm w/o microlenses 65 %
Read Noise 20 e-
Saturation Capacity (full well capacity) 35 ke-

Y Media Press Release:

Introducing the First 3-Megapixel CMOS Image Sensor For All Consumer Electronic OEMS

LAGUNA HILLS, Calif., Sept. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Y Media Corporation, the company whose imaging solutions allow end-users to see from anywhere, to anywhere, anytime, introduces the world's first 3.17 Megapixel C3D(TM) image sensor designed for both high-resolution digital still and video in consumer electronics appliances. Y Media's new multi-megapixel sensor, the YM-3170A, is the first to offer the largest resolution array yet smallest pixel size. Additionally, it offers the lowest power consumption and full video frame rates in CMOS-based technology. Y Media's 3.17 Megapixel C3D(TM) image sensor will match and exceed the imaging performance of the current generation of CCD (Charged-Coupled Device) sensors. The YM-3170A also improves consumer electronics manufacturers ability to deliver the next break-through in ultra-portable consumer devices like digital still cameras, video cameras, and HDTV camcorders.

"We believe that our revolutionary approach of design and process improvements provides consumer electronics manufacturers a high-quality image sensor option that previously was not available in the marketplace,'' states Y Media's CEO and President Ian Olsen. "Delivering a totally new class of image sensor innovation for the consumer space means that Y Media is well-positioned to assist OEMs as they transition from the previous capture technology to the next generation.''

The Benefits of 3.17 Megapixel C3D Image Sensor

The 3.17 Megapixel C3D image sensor offers the lowest power consumption combined with the highest resolution capture area available to a wide audience of OEMs. The YM-3170A visible resolution matches that of state of the art 3 Megapixel CCDs currently on the market. This new sensor gives OEMs the functionality that they need to transform today's discrete products into new hybrids such as high-density digital still plus video all-in-one cameras, as well as video camcorders with resolutions ideal for digital broadcasting. Y Media's 3.17 Megapixel C3D image sensor advances the manufacturing process for CMOS imagers to 0.25-micron scale, allowing the Company to create sensors with more than three times as many pixels in the same area as the current CMOS imager industry benchmark.

Smaller array sizes enable more complex functionality, greater speeds, further miniaturization, and lower power dissipation resulting in the best image solution for battery-powered mobile consumer devices. Furthermore, C3D innovation extends CMOS imaging functionality by shrinking the individual pixel size to an unprecedented 3.3-microns -- the smallest pixel size available in CMOS. Y Media's smaller pixel size allows more than three times as many pixels without increasing the overall size of the image array or chip, thus accommodating a true 1/2" optical format for the 3.17 Megapixel image sensor. This provides the OEM with a greater selection of lens choices, allowing optimization of cost and performance in camera applications.

The 3.17 Megapixel C3D image sensor approaches the quality of film-based pictures and brings a full-frame 4:3 aspect ratio that is three times the resolution of any competitive solution. The image sensor also offers a full range of programmable features, such as variable windowing mode, making possible different aspect ratios including 3:2 and the popular HDTV format of 16:9. Programmable windowing also simplifies many camera functions like digital pan and zoom. Importantly, as the YM-3170A integrates more features into the image sensor, back-end ASIC or companion chip-processing needs as well as overall power consumption are reduced. OEMs can add artistic options and differentiation for end-users by enabling new features like selective color gain, motion-focus tracking, and color-enhanced preview. In addition, the sensor offers automatic VGA (640 x 480 pixels) resolution sub-sampling for preview mode that reduces data processing requirements when using an LCD display or for capturing video clips.

C3D(TM) Image Sensor Foundation

Y Media developed C3D image sensor technology; a proprietary blend of pixel processing in the analog and digital domain. Advanced mixed-signal design, combined with unique system architecture and process enhancements has created the foundation for superior visual quality in all environments. Y Media image sensor technology offers the first alternative to the current generation of CCD imagers. For consumer electronics appliances, CCD process technology and functionality is limited, due to the fundamental nature of CCD architecture. For example within video applications, the YM-3170A can run at a full 30 frames per second, a rate that is impossible for most multi-megapixel consumer CCDs. Y Media also incorporates full integration and programmability, alleviating the need for extra support chips like timing generators, voltage regulators, and sub-sampling processors. It is this internal engineering expertise that drives Y Media's aggressive intellectual property (IP) program, the backbone that leads to sustainable competitive advantages. Y Media's image solution translates into greatly reduced development time and costs while enabling broad product differentiation. These are all crucial elements to OEMs as product expansion opportunities are unleashed by the innovation of image communications.

Manufacturing Process Innovation

In a co-development agreement, Y Media collaborated to pioneer the manufacturing introduction of CMOS image sensors in 0.25-micron process, which is two generations ahead of industry standards. This significant reduction in process geometry allows for both an increase in the number of transistors and fill factor without compromising performance, in addition to increasing pixel design options. Importantly this process break-through contributes directly to more complex image sensor functionality, greater speeds, and lower power dissipation. This is more than a technology advance; it heralds a significant market transition.

Expanding Market Opportunities

According to InfoTrends, a leading market research firm focusing on image capture technologies and markets, digital camera sales in North America will reach $1.9 billion this year, exceeding revenue generated from film camera sales by almost 10%. Additionally, digital camera unit sales will exceed film cameras by 2002, growing from 6.7 million in 2000 to 42 million in 2005. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) mandate for fully digital broadcasting by 2006 will significantly contribute to the demand for high-resolution digital video image sensors. In fact the transition to digital broadcasting is accelerating. Now 139 stations in the United States are transmitting digital programming, and in the top ten TV markets, 36 of the 40 network-affiliated stations are on the air with digital programming. Leading the advent of digital broadcasting, CMOS-based image sensor technology is inherently superior to CCDs with its relatively flat noise curve at high frame rates.

CMOS Image Sensor Advantages Over CCDs

CMOS image sensor solutions consume less power, offer higher integration, and reduce system costs as compared to image sensors that use CCD technology. First, CMOS image sensors typically draw 5 to 10 times less power than CCDs. This benefit allows portable products such as digital still and video cameras to run longer by extending the battery life. Second, with a CMOS image sensor, both the array and required peripheral circuitry are formed within a single process technology, thus integration into a system-on-a-chip is possible. Indeed CMOS image sensors use the same manufacturing platform as most microprocessors and memory chips, making them easier to produce and more cost-effective. Third, by combining all camera functions on-chip, from the capture of photons, processing and output of digital information, CMOS image sensors reduce the component count in end products, which in turn boosts reliability, eases miniaturization, and simplifies programming of camera parameters.

Y Media's YM-3170A will be sampling in November with volume production expected in early 2001. Pricing for the YM-3170A is competitive with equivalent high-resolution and performance consumer image sensor solutions.

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