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Ambarella launches A7L low-power, 1080p-capable stills/HD processor

By dpreview staff on Sep 26, 2011 at 12:03 GMT

Image processor maker Ambarella has announced the A7L stills and HD video chip is available. The latest processor is designed for use with the fast-readout CMOS sensors now appearing in cameras and can capture 1080p60 video or up to 30 16MP images per second. It features multi-frame High ISO capture/combination and on-chip HDR processing. It can also conduct real-time lens distortion correction for use with compact wide-angle lenses. It is the company's first processor to be built on 32nm-scale technology and offers 40% lower power consumption than its current A7 processor.

Press Release:

Ambarella A7L enables the next generation of Digital Still Cameras with 1080p60 fluid motion video

First 32nm digital camera chip offers outstanding still image quality with ultra low power consumption

Santa Clara, CA — September 26, 2011 — Ambarella, Inc., a leader in low-power, high-definition video compression and image-processing semiconductors, has announced availability of the A7L system-on-chip (SoC), enabling the development of a new generation of HD video enabled Digital Still Cameras (DSCs). The A7L supports full 1080p HD H.264 video at 60 frames per second for fluid motion even during fast moving sports scenes and can capture up to thirty 16-megapixel still images per second. Its multi-frame, high ISO image capture and High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing ensure exceptional image quality, while the A7L's lens distortion correction enables optimal results from wide angle and small form factor lenses. The A7L is fabricated in leading edge 32nm process technology, and requires only a single 16-bit DDR3 DRAM for extremely low power consumption and low system cost.

"The A7L offers a unique combination of outstanding still image quality and full 1080p60 HD video for the next generation of hybrid digital still cameras," said Fermi Wang, Ambarella CEO. "We believe the chip's incredibly low power consumption will not only extend battery life but inspire innovation in new camera form factors."

"The Digital Still Camera market is forecasted to grow to over 150 million units in 2012, as new models offer both high still image quality and full HD video," said Chris Chute, Research Manager, Worldwide Digital Imaging Solutions and Services of IDC. "Enabled by the wider adoption of CMOS sensors and availability of new SoC solutions, including Ambarella's A7L, compact DSCs will be able to offer full resolution 60-frames-per-second HD video, a key feature for future market growth."

The A7L includes hardware for real-time panorama sweep photography and offers a variety of video and still picture effects including: watercolor painting, drawing, miniature, pop color, and soft focus. It can deliver clear images even in low light conditions using 3D Motion Compensated Temporal Filtering (MCTF) and multiple exposures. Night time photography is optimized using advanced flash light support with multi-frame still image processing.

Advanced Image Stabilization and Wireless Connectivity

Ambarella's advanced Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) with full rolling shutter correction for CMOS sensors allows the A7L to achieve sharp, steady images even when the camera is shaking. Designed for network-connected cameras, the A7L can simultaneously encode a full HD stream while encoding a second mobile resolution stream for uploading to the Internet or wireless streaming. A 600-MHz ARM11 CPU provides the required performance for a full set of connected camera software applications, including smart phone tethering and streaming over WiFi networks.


Total comments: 17
By bllweave (Sep 27, 2011)

dylanbarnhart: If you read Ambarella's 'S-1 filing' to go public, they listed some of the companies that use their chips today ; Sony, Samsung, Kodak, GoPro. Anywho... it'll be interesting to watch this app trend for cameras!

By dylanbarnhart (Sep 27, 2011)

Good clue. I found that the chip is being used on Sony Bloggie Touch video camera.

By pgphoto_ca (Sep 27, 2011)

480 MB/Sec...the new Nikon Expeed III is 600 MB/ big deal !

By bllweave (Sep 27, 2011)

Specs, schmecs... I see on Ambarella's website that here is a higher end chip launched earlier, 'A7', which is 700 MB/sec. Nikon and others may use A7L or A7 to get ahead on video quality, the 1080p60 format, and Android. Diehards like Canon probably would never use somebody else's chips even if they're better.

1 upvote
By Jarab (Sep 29, 2011)

there is 480 mpx, not mb... its something different
It means 16mpx from one frame * 30 in one second
the size of one mpx in mb in raw data is picture width * height * bit depth per color * 3 (rgb)

By Nate21 (Sep 26, 2011)

It would be nice if Olympus and Pentax would approach the new semiconductor for their cameras

1 upvote
By dylanbarnhart (Sep 26, 2011)

From my brief Googling, I don't think any major camera manufacturers is using Ambarella products yet. I seriously doubt Canon/Nikon/Sony will ever replace their own with Ambarella's technology. The most likely candidate is wireless security cameras. However, with increased processing power way beyond the need of a security camera, it's getting compelling to use the chip on actual cameras and camcorders. I bet smaller camera manufacturers will sign up first.

One interesting thing to me is that Ambarella allows running Android on some of the chips, sometimes with the Linux kernel replaced with eSOL Ultron, which is a real-time operating system. This makes a lot of sense and would enable running Android apps on the camera. Together with the connected capability of the chip, things like direct upload to Facebook or having Photoshop on your camera is possible.

Third party apps on the camera is the next revolution and this is a start.

Kevin Purcell
By Kevin Purcell (Sep 26, 2011)

I'm sure the A7 does autofocus (mostly likely just CD AF in the regular version but on sensor PD AF seems to be just squinting microlenses so that's "just a simple matter of software" :) when you understand the sensor layout )

The PWM block (Pulse With Modulation) is to drive motors, for example, in AF lenses or zooms or aperture changes (depending on hardware design). I'm pretty sure they can do AF on chip and close the loop to the lens. After all that's where the sensor data is going.

Interesting idea to start sourcing (or continue sourcing though I've not heard of them before they have been around since 2004 making HD H.264 video compression hardware)

1 upvote
By DavidsfotosDotCom (Sep 26, 2011)

Which brands are going to & have used Ambarella chips?
How long is the lag time for a chip like this to be on the shelf in a new camera?

1 upvote
By SteB (Sep 26, 2011)

I find it interesting that we are now seeing the specifications of these independently manufactured image processors. Whereas previously we just used to get the manufacturer's descriptions and names for their image processors. The advertising copy implied that these image processors had been part of some top secret in house R&D only available to them, and that they had magic alchemy that sprinkled special fairy dust onto the images. Sadly the mundane reality appears to have been that they were buying off the peg image processors, available to all the manufacturers.

1 upvote
Robert Daniels
By Robert Daniels (Sep 26, 2011)

Nikon's new partner! Bye Bye Sony!

1 upvote
Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Sep 26, 2011)

What companies use Ambarella processors? Is "rolling shutter correction" something others already employ (to limited effect), or does Ambarella have the corner on some breakthrough? Are there actual cameras with the new processor that can demonstrate the claims about the product? Does the fact that the processor is designed for network-connected cameras mean that it no one but the James Camerons of this world will ever use it? To me, "network-connected" would be almost synonymous with "tripod-mounted," or perhaps "security cam mounted in bubble," which would make EIS sort of superfluous.

"Too many questions," some may say. "Trouble is, you're just too lay-Z to e-jacket U-self." Perhaps so. I dislike googling to fill in gaps with what might be just more garbage. It would be nice to find an authoritative synopsis right at Dpreview.

1 upvote
By mikiev (Sep 26, 2011)

What is there to Google, the article clearly states:

"Designed for network-connected cameras, the A7L can simultaneously encode a full HD stream while encoding a second mobile resolution stream for uploading to the Internet or wireless streaming. A 600-MHz ARM11 CPU provides the required performance for a full set of connected camera software applications, including smart phone tethering and streaming over WiFi networks."

You can have this chip in an ARM-powered-device - like a tablet or netbook - and the chip can save a full-rez version on the netbook/tablet while -simultaneously- uploading a web-rez version via WiFi or a thered cellphone.

1 upvote
Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Sep 26, 2011)

By mikiev (Sep 26, 2011 at 16:37:42 GMT)
"What is there to Google, the article clearly states [...]"

A lot of ditto "buzz," which answers nothing, zip, nada. Does anyone HAVE a camera or tablet with an Ambarella processor? Is its rolling shutter behavior any different from others? One would assume that the correction techniques be very similar.

By JCM_GDL (Sep 26, 2011)

Maybe capable of Full HD raw video or even 4k raw video, only relying on capacity storage, and fast speed memory devices.

By Jogger (Sep 26, 2011)

seems like all the major manufacturers make their own chips (or rebrand hired chips)

Knight Palm
By Knight Palm (Sep 26, 2011)

With all the focus on CD-AF & PD-AF for new cameras, where do those functions take place? In this chip or using an external subcircuit?

1 upvote
Total comments: 17