DxOMark still silent on the E-M5

Started Sep 1, 2012 | Discussions thread
Detail Man
Detail Man Forum Pro • Posts: 16,912
Re: bobn2's thoughts about possible origins of the GH2 image sensor.

Detail Man wrote:

As it (according to bobn2 ) appears likely that the GH2 also contains a Sony-manufactured sensor, ...

A more detailed statement on my part would have been to differentiate the company that has designed the GH2 image-sensor from the company providing final fabrication facilities (see below):

bobn2 wrote:

It's is also possible that the Panasonic GH series is using Sony sensors. They certainly aren't the classic Panasonic Maicovicon - as was discovered by Chipworks dissection of them, and they actually do perform in an 'ISOless' way like the Sony sensor, and seem to have about the same level of performance as the contemporaneous Sony sensors. I can imagine that if Lumix had gone with Sony for its top end, Panasonic wouldn't be keen to broadcast that. I had a look at some images of the GH-2 sensor, it's a bit hard to see with the packaging used, but it has a hint of Exmor about it.


Probably the GH2 sensor is a Sony.


... The GH sensors are certainly very different from the other G series sensors, and when you look at how they operate, are very like Sony ones. Chipworks found that the pixel architecture is completely different (the classic 4-T rather than the Maicovicon 3-T) and that it was fabricated on a different line. Generally design teams stick to one way of doing things, simply because at some stage they collectively decided that their way is the best (Nikon had to 'demote into retirement' the team responsible for the LBCAST disaster and start afresh to get a competitive sensor line going) - so, the Panasonic sensor team asked to make a special for the GH series would have made a special Maicovicon, not something completely different down to the process level. So, what makes more sense is that the Lumix team went outside Panasonic for the GH sensors, and where to go other than Sony? It also explains why Olympus could never get those sensors from Panasonic Semiconductor, because they were not Panasonic Semiconductor's to sell them.

My best wild guess at the moment is that the sensors are similar, Sony sourced products, with the E-M5 one having the advantage of Sony's later tech (like the Nikon D90 had an improved sensor compared with the D300, though the same pixel count). I would hazard a guess also, having had a look at the sensor assemblies, that Olympus is receiving finished and packaged sensors, while Lumix is receiving wafers and doing some of the back-end and packaging stuff themselves. Since Sony out-fabs part of its production, it's even possible that Panasonic is licensing the design tapes and making it themselves.


Interesting is this block diagram

OK, the internal blocks are rearranged and renamed. but that could be an Exmor sensor, right down to the column ADC and LVDS data outputs. So, made by Panasonic, looks like a Sony - that leaves what I put in my post:

Since Sony out-fabs part of its production, it's even possible that Panasonic is licensing the design tapes and making it themselves.

Of course the final possibility, if that were true, is that Olympus is getting the licensed Panasonic made product, with Sony's agreement (why would they care, they still get the licence fees and don't have to tie up any of their fab capacity).

Otherwise, one would wonder why, if Panasonic Semiconductor has Exmor level tech available in-house, why they are not taking the game to Sony in the wider sensor market.


I'm at a loss why people always obsess about who is the 'partner' for 'fabrication'. The truth is that there are many foundry services that will fabricate to order, and will produce perfectly good chips that fully realise the work of the chip designers. The key to performance is not who fabricates but who designs. Being able to design a class leading sensor does not just happen, it takes years of learning and development. For instance, Canon's sensor design in the D30 did not just happen, they bought in expertise from Mitsubishi semiconductor to provide a 'leg up'. Likewise, Nikon's success with the D3 was only as a result of a 10 year learning curve which included the disaster of the D2H. Therefore, it is quite unlikely that a company with no semiconductor design experience will pop up and suddenly design their own class leading sensor. What is more likely is that they will contract an experienced company to do it for them.


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