Dream becomes reality: Sony officially unveils their curved sensor tech!

Imagine a sensor that has no light loss on corners, no aberrations. A sensor designed to allow faster apertures without to sacrifice image quality. Such a sensor would have to be curved to allow all this. Well, this is no more science fiction. Sony officially unveiled their curved sensor tech! And suddenly the hopes are high Sony uses this kind of tech on future RX or Full Frame E-mount cameras. This is the Sony presentation published right before the start of the Technology Symposium (pdf file here):

We realized an ultimately advanced imaging system that comprises a curved, back-illuminated CMOS image sensor (BIS) and integrated lens which doubles the sensitivity at the edge of the image circle and increases the sensitivity at the center of the image circle by a factor of 1.4 with one-fifth lower dark current than that of a planar BIS. Because the lens field curvature aberration was overcome in principle by the curved sensor itself, the curved BIS enables higher system sensitivity through design of a brighter lens with a smaller F number than is possible with a planar BIS. At the same time, we controlled the tensile stress of the BIS chip to produce a curved shape that widens the energy band-gap to obtain a lower dark current. The curved CIS can be applied to an ultimately advanced imaging system that is validated by the evolution of the animal eye in Nature.

If Sony is going to put this into a mass production camera…it will really put under pressure Canon and Nikon ;)

  • Professor Pilsk

    Claiming that a camera with this sensor would kill Canon and Nikon sales, shows a misunderstanding of why Canon and Nikon sales are higher than anyone else’s in the first place. It’s not because they have the most advanced, innovative technology, but because of brand recognition, marketing, the relative completeness of their systems, and the near global availability of repair service and loan services for professionals.
    Also, they don’t go off on a tangent every six months, causing their customers to doubt the future of their systems, like Sony does. Sometimes, being conservative builds more trust than being innovative.
    Sony makes fantastic cameras, but they will never threaten the big players, if they don’t take their own systems seriously. They must get rid of the mindset that they are making ‘gadgets’.

    • RussellInCincinnati

      Professor Pilsk you are so full of inflammatory, gear-instead-of-photography-oriented hot air. By the way can you post any evidence that you know how to take pleasing photos? (here’s one of my not special, ordinary assignment images taken with a $50 dollar enlarging lens: http://1drv.ms/1dMP3Ms )

      Pilsk: ” why Canon and Nikon sales are higher than anyone else’s…because of brand recognition, marketing, the relative completeness of their systems, and the near global availability of repair service and loan services for professionals.”

      My guess it’s more likely that CanNikon sales are greater, because of how long it takes for people to realize that there’s something better out there. I.e. because it was only 8 years ago that Sony decided to enter the relatively-fine-imaging industry, with the A100.

      Your non-image-quality, non-kit-convenience observations as to why legacy oversized, overweight CanNikon cameras logically have higher sales volumes due to brand recognition, marketing, system size and repair services miss the mark. Just as people in the 1940’s did “explaining” why 4×5 inch negative, Speed Graphic single-shot cameras dominated the news reporting business, instead of 35mm roll film imagers. After all:

      1. The Sony corporation’s products could reasonably be described as having brand recognition.
      2. The Sony corporation has enough money to do as much marketing as they see fit. Of course when they bring out products with higher performance-per-weight,-per-size and -per dollar ratio than anything else in the world (am thinking of my $200 dollar used 230 gram Nex C3 etc bodies), they have products that “sell themselves” to some extent with less need for marketing.
      3. If you care more about the photos you take, than the gear you collect, “The relative completeness of the system” is not something you care about. Because no one photographer that’s not a collector needs all the stuff made by any one camera manufacturer. Since most photographers own and use one or two, occasionally three fairly ordinary lenses for most of their work, as long as a Sony A- or E-mount camera owner can buy those ordinary lenses from Sony or Sigma or Zeiss or Samyang or Tokina or Tamron or Cosina, the “relative incompleteness of the Sony system” is what my old math teacher described as something true but not important.
      4. “Availability of repair service and loan services” is something I might have cared about, if the Sony stuff wasn’t less than half the size and weight of Canon/Nikon iron. Because once one camera gets to be less than half the size and weight of another, a serious photographer is far better off with redundancy than repairability. If reliability is paramount, who wouldn’t prefer two of the little, light cameras in their travel kit for an important assignment, than one, bigger, heavier point-of-failure camera that ruins your outing if it fails in any case?

      • Professor Pilsk

        You make some fair points, but I wrote nothing that could be construed as ‘gear-instead-of-photography-oriented’. My point was the exact opposite!

        • RussellInCincinnati

          Well my reply to you was probably too negative. After all, you were simply describing non-image-quality reasons people buy DSLRs, you were not making some overall personal judgement that the Sony cameras are less useful.

          And of course it is true the overall theme of your comment, that whatever reasons people have for buying CanNikon DSLRs in larger numbers, it is not because those DSLRs make it easier to take nice photos than with a Sony.

  • Hubertus Bigend

    (OT: @Admin, this site’s theme makes posting in comments near-impossible for users of some mobile devices. On my 7″ tablet, there’s only a tiny strip left between the Mirrorless Rumors head and the on-screen keyboard, and the cursor position keeps scrolling upwards “behind” the site head as soon as I touch into the text area.)

    This definitely is interesting new technology that may well prove to be a massive advantage for coming camera systems.

    But it’s nothing that could be built into the next Alpha camera, be it E- or A-Mount. They need flat sensors for the existing lenses and they will continue to do so as long as they’re going to exist.

    Curved sensors will require a completely new kind of lens, and a new mount, too.

    And no existing lens, no current one and no legacy lens, will ever be compatible with a camera that’s built around a curved sensor.

  • madmax

    Great business! I guess this is the beginning of an entire line of Zeiss branded lenses specially suited for curved sensors. Satanic.

  • Wally in Austin

    Since it’s April 2nd and not the April 1st the curved sensor makes for interesting reading. Sony is pushing the boundaries compared to Nikon and Canon. Let’s see how soon to market and what image quality this brings to the market. Market chaos is always a good thing for the consumer and bad for those companies who don’t evolve or are arrogant enough to miss the market. Chakon San do you see what tablets did to Microsoft? Chakon San you have cross hairs focused on you!


    Is this tech patented?

    Usually you would have seen patent filings around the web before a Company announcement.

    Is Sony just trying to discourage other companies from thinking about this?

    This tech would return Sony back to the Camera OEM business and make Sony continue to dumbdown their cameras in relation to the cameras of the companies they would supply.

    This has always been their camera business model and the reason why I don’y buy Sony cameras.


      It’s been a while since the patent surfaced, just like some organic sensor tech. Moreover, it wouldn’t make sense to announce something that is not patented, would it?

      • RAW JAW

        Yes, it happens often. It is called ‘Bluffing’.

  • baze

    Interesting. The curvature obviously helps, especially with wide angle lenses since most digital sensors are sensitive to incoming light being perpendicular – way more sensitive than film. But placing the wiring behind the light capturing surface is perhaps even better news. I’m still looking for a “cat eye” sensor though – something that reflects the remaining light back to the “retina”.

  • Dummy00001

    I think the largest winner of them all would be the APS-C cameras of Canon/Nikon/Sony – the ones which were not designed for digital and are simply crop of the 135 format. They suffer the most the poor corner performance.

    Ditto the 135 format/FF cameras: it might finally bring the IQ of older lenses back in full.

    The likes of Fuji X or m43, which were designed for digital imagery would win much less compared to the rest.

    Otherwise, I personally, wait for the Foveon-like true-color sensors, the ones without any filter arrays. But I gather I would have to wait even longer. Even this tech references BIS what suggests that it is primarily targeted at smaller sensors/mobile applications.


    Does it require a differently designed lens? If it doesn’t, Jackpot! If does, then only new lenses would benefit from that, right? A fixed lens camera would be a nice way to test it out then.

    • Andrew

      Yes, it would require a new lens. Current lenses are heavily corrected for flat sensors.

  • ronin

    Doesn’t sound like a reality. Sounds like it’s still a dream.

  • Antoine Facultatif

    Interesting, but why since decade analog film camera manufacturer doesn’t have done a curved film plane, that’s a good question i think, may be i doesn’t know all the cameras produced, like panoramic ones which needs that more…

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