« on: October 25, 2012, 08:40:11 AM »
I think that I may have posted on the same topic before I realised that you had already!
It's good to actually read some analysis based upon research and facts in all the rumour, hype and speculation. For me, the Chipworks articles show that Canon has been eeking out the last performance from an older generation (or two!!) of technology. The important thing is that Canon has reached the point where they need to change their fab process and modify their sensor designs to support the new technology.
It seems to me that Canon aren't in a great position with regards to sensors. They have been buying in Sony designs for their compact cameras and so lack the design experience as pixel size shrinks, as well as the economies of scale for their R&D departments. Canon also maintain their own capital intensive fabs solely for larger sensors (APS-C & full frame), which could be what is tying them into older fab technology (i.e. lower production volumes means it takes them longer to amortise the fab assets).
While I think it is almost certain that Canon will need to move to (at least) a 0.18µm process in its next generation of sensors, that doesn't mean that Canon isn't equipped to do that. Without intimate knowledge of Canon's capabilities, we are all speculating.
Canon potentially benefits a lot commercially from skipping 0.35µm and 0.25µm processes for its larger sensors.
On the compact side, Canon has for a number of year made its own sensors - notably in the G series. Although these do not have the highest resolution, they do pack a high pixel density. I think we may be speculating hugely to say Canon does not have the experience of designing to higher pixel densities.
An alternate view could also be that, given what Canon has pulled out of a 0.5µm process, it bodes well for what Canon can do with a 0.18µm process. Canon will almost certainly release a new generation of APS-C sensors next year, so it will be interesting to see how well such a new design performs, and whether there is a significant performance improvement.
You're correct with the G-series, but that isn't where the volume is: think mobile 'phone camera chips.
I'm sure that Canon are very good at the 0.5µm design level, but that won't necessarily help at 0.18µm. My main issue is with Canon's approach of fabbing their own sensors; I think they could get a lot more flexibility by subcontracting the actual manufacturing out and concentrating on R&D. If they are determined to keep fab in-house, I think that they need to try and expand production by fabbing sensors for other manufacturers.