May 28, 2005: A report by Nikkei Electronics Asia says CMOS sensors will emerge as the main pickup device for digital imaging products in the near future.
It claims the interline-transfer CCD (charge-coupled device), which has dominated in imaging applications almost since digital cameras were invented, is now ceding its leadership to the complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) imager. The reason: CMOS sensors are totally free of image smear, operate on less power, are easier to single-chip with other functions and can be manufactured at lower cost on the production lines that are already used for memory and other devices.
Although the majority of current professional and pro-sumer DSLR cameras use large-area CMOS sensors, in compact digicams and cameraphones, CCDs still dominate. However, in 2005 the situation will change dramatically. Canon has announced it is developing CMOS imaging chips for its compact digital cameras. The company has not revealed exactly when it will make the switch, which is expected to make a big impact on the CCD sensor market. Sony, in particular, will be affected since Canon has purchased most of its compact digicam sensors from Sony in the past.
However, Sony is also pushing CMOS sensor development with a new small-size CMOS imager that combines high image quality with low power consumption featured in the DCR-PC1000 camcorder, which was released in March. Other manufacturers are also following suit. The latest CMOS imagers from the US-based Micron Technology have pixel pitches of 2.2 µm, which is on a par with the smallest CCD sensors. And Matsushita (Panasonic) is expected to match the pixel pitch of its MOS imagers (similar to CMOS) to that of IT-type CCD imagers in 2005.
CMOS imagers are also being increasingly used in cameraphones – with some technology flow-ons to digital camera sensors. For example, Sony’s Column-QV noise suppression technology, which was developed for the IMX006 mobile phone, has been modified for use in the CMOS imager developed by Sony for the Nikon D2X.
According to the Nikkei Electronics Asia report: “If CMOS imagers become widely used in many products it will not only accelerate new functions and higher performance, but also the rate of price reduction. Competition between Japanese and foreign manufacturers will intensify, ushering a low-cost era into imaging devices – which have always been considered more price-stable than other electronic components.”