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issue: January 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

Technology Report
Full-Color Image Sensor for Digital Cameras


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Foveon Inc. offers the Foveon¨ X3ª image sensor, which is said to represent a breakthrough in digital photography by bringing significant advantages over other CCD and CMOS image sensors.


In addition to the breakthrough in color resolution, Foveon X3 image sensors are reportedly the first to incorporate a capability known as Variable Pixel Size (VPS). The sensors' full-color pixels can be grouped together to create larger, full-color "super pixels," ushering in a new class of dual capability still/video cameras, the company says.

According to the company, the Foveon X3 image sensors dramatically improve photographs from digital cameras by capturing three times the color resolution of comparable image sensors found in digital cameras. Use of the image sensors will reportedly lead to digital cameras that are simpler to design and that provide more image quality and performance value to end users.

The company maintains that the Foveon X3 represents the most significant breakthrough in digital camera technology since the invention of CCDs more than 30 years ago. According to the company, CCD and CMOS image sensors detect only one of the three required colors at each pixel and must mathematically estimate the remaining two colors not detected. This limits the range and accuracy of the color captured, thereby increasing the possibility of unwanted color artifacts in the photograph, Foveon says.

The Foveon X3, however, is reportedly the world's first color image sensor that captures red, green, and blue light at each pixel, reportedly resulting in sharper images, enhanced color, and freedom from unwanted "color rainbow" artifacts common in photographs from most digital cameras. By capturing three colors at every pixel instead of just one, Foveon says that cameras can produce higher quality photographs with fewer numbers of pixels because the pixels are based on real measurements. Fewer pixels results in smaller file sizes, which can allow digital camera users to send a higher quality photograph more quickly through e-mail. It also means that more digital photos can be stored on a digital camera storage card, the company says.

The sensors are said to detect color in a manner similar to that of color film. With film, different colors of light penetrate to different layers of photosensitive material, with each layer detecting a specific color. Using a similar concept, the X3 sensors consist of three layers of photo detectors embedded in silicon.

The Foveon X3 technology is said to be highly scalable and will be used in designs for small, mid-range, and large-size image sensors. The company's image sensors are targeted for professional, advanced amateur, and high-end point-and-shoot camera users. Additional Foveon X3 image sensors are being designed that are suitable for a wide range of cameras, including digital still/video cameras, PDAs, cell phones, security cameras, and fingerprint-recognition systems.

This information is provided by Foveon, Inc., Santa Clara, CA, U.S.

 

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