Canon develops world's first 1-megapixel SPAD image sensor


Grab your camera, go out and shoot!
Feb 12, 2014
Frankfurt, Germany
This is not exactly about one particular patent, but very interesting news despite it wasn't much noticed by the community. Canon managed to develop a 1 MP photon counting sensor. Such a sensor, Canon calls it "single photon avalanche diode (SPAD)", is able to count every single photon that hits a (sub-) pixel. So, it represents the ultimative limit of low-light imaging and quantum noise on the sensor side. In principle it works a bit like those photo-multiplier detectors used in particle physics since decades, but transformed in miniaturized silicon electronics: a photon, that hits the photo diode of one pixel, creates an avalanche of electrons that works like a powerful signal amplifier. The gain per photon is about 1 million times the original signal of the photon, according to Canon's press release.

This new technology will of course not so quickly trickle down into the consumer market. But it shows that Canon's R&D is very active in the quest for innovative sensor tech, as it had been when Canon forward CMOS sensors back in the times of CCD sensors dominating the camera market. I hope that the negative Corona impact on the industry will not undermine too much Canon's innovation momentum.