June 24, 2018, 05:07:56 PM

Author Topic: Industry News: Sony Develops a Back-Illuminated CMOS Image Sensor with Pixel-Parallel A/D Converter  (Read 6919 times)

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Sony CorporationSony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation Tokyo, Japan – Sony Corporation today announced that it has developed a 1.46 effective megapixel back-illuminated CMOS image sensor equipped with a Global Shutter function*¹. The newly developed pixel-parallel analog-to-digital converters provide the function to instantly convert the analog signal from all pixels, simultaneously exposed, to a digital signal in parallel. This new technology was announced at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) on February 11, 2018 in San Francisco in the United States.

CMOS image sensors using the conventional column A/D conversion method*2 read out the photoelectrically converted analog signals from pixels row by row, which results in image distortion (focal plane distortion) caused by the time shift due to the row-by-row readout.

The new Sony sensor comes with newly developed low-current, compact A/D converters positioned beneath each pixel. These A/D converters instantly convert the analog signal from all the simultaneously exposed pixels in parallel to a digital signal to temporarily store it in digital memory. This architecture eliminates focal plane distortion due to readout time shift, making it possible to provide a Global Shutter function*¹, an industry-first for a high-sensitivity back-illuminated CMOS sensor with pixel-parallel A/D Converter with more than one megapixel*³.

The inclusion of nearly 1,000 times as many A/D converters compared to the traditional column A/D conversion method*² means an increased demand for current. Sony addressed this issue by developing a compact 14-bit A/D converter which boasts the industry’s best performance*4 in low-current operation.

Both the A/D converter and digital memory spaces are secured in a stacked configuration with these elements integrated into the bottom chip. The connection between each pixel on the top chip uses Cu-Cu (copper-copper) connection*5, a technology that Sony put into mass production as a world-first in January 2016.

In addition, a newly developed data transfer mechanism is implemented into the sensor to enable the high-speed massively parallel readout data required for the A/D conversion process.

*1:A function that alleviates the image distortion (focal plane distortion) specific to CMOS image sensors that read pixel signals row by row.*2:Method where the A/D converter is provided for each vertical row of pixels in a parallel configuration.*3:As of announcement on February 13, 2018.*4:As of announcement on February 13, 2018. FoM (Figure of Merit): 0.24e-?nJ/step. (power consumption x noise) / {no. of pixels x frame speed x 2^(ADC resolution)}.*5:Technology that provides electrical continuity via connected Cu (copper) pads when stacking the back-illuminated CMOS image sensor section (top chip) and logic circuits (bottom chip). Compared with through-silicon via (TSV) wiring, where the connection is achieved by penetrating electrodes around the circumference of the pixel area, this method gives more freedom in design, improves productivity, allows for a more compact size, and increases performance. Sony announced this technology in December 2016 at the International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in San Francisco.

Main Features Global Shutter function*1 achieved in a high-sensitivity back-illuminated CMOS image sensor by using the following key technologies:

Low-current, compact pixel-parallel A/D converter In order to curtail power consumption, the new converter uses comparators that operate with subthreshold currents, resulting in the industry’s best-performing*4, low current, compact 14-bit A/D converter. This overcomes the issue of the increased demand for current due to the inclusion of nearly 1,000 times as many A/D converters in comparison with the traditional column A/D conversion method*2.

Cu-Cu (copper-copper) connection*5 To achieve the parallel A/D conversion for all pixels, Sony has developed a technology which makes it possible to include approximately three million Cu-Cu (copper-copper) connections*5 in one sensor. The Cu-Cu connection provides electrical continuity between the pixel and logic substrate, while securing space for implementing as many as 1.46 million A/D converters, the same number as the effective megapixels, as well as the digital memory.

High-speed data transfer construction Sony has developed a new readout circuit to support the massively parallel digital signal transfer required in the A/D conversion process using 1.46 million A/D converters, making it possible to read and write all the pixel signals at high speed.

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brad-man

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Looks really impressive. I wonder if/how it affects AF. A global electronic shutter with zippy AF would be most welcome. Nice to see some real innovation :)

albron00

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It's about time...

Tremotino

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I think this isn't a good idea, for any reason. The mechanical shutter isn't an issue, it works just fine.
This kind of sensor is inefficient in many kind of views.

Orangutan

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I think this isn't a good idea, for any reason. The mechanical shutter isn't an issue, it works just fine.
This kind of sensor is inefficient in many kind of views.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_shutter

brad-man

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I think this isn't a good idea, for any reason. The mechanical shutter isn't an issue, it works just fine.
This kind of sensor is inefficient in many kind of views.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_shutter

Let's not forget greatly increased shutter speed for stills as well as for video, a much higher flash sync speed as well as truly silent shutter.

BeenThere

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Always possible that ther are some unmentioned downsides.  No mention of noise levels in the new low current A/D converters.  Also, the high current draw of the overall chip will be increased significantly when this scales up to higher resolution.  But, these and other potential issues can be addressed as the technology progresses. Sony is innovating!

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3kramd5

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I think this isn't a good idea, for any reason. The mechanical shutter isn't an issue, it works just fine.
This kind of sensor is inefficient in many kind of views.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_shutter

Let's not forget greatly increased shutter speed for stills as well as for video, a much higher flash sync speed as well as truly silent shutter.

Sony’s silent shutters are already silent. They won’t get more so. :P

AvTvM

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I think this isn't a good idea, for any reason. The mechanical shutter isn't an issue, it works just fine.
This kind of sensor is inefficient in many kind of views.

hmmm, I would like to have 19th century mechanical shutters eliminated from all of my cameras. Pure solid state please.
Why?

1. Zero vibration
2. Zero shutter noise
3. Zero oil/lubricants near sensor
4. Zero particle abrasion near sensor
5. Zero wear and tear ["electronic aging" is a non-issue in cameras - provided hi-quality components are used]

So ... way to go, Sony! Probably only another 20 years until "innovative Canon" introduces it too ...  :P
 

3kramd5

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[snip]

So ... way to go, Sony! Probably only another 20 years until "innovative Canon" introduces it too ...  :P

Cool list of advantages to electronic shutters in general but not global shutters specifically, bro.

Also: August 31, 2016 | Canon develops global shutter-equipped CMOS sensor

Talys

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I think this isn't a good idea, for any reason. The mechanical shutter isn't an issue, it works just fine.
This kind of sensor is inefficient in many kind of views.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_shutter

Let's not forget greatly increased shutter speed for stills as well as for video, a much higher flash sync speed as well as truly silent shutter.

Sony’s silent shutters are already silent. They won’t get more so. :P

hahaha

Mt Spokane Photography

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What do you use a 1.45 MP sensor for?  Machine vision?  I have a old Fujifilm MX700 with a 1.5MP sensor, it works, takes reasonable photos, but 1.5 MP just doesn't cut it.

Don Haines

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What do you use a 1.45 MP sensor for?  Machine vision?  I have a old Fujifilm MX700 with a 1.5MP sensor, it works, takes reasonable photos, but 1.5 MP just doesn't cut it.

Lab prototype.....

My first digital camera was 320 X 200 pixels. I told people in my camera club that this was revolutionary and the way of the future.... They laughed at me.... No look where we are......

This is an intermediate step.... The end goal is (probably) counting photons as they hit the photocells.... When you can put over 10 billion transistors on a chunk of silicon, these things start to become more and more likely.
The best camera is the one in your hands

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traveller

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What do you use a 1.45 MP sensor for?  Machine vision?  I have a old Fujifilm MX700 with a 1.5MP sensor, it works, takes reasonable photos, but 1.5 MP just doesn't cut it.

Lab prototype.....

My first digital camera was 320 X 200 pixels. I told people in my camera club that this was revolutionary and the way of the future.... They laughed at me.... No look where we are......

This is an intermediate step.... The end goal is (probably) counting photons as they hit the photocells.... When you can put over 10 billion transistors on a chunk of silicon, these things start to become more and more likely.
Yes but... this line:

"The inclusion of nearly 1,000 times as many A/D converters compared to the traditional column A/D conversion method*² means an increased demand for current."

Suggests that there may be problems with scaling this up to higher resolutions. I also wonder how large this Sony prototype sensor is? The fact that they don't seem to mention the size in their press release suggests to me that it is small (i.e. not APS-C, FF, or even 1"). I don't know if size scaling would present issues as well...

Like 3kramd5 states, developing a prototype is one thing, but getting it to market is quite another. Where are the Canon cameras equipped with that global shutter announced 18 months ago?

Don Haines

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What do you use a 1.45 MP sensor for?  Machine vision?  I have a old Fujifilm MX700 with a 1.5MP sensor, it works, takes reasonable photos, but 1.5 MP just doesn't cut it.

Lab prototype.....

My first digital camera was 320 X 200 pixels. I told people in my camera club that this was revolutionary and the way of the future.... They laughed at me.... No look where we are......

This is an intermediate step.... The end goal is (probably) counting photons as they hit the photocells.... When you can put over 10 billion transistors on a chunk of silicon, these things start to become more and more likely.
Yes but... this line:

"The inclusion of nearly 1,000 times as many A/D converters compared to the traditional column A/D conversion method*² means an increased demand for current."

Suggests that there may be problems with scaling this up to higher resolutions. I also wonder how large this Sony prototype sensor is? The fact that they don't seem to mention the size in their press release suggests to me that it is small (i.e. not APS-C, FF, or even 1"). I don't know if size scaling would present issues as well...

Like 3kramd5 states, developing a prototype is one thing, but getting it to market is quite another. Where are the Canon cameras equipped with that global shutter announced 18 months ago?

It's about 1.5 megapixels....
The best camera is the one in your hands

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