Sunday, February 19, 2017

LeEco Spent 540 Days Adjusting its Smartphone Camera Performance

One of the large Chinese consumer electronics companies, LeEco, says it has spent more than 540 days tuning its new Le Max 2 smartphone camera performance:

Friday, February 17, 2017

MIPI C-PHY Tutorials

MIPI Alliance posted a number of interesting videos from MIPI DEvcon in Sept. 2016. Among them, there is a C-PHY tutorial by Mohamed Hafed, Introspect Technology:

Another C-PHY tutorial comes from George Wiley, Qualcomm:

Dual Camera Phones to Boost LG Innotek, SEMCO Revenues

The Korea Herald: Samsung Electro-Mechanics (SEMCO) and LG Innotek’s profits are growing on rising demand for dual camera phones, according to the newspaper's sources. SEMCO is supplying its dual cameras to Chinese Xiaomi and LeEco since Q3 2016 and it is also in talks with Huawei, Oppo and Vivo.

According to Counterpoint analysts, the sales of smartphones with dual cameras will rise more than 400% YoY to reach 300 million units in 2017.

DALSA Works on DBI-Stacked Sensors

BusinessWire: Invensas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tessera, announces that Teledyne DALSA has signed a technology transfer and license agreement for Direct Bond Interconnect (DBI) technology.

DBI technology is a key enabler for true 3D-integrated MEMS and image sensor solutions,” said Edwin Roks, president of Teledyne DALSA. “We are excited about the prospect of developing new products and providing new foundry services to our customers that utilize this technology. By working closely with Invensas, we will be able to move more quickly to deploy this capability efficiently and effectively.

We are pleased that Teledyne DALSA, a recognized leader in digital imaging products and MEMS solutions, has chosen our DBI technology to accelerate the development and commercialization of their next generation MEMS and image sensor products,” said Craig Mitchell, President of Invensas.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Global and China Imaging Industry Report, 2016-2020

ResearchInChina publishes "Global and China CMOS Camera System Industry Report, 2016-2020." Few quotes:

"In 2016, the CIS (CMOS Image Sensor) market size approximated USD10.516 billion, rising by 5.6% from a year ago, but with an obvious fall in the speed of growth compared with the growth rate of 13.5% in 2015, mainly because medium- and high-end products are monopolized by Sony and the manufacturers in low- and medium-end fields are hard to break through the technological barriers and do nothing but hit the price war even in the vehicle field.

Although influenced by factors like the Earthquake and the Appreciation of Japanese Yen, Sony still monopolized the medium- and high-end fields by dint of its overwhelming performance superiority and saw an upsurge of 32.9% in its revenue in 2016; by contrast, other players excluding Panasonic and Hynix saw decline. It is expected that, in 2017, the CIS market will grow 4.0%, Sony will see a growth rate of at least 10%, and most others will continue to suffer losses. In spite of being not much expected, the mobile phone market is still the most important market and Sony still monopolizes the high-end mobile phone market.

In 2015, the global CCM (CMOS Camera Module) market size reported USD16.611 billion, up 3.8% from a year earlier but the lowest growth rate since 2010. In 2016, as the shipment of Apple phones with the highest single price of CCM fell, the world CCM market was at low ebb and down 0.5%. Due to the dual-camera stimulus in 2017, the global market rebounds substantially with the growth rate of 4.3% and the size estimated to be USD17.232 billion in 2017 and USD18.512 billion in 2020.

In 2016, Chinese manufacturers made remarkable achievements, while South Korean counterparts saw a drop or slight rise in revenue due to their heavy reliance on Apple and Samsung. Among Chinese players, Q-Tech enjoys the highest growth rate up to 84.5%, followed by Truly, both of which benefited from the outstanding performance of big customers OPPO and VIVO.

It is anticipated that monochrome dual-camera with same pixel will be the mainstream for smart phone brands except Apple in the future, as it is more affordable and can improve nightscape significantly (visible effect betterment for consumers), while Apple will persist in duel-camera design enriching depth of focus. Smart phones tend to be highly homogenized. Although they are still not quite satisfied with the dual-cameras, consumers are more impressed with dual-cameras than mono-camera. So, dual-camera is expected to be a standard configuration in high-end smart phones, and the penetration rate till 2020 would be as high up to 30-40%.

Sony Unveils 4 New GS Sensors

Sony presents 4 new GS CMOS sensors for industrial applications. The sensors have 1/2.9-inch format and include 1.58MP IMX273LLR/LQR and IMX296LLR, and 0.4MP large pixel IMX287LLR/LQR and IMX297LLR.

Sony also posts a video demo of GS sensor advantages:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Yole on Medical Imaging Market

Yole Développement says that the solid-state medical imaging including CCD, CIS, a-Si FPD, a-Se FPD, and SiPM are step by step penetrating the medical imaging industry. Yole’s analysts estimate the solid state medical imaging device market at US$350 million in 2016 with a comfortable 8.3% CAGR until 2022.

For some technologies and applications, wafer volume growth is very significant,” explains Yole’s Activity Leader, Pierre Cambou. “For example, the development of SiPM7 in the field of molecular imaging will multiply in quantity by more than 6x over the next five years. This massive transformation from photomultiplier tubes to solid-state IC was derived from the need of multimodal equipment (PET/MRI10) but it’s going to have a direct consequence in the field of PET/CT11 and spread all the way to SPECT12 imaging."

Basler ToF Camera Promotional Video

Basler presents a video of its ToF camera features and applications. Basler calls it "the first high-resolution Time-of-Flight Camera in the mid-ranged price segment to offer such a broad variety of powerful Machine Vision features."

Corephotonics Announces Collaboration with Samsung Electro-Mechanics

Corephotonics has partnered with Samsung Electro-Mechanics (SEMCO) to develop a complete camera module reference design, based on Corephotonics dual camera technology. Through this reference design, which is now in volume production, smartphone manufacturers get 5.5mm-slim dual camera designs with 3x optical zoom capability.

The camera has become a key differentiator in the current, highly competitive global smartphone market. Via the dual camera zoom solution pioneered by Corephotonics and the access we have now gained to their technology, it is possible to greatly expand upon our current smartphone camera capabilities,” states EVP Hong, CMO of SEMCO. “This will take us closer than ever before to the imaging performance that would normally be associated with an SLR.

SEMCO is an acknowledged leader in smartphone camera modules and it is now fully equipped with a broad range of Corephotonics technology,” adds Eran Briman, VP of Marketing & Business Development at Corephotonics. “By integrating our calibration tools into its production lines, SEMCO is now better positioned for delivering mass production zoom dual camera modules which are drop-test certified and support relaxed calibration assembly. Combining such modules with Corephotonics’ zoom and bokeh algorithms easily satisfies consumer demands for elevated imaging functionality.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

When And Why to Use SWIR

Princeton Infrared publishes a video about InGaAs image sensor application possibilities:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sony and ON Semi Oscar Award PRs

Sony: Sony’s F65 CineAlta digital motion picture camera was honored with a Scientific and Engineering Award, presented by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The 20MP, 8K single CMOS sensor-equipped F65 is the flagship of Sony’s large sensor technology. Since its introduction in 2011, the camera has shot everything in HD, 4K and beyond from motion pictures, episodic TV and documentaries to live entertainment and sports, commercials and visitor attraction.

The Academy recognized the F65 for “its pioneering high-resolution imaging sensor, excellent dynamic range, and full 4K output” as well as Sony’s “unique photosite orientation and true RAW recording that delivers exceptional image quality.

The Genesis, co-developed by Sony and Panavision was also honored with a Scientific and Engineering Award. The Genesis is equipped with super 35mm film-size single CCD of 12.4MP arranged in a 1950 by 1080 array, making it the first commercial available sensor with a direct attachment to a spherical 35mm film lens.

It was recognized by the Academy as a pioneering digital motion picture camera “using a familiar form factor and accessories, with design features that allowed it to become one of the first digital cameras to be adopted by cinematographers.

BusinessWire: Arnold & Richter Cine Technik (ARRI), the largest manufacturer of motion picture equipment in the world, accepted a Scientific and Technical Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the pioneering design and engineering of its Super 35 format ALEXA digital camera system. The ALEXA camera is powered by the ALEV III image sensor, which was designed and manufactured by ON Semiconductor specifically for ARRI.

For almost 15 years, ON Semiconductor and ARRI have worked together to bring the highest quality digital capture to professional motion picture and television production,” said Herb Erhardt, VP and GM, Industrial Solutions Division, Image Sensor Group at ON Semi. ARRI has won several awards for its digital cameras and systems, all of which are based on image sensors from ON Semiconductor.

RED too received the Award, but has not published its response so far.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

ON Semi Demos

ON Semi publishes a number of video demos of its image sensor products:

ISSCC 2017 Review - Part 4

Albert Theuwissen concludes his series of reviews of ISSCC presentations. The fourth part talks about Shizuoka University paper on high sensitivity pixel with no reset gate, and Sony 3D-stacked vision sensor.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Kwang Bo (Austin) Cho to Lead Hynix CIS Business

Kwang Bo (Austin) Cho has left ON Semi to join SK Hynix, Korea as Senior Vice President, Head of CIS Division. This is definitely a big news for SK Hynix that needs to re-position itself and find a differentiation on the image sensor market.

Kwang Bo (Austin) Cho,
SK Hynix SVP, Head of CIS Division

Thursday, February 09, 2017

ISSCC 2017 Review - Part 3

Albert Theuwissen publishes a third part of the ISSCC papers review. This parts talks about Sony 3-layer stacked sensor with DRAM layer integrated and Panasonic RGB-IR organic sensor.

Panasonic Develops Organic CMOS Sensor with Electrically Controllable NIR Sensitivity

BusinessWire: Panasonic developed a technology of electrical control of the NIR light sensitivity in an organic CMOS image sensor. The sensitivity of all the pixels in the image sensor, which has directly stacked organic films, is simultaneously controlled by changing the applied voltage to the organic films.

This technology enables to switch between modes of color imaging and NIR imaging frame by frame without a mechanical IR cut filter. The extinction ratio of NIR sensitivity at 800 nm was -28 dB. The technology also enables global shutter operation and is suitable for industry such as machine vision applications.

Panasonic holds 94 Japanese patents and 68 overseas patents (including pending) related to these technologies.

SensL on Automotive LiDAR Challenges

SensL publishes a Youtube video explaining automotive LiDAR challenges:

Mediatek Low-end Mobile Processor Supports Dual Camera

MediaTek announces its mid- to low-end Helio P25 mobile processor combining 16nm Octa-core CPU with Imagiq ISP supporting dual camera features.

The Helio P25 12bit Dual ISP offers:

  • High Resolution: Up to 24MP single camera or 13MP+13MP dual camera
  • Dual Camera-optimized: Color + Mono de-noise and real-time shallow DoF bokeh
  • High Dynamic Range: Video HDR with full preview
  • High Performance Auto Exposure: Turbo 3A to accelerate AE convergence speed by 30-55%

MediaTek Helio P25 paves the way for high-resolution and feature-rich smartphone cameras that enable amazing static shots and 4K2K videos,” said Jeffrey Ju, EVP and Co-COO at MediaTek. “Supporting two cameras up to 13MP each, the MediaTek Helio P25 redefines expectations for mobile photography and our multimedia features like, MediaTek MiraVision technology, continuously enhance visual user-experiences.

Smartphones powered by MediaTek Helio P25 are expected to be on the market in Q1 2017.

Comparison with previous generation P20

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

ISSCC 2017 Papers Review - Part 2

Albert Theuwissen continues his review of imaging papers presented at ISSCC 2017. The second part talks about University of Michigan light-to-digital converter and Canon global shutter sensor.

ISSCC 2017: Canon 2/3-inch GS Sensor

Canon presents a paper "A 1.8e-rms Temporal Noise Over 110dB Dynamic Range3.4μm Pixel PitchGlobal ShutterCMOS Image Sensorwith Dual-Gain Amplifiers, SS-ADC and Multiple-Accumulation Shutter" by Masahiro Kobayashi, Yusuke Onuki, Kazunari Kawabata, Hiroshi Sekine,Toshiki Tsuboi, Yasushi Matsuno, Hidekazu Takahashi, Toru Koizumi, Katsuhito Sakurai, Hiroshi Yuzurihara, Shunsuke Inoue, Takeshi Ichikawa at ISSCC 2017 on Feb. 6, 2017.

Few pictures from the demo session:

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

ISSCC Papers Review

Albert Theuwissen posts a first part of his review of ISSCC 2017 image sensor papers. This part talks about Samsung event-driven vision sensor, InSilixa genome sequencing chip, and Shuzuoka University 4-tap FLIM sensor.

Tokyo University and Sony Vision Sensor Demo

Tokyo University and Sony publish a vision imager demo presented at ISSCC 2017. A 1000fps target recognition and target tracking were demonstrated by using the new vision chip with 3D-stacked 140GOPS column-parallel SIMD processing elements.

Sony Presents 3-Layer Stacked Sensor for Smartphones

Sony announces the development of the industry's first 3-layer stacked CMOS sensor with DRAM for smartphones. The new 20MP 1/2.3-inch sensor minimizes the rolling shutter distortions by providing a 8.33ms-fast readout of the full 20MP of the sensor into the internal 1Gb DRAM.

The high-speed readout capability makes it possible to record up to 1,000 fps (approximately 8x faster than conventional Sony products) super slow motion movies in full HD (1920x1080 pixels).

Sony also publishes a Youtube video showing the new sensor capabilities:

Sony has presented the new sensor at ISSCC 2017. Few slides from the demo session:

Update: A slide on one of the high speed modes added below. There are 4 ADCs per column in order to read 4 rows in parallel and a SF coupled binning:

Monday, February 06, 2017

Sharp Camera Module Business Update

Sharp quarterly earning report updates on the company camera module business: YoY sales and profits grow:

IDC: Dual Camera Smartphones are Top Trend in China

IDC releases a report on China smartphone marked in 2016. One of the top trends is:

"Chinese vendors are starting to launch phones with dual cameras and curved screens. We expect that to be the norm for most flagships in 2017. Cameras will continue to be a key focus in the marketing messages by vendors especially given the strong selfie culture in China, as exemplified by the popularity of apps such as Meitu."

Friday, February 03, 2017

Mediatek and Pixart Cooperate on Gesture Recognition

Digitimes: MediaTek teams up with Pixart to on 3D tracking and gesture solutions utilizing MediaTek's MT8665-series SoC chip and Pixart's PAJ7620U2-series integrated gesture recognition sensor, according to a recent Chinese-language Commercial Times report.

MediaTek and Pixart aim their gesture control solution to the China's automotive aftermarket such as rear view mirrors. The shipments for the orders are already underway. MediaTek has introduced a complete automotive chip line with availability in Q1 2017.

ON Semi Sensors Power ARRI Cameras

ON Semi says that for the past five years, every movie to win Oscar Award – Hugo (2011), Life of Pi (2012), Gravity (2013), Birdman (2014) and The Revenant (2015) – was captured using an ALEXA or ALEXA 65 digital camera system from ARRI. For 2016, four of the five nominees for Best Cinematography were again captured using ALEXA cameras. These cameras high DR, natural color reproduction, and high sensitivity, all begin with the performance of ON Semi image sensors used in the system.

ARRI publishes an explanation of image sensor technology used in its cameras:

"Although the science behind the breakthrough performance of ALEXA's custom designed CMOS sensor is complex, the use of large photosites and a Dual Gain Architecture are its two main principles.

By employing unusually large photosites (in today's world of tiny cell phone sensors), ALEXA's sensor exhibits high dynamic range, high sensitivity and low crosstalk. The larger a photosite is, the more light it can capture and the lower the noise.

The Dual Gain Architecture simultaneously provides two separate read-out paths from each pixel with different amplification. The first path contains the regular, highly amplified signal. The second path contains a signal with lower amplification, to capture the information that is clipped in the first path. Both paths feed into the camera's A/D converters, delivering a 14 bit image for each path. These images are then combined into a single 16 bit high dynamic range image.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Valeo Vision Technology Roadmap

Valeo publishes a Youtube video showing its current and future automotive vision technology:

Sony Reports Quarterly Sales

Sony reports an increase of image sensor sales in the last quarter ended on Dec 31, 2016:

Sony also announces a realignment of its business segments. All image sensor R&D teams, including CineAlta sensors, are moved into Semiconductor group:

Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Camera Features

Qualcomm publishes a post on its Snapdragon 835 photo and video features:
  • Smooth zoom combines optical and digital zooms
  • Up to 32MP camera with 30fps frame rate
  • EIS 3.0 supports 4K video stabilization
  • Dual Photodiode (2PD) AF use paired photodiodes on every pixel
  • Clear Sight color supports two cameras, one color and one mono

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Awarded to the Creators of Digital Imaging Sensors

PRNewswire, Time, Dartmouth News: Eric Fossum, George Smith, Nobukazu Teranishi, and Michael Tompsett were announced as the winners of Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for the creation of digital imaging sensors. The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is a £1 million prize, celebrating world-changing engineering innovations.

The revolution began in the 1970s with the development of the CCD by George Smith and its use in imaging by Michael Tompsett. The CCD is the image sensor inside early digital cameras, converting particles of light, or photons, into electrical signals enabling the image to be stored as digital data. The following decade, Nobukazu Teranishi invented the pinned photodiode (PPD), reducing the size of light-capturing 'pixels' and significantly improving image quality. The development of the CMOS sensor by Eric Fossum in 1992 allowed cameras to be made smaller, cheaper and with better battery life.

Tompsett told TIME that he was in "total shock and awe" when he found out he was a winner of the prize. "I was familiar with the need to make the cameras smaller," he said. "But at that time, did I guess that everyone would one day carry around a sensor in their pockets? No. What's happened over the last 40 or 50 years is the technology has continued to improve - image sensors are now all over the world and are being manufactured by the billions."

In 1992, Fossum developed the CMOS image sensor when working at JPL. "I knew [the CMOS image sensor] would be useful for all kinds of things, but everyday I am still astonished by how widespread the technology is and in how many different places it's being used - from selfies taken by smartphones to pill cameras that can look inside your small intestine," Fossum said. "If I'd known this before I started the company, I probably would have structured things differently - I could have made a lot more money!"

Thanks to AT for the link!

Mediatek Demos Imagiq Real-time DoF on Dual Camera

Mediatek publishes a Youtube video showing its dual camera ISP capabilities: