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Author Topic: Kodak's new sensor  (Read 25649 times)
Ray
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« on: June 20, 2007, 10:01:16 PM »
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I noticed a news item on Rob Galbraith's home page. Here's the press release http://www.kodak.com/eknec/PageQuerier.jht...900688a80720f9d

Now, if Canon had access to this technology they could presumably give us a 1D MkIV with a genuine ISO 12800 and an optional ISO 25600. Wow!

There's a characteristic of Bayer type sensors which many of us probably don't give a thought to, and that is, they seem on the face of it to be rather inefficient light gatherers due to the presense of a color filter array which unavoidably has to filter out, or block, a good proportion of the light passing through the lens.

A red filter's purpose is to block out as much green and blue light as possible. There's obviously some overlap. However, if this new sensor from Kodak can improve sensitivity by one to two stops, then the implication is that current Bayer type sensors really are blocking out around 2/3rds of the light arriving at the sensor.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2007, 07:00:19 PM by Ray » Logged
jani
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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2007, 04:27:14 AM »
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Now, if Canon had access to this technology they could presumably give us a 1D MkIV with a genuine ISO 128,000 and an optional ISO 256,000. Wow!
The downside is that you need more sensor sites to represent the same amount of detail in colour photographs. So to match the resolution of the MkII, you'd need to do some fancy stepping around all the problems we've been whining about, in terms of multi-megapixel digicams ...

TANSTAFL.
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Jan
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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2007, 06:59:18 PM »
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The downside is that you need more sensor sites to represent the same amount of detail in colour photographs. So to match the resolution of the MkII, you'd need to do some fancy stepping around all the problems we've been whining about, in terms of multi-megapixel digicams ...

TANSTAFL.
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Jani,
That's not my reading of the situation. Is it not the case that human vision is more receptive to luminance information than color information, regarding resolution?

Currently, in a Bayer type sensor, 50% of the pixels are green, 25% red and 25% blue. In the new Kodak sensor, one arrangement would (or could) be 50% panchromatic and 16.6% each for red, green and blue. Resolution would (or could) be the same, the pixel size would be the same, but for any given exposure the new filter array will allow more photons to pass through, hence greater sensitivity in low light situations and less noise.

Since noise affects dynamic range and since dynamic range is always reduced somewhat in current systems at high ISOs, we could expect a 10MP 1D MkIV with performance at ISO 12800 at least as good as current performance of the 1D MkIII at ISO 6400, on the basis of a one stop improvement in sensitivity, and as good at ISO 25600 as the 1D3 at ISO 6400 on the basis of a 2 stop improvement in sensitivity.

We might also expect a base ISO of 200-400. The only downside I see in such an arrangement is a possible reduction in color accuracy. Will the new algorithms be up to the job? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Here's a link that provides more information. [a href=\"http://johncompton.1000nerds.kodak.com/default.asp?item=624876]http://johncompton.1000nerds.kodak.com/def...asp?item=624876[/url]
« Last Edit: June 22, 2007, 08:09:41 AM by Ray » Logged
jani
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« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2007, 05:33:05 AM »
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Jani,
That's not my reading of the situation. Is it not the case that human vision is more receptive to luminance information than color information, regarding resolution?
Ray,

The human vision is at its most discerning regarding detail in a very narrow area, which is covered mostly by cones (the colour-sensitive cells).

A simple experiment you can perform yourself:

Walk outside at a clear, star-lit night, no other light sources than stars. Find a star that is nearly impossible to see head-on. Then gradually turn your eyes away from that star, and you will notice that it appears to become brighter.

This is because the light from the star then is detected by the more light-sensitive rods. Unfortunately, you'll also notice a lack of detail.
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Jan
Ray
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« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2007, 08:46:45 AM »
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Ray,

The human vision is at its most discerning regarding detail in a very narrow area, which is covered mostly by cones (the colour-sensitive cells).

A simple experiment you can perform yourself:

Walk outside at a clear, star-lit night, no other light sources than stars. Find a star that is nearly impossible to see head-on. Then gradually turn your eyes away from that star, and you will notice that it appears to become brighter.

This is because the light from the star then is detected by the more light-sensitive rods. Unfortunately, you'll also notice a lack of detail.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=124325\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Exactly! Jani. That's the inspiration for Kodak's improvement of the Bayer type sensor.

Here's a relevant quote from the article you provided a link to.

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The retina contains two types of photoreceptors, rods and cones. The rods are more numerous, some 120 million, and are more sensitive than the cones. However, they are not sensitive to color. The 6 to 7 million cones provide the eye's color sensitivity and they are much more concentrated in the central yellow spot known as the macula.

The point here is the rods are more numerous (much more numerous) and are more sensitive, but not to color.

The rods are equivalent to the panchromatic pixels of the new Kodak sensor. Seems like a sound idea to me.

Here's a picture of the rods and cones.

[attachment=2665:attachment]
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Ray
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« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2007, 12:05:57 AM »
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Having had further thoughts about this new color filter array, (and I suppose it's not so much a new sensor as a new way of filtering the light), I'm wondering if the claimed 1-2 stop increase in sensitivity is an exaggeration. All the patterns I've seen consist of just half of the number of pixels, in total, having the color filter removed, ie. becoming panchromatic.

If one calculates on the basis that each filter covering each pixel in the Bayer type array filters out 2/3rds of the light, then removing color filters from half of the sensors should cause only 1/3rd of the light to be blocked, and that represents a one stop improvement in sensitivity. So how can we get up to two stops improvement? Is Kodak referring to the variability of scene content or sensor design, or both? For example, with the current Bayer type sensor, a scene that is predominantly green will be less noisy at high ISO than a scene that is predominantly red and blue.

If we take an average of the 1-2 stop claim and call it a 1.5 stop improvement in noise, then, if we were to remove the 'color filter array' entirely, we would get, on average, a 3 stop improvement in noise. We would have an extremely low noise B&W digital camera.

It seems to be a fact of life with modern technological products, that one doesn't hear much about the deficiencies of a particular design untill someone discovers a better way of doing things, then, in order to sell the new product, the deficiencies of the old product come to the fore and are widely publicised.

The new Kodak CFA has brought to my attention the possibilities of truly B&W digital photography, which have of course always existed irrespective of this new Kodak sensor. I'm already salivating after applying some simple maths to the situation.

We all know that Foveon type sensors produce higher resolution than Bayer type sensors, pixel for pixel, defining a pixel as a group of one red, blue and green element. This is due to the loss of resolution in the demosaicing and interpolation that takes place with the Bayer type sensor, as well as the presence of an AA filter. Without quibbling, 3.4m Foveon pixels are roughly equivalent to 6m Bayer pixels. This represents a 1.76 increase in resolution, pixel for pixel. Jonathan Wienke claims a 1.5x increase in resolution. Let's compromise on a 1.6x increase.

Now I'm going to propose something that I'm not 100% certain about, but which I think might quite probably be true. A cheap camera like the 10mp Canon 400D could deliver B&W images that could exceed the quality of B&W images from the 1Ds2, if its color filter array and AA filter were removed. In other words, without the demosaicing and interpolation, 10m panchromatic pixels would at least equal, in terms of resolution and luminance, 16m color pixels converted to B&W.

Furthermore, after taking into consideration the 3 stop advantage in noise and sensitivy that would result from removing the CFA and AA filter, a 10mp 400D might well wipe the floor with the 1Ds2 (for B&W images only, of course).

Consider the options that are available with a B&W-only 400D. Not only would we have the resolution of a 1Ds2 color image converted to B&W, but we'd have a usable ISO 25600, as noise-free as ISO 1600 on the current 400D.

Let's re-arrange the possibilities. Instead of going for maximum performance at unheard of ISOs, we could use that advantage to increase pixel count whilst still maintaining the same S/N on a pixel per pixel basis, compared with color filtered pixels. In other words, if we accept the current level of noise at ISO 1600 with a CFA sensor as being reasonable and useful, we can make smaller photodiodes with the same signal-to-noise performance, if they are panchromatic.

How about a 40mp 400D, B&W only, with the same low noise at ISO 1600? Could this be the highest resolving digital camera ever (apart from scanning backs)? Higher resolving than the P45, and all for a cost of $1,000-2,000?
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Ray
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« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2007, 12:21:26 AM »
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Walk outside at a clear, star-lit night, no other light sources than stars. Find a star that is nearly impossible to see head-on. Then gradually turn your eyes away from that star, and you will notice that it appears to become brighter.

This is because the light from the star then is detected by the more light-sensitive rods. Unfortunately, you'll also notice a lack of detail.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=124325\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Jani,
I can't say I've ever noticed any detail in a star. What sort of detail are you referring to ?  
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orin
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« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2007, 01:38:02 AM »
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The analogy between this new filter array and the retina is strained at best.  Although it is true that rods are more sensitive and more numerous than cones, they are also, in silicon sensor terms, highly binned.  Thus their sensitivity comes at the expense of spatial resolution.  In addition, rods saturate at low light levels and contribute nothing to vision at moderate to high light levels.  The panchromatic pixels on the other hand operate at all light levels and have good spatial resolution.

The new filter array trades chromatic resolution for a modest increase of sensitivity.  This probably reduces shadow noise a bit, but the increased spacing of the filtered pixels might also increase the visibility of chromatic aliasing and force an increase in the strength of the antialiasing filter.  The new design probably has its uses, but it doesn't seem to warrant the amount of press it has been getting.
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Ray
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« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2007, 07:26:27 AM »
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The analogy between this new filter array and the retina is strained at best.  Although it is true that rods are more sensitive and more numerous than cones, they are also, in silicon sensor terms, highly binned.  Thus their sensitivity comes at the expense of spatial resolution. [a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=124476\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Orin,
That may well be true. The analogy might be strained but in this respect the panchromatic pixels have the advantage because they do have full resolution capability. There was also some talk of binning options with the new Kodak sensor.
 
Nevertheless, it is an unavoidable fact that having a primary color filter in front of each pixel blocks out about 2/3rds of the light heading towards the sensor. With existing algorithms one would expect poorer color resolution if some of these filters are removed, but Kodak's design includes new algorithms to interpolate the color information. It remains to be seen how effective these new algorithms will be. If they are not effective then that will be a major flaw in the design.

At this stage the only people who know whether or not the new algorithms will be effective is Kodak. Perhaps one has to give the designers credit for not being complete fools.

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This probably reduces shadow noise a bit, but the increased spacing of the filtered pixels might also increase the visibility of chromatic aliasing and force an increase in the strength of the antialiasing filter.

I would have thought just the opposite. If the color filtered pixels have wider spacing then chromatic aliasing should be less of a problem.
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jani
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« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2007, 03:05:09 PM »
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I would have thought just the opposite. If the color filtered pixels have wider spacing then chromatic aliasing should be less of a problem.
Perhaps not chromatic aliasing, but certainly chromatic aberrations at multi-pixel levels.

Remember, the colours need to be interpolated from the surrounding pixels.

Of course, you can use diffraction effects to make some fairly decent assumptions about this, but this is also -- as you were on to regarding Bayer vs. Foveon -- something that will result in a per-pixel loss of resolution.  I merely make the claim that there will be a loss of colour resolution, with a possibility of loss of absolute resolution in colour imagery.
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Jan
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« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2007, 03:07:21 PM »
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Jani,
I can't say I've ever noticed any detail in a star. What sort of detail are you referring to ? 
You might, for instance, notice that some stars are not single stars, but rather two, one partially obscured by the other.
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Jan
Ray
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« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2007, 06:29:08 PM »
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You might, for instance, notice that some stars are not single stars, but rather two, one partially obscured by the other.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=124587\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Wow! Your eyesight is good.  

I could be wrong, but I thought double stars could only be identified as such through a telescope. To the naked eye they just look like rather bright single stars.
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Ray
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« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2007, 06:59:03 PM »
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Perhaps not chromatic aliasing, but certainly chromatic aberrations at multi-pixel levels.

Remember, the colours need to be interpolated from the surrounding pixels.

Of course, you can use diffraction effects to make some fairly decent assumptions about this, but this is also -- as you were on to regarding Bayer vs. Foveon -- something that will result in a per-pixel loss of resolution.  I merely make the claim that there will be a loss of colour resolution, with a possibility of loss of absolute resolution in colour imagery.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=124586\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Jani,
Those are fair points but you seem to have ignored this inexorable progression towards greater pixel count.

Remember, Kodak 14n owners seemed to get by with no AA filter and that sensor had a pixel density less than that of the D60.

Some of the patterns of this new CFA containing 50% panchromatic pixels (no filter) allow for each panchromatic pixel to be adjacent to all 3 primaries at either the edges or the corners. With improved algorithms and increased pixel count, there should not be an insurmountable problem here in making a reasonably accurate guess.

As discussed in other threads, as one increases pixel count there's a potential trade-off in signal-to-noise at the pixel level. Read noise becomes a greater proportion of the total signal. Without some compensating technology, total image noise could be worse, especially at high ISOs and in shadows.

This new Kodak CFA could be the compensating technology. If the 1-2 stop improvement in noise is no exaggeration, it should be possible to increase pixel count dramatically so that the sensor really does outresolve the lens, thus removing the need for an AA filter as well as providing sufficient color information, as well as maintaining and perhaps even improving upon current noise performance.
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jani
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« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2007, 05:48:01 AM »
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Wow! Your eyesight is good.   

I could be wrong, but I thought double stars could only be identified as such through a telescope. To the naked eye they just look like rather bright single stars.
By using "double star" I was trying to disambiguate from "binary star", which appears to be your interpretation.

A "double star" is either a true or merely an apparent, "optical binary" star.

For the sake of the argument, the difference is irrelevant.

If you want to test your eyesight, see if you can separate Mizar and Alcor from eachother.

Mizar is the second star in the handle of the big dipper (Ursa Major).
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Jan
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« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2007, 06:00:05 AM »
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Those are fair points but you seem to have ignored this inexorable progression towards greater pixel count.
I'm sorry, I haven't ignored that.

That "inexorable progression" also favours the Bayer patterns.

For Kodak's new pattern to retain the same level of colour detail as a Bayer pattern, you have to discount the possibility of any technological improvement to benefit Bayer patterns.

See also the article in Kodak's A Thousand Nerds blog.

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Do you get a more detailed image by using panchromatic pixels?

JH: Not really. Image detail comes primarily from the luminance channel of the image. In a Bayer pattern sensor, half of the total pixels are arranged in a green checkerboard and are used for luminance. In these new designs, half of the total pixels are arranged in a panchromatic checkerboard and used for luminance. We still have the same amount of luminance data - we're just getting it with higher sensitivity than before.
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Jan
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« Reply #15 on: June 24, 2007, 10:57:30 AM »
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That "inexorable progression" also favours the Bayer patterns.

Jani,
How so? I can't assert I'm absolutely right, but my understanding is that the smaller the pixels the more of a problem that noise becomes, both read noise and photonic noise.

We know from Canon's record that they are not interested in going backwards on the noise front and I think it's unlikely they'll be standing still regards pixel count.

A 1-2 stop noise advantage resulting from a different CFA allows for smaller pixels without sacrificing the high standards of low noise at high ISO that we all now expect. It's a way forward. But of course, if those new algorithms Kodak is talking about are not up to the job and the accuracy of the color were to suffer compared with the old Bayer type, there would be a problem.

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For Kodak's new pattern to retain the same level of colour detail as a Bayer pattern, you have to discount the possibility of any technological improvement to benefit Bayer patterns.

Quite so. But we can't comment on such improvements to the Bayer type sensor if they haven't been announced. I imagine that Kodak will be licensing such technology to those prepared to pay.

I see a fundamental inefficiency of the Bayer type sensor. Two thirds of the light reaching the sensor is wasted. Now that's just awful, isn't it? If that was oil being wasted, we'd do something about it, wouldn't we?  

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See also the article in Kodak's A Thousand Nerds blog.

Well, I agree with that statement for images taken in good light. There no reason for panchromatic pixels to produce a sharper color image because the demosaicing and interpolation still applies and it is this process, primarily, that prevents resolution reaching the Nyquist limit. It would be different for a B&W camera though, which I believe would produce sharper images with the same number of pixels, if they were all panchromatic.

However, there is a contradiction in the above quote you refer to. If noise is reduced (as a result of more photons reaching the panchromatic photoreceptors), then resolution in the shadows will surely increase. I've always found that to be the case, haven't you?
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« Reply #16 on: June 24, 2007, 11:03:02 AM »
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It would be interesting to see the development of a black and white only version of this sensor. I for one, would be interested in a black and white camera which functioned very well in low light.
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« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2007, 12:54:16 PM »
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Jani,
How so? I can't assert I'm absolutely right, but my understanding is that the smaller the pixels the more of a problem that noise becomes, both read noise and photonic noise.
Yes, and this problem also applies to the CFAv2.

What you're apparently claiming, is that what improvements in sensor technology that happen will benefit CFAv2, while they won't benefit the Bayer style arrays.

Why not?

Remember, this is just the colour filter above the sensor wells!

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A 1-2 stop noise advantage resulting from a different CFA allows for smaller pixels without sacrificing the high standards of low noise at high ISO that we all now expect.
... except that for colour, there probably won't be an improvement, even when this is taken into account. At least according to Kodak themselves.

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I see a fundamental inefficiency of the Bayer type sensor. Two thirds of the light reaching the sensor is wasted. Now that's just awful, isn't it? If that was oil being wasted, we'd do something about it, wouldn't we? 
And if you look at the CFAv2, you'll see that you need more pixels to reproduce the same colour information as in a Bayer array (read the blog ...). In other words, you could easily claim that a large proportion of the colour information is wasted with CFAv2.

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Well, I agree with that statement for images taken in good light. There no reason for panchromatic pixels to produce a sharper color image because the demosaicing and interpolation still applies and it is this process, primarily, that prevents resolution reaching the Nyquist limit.
But the demosaicing is happening with far less colour information to go by.

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It would be different for a B&W camera though, which I believe would produce sharper images with the same number of pixels, if they were all panchromatic.
Yes, I agree that this would be a great boon for B&W photography.

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However, there is a contradiction in the above quote you refer to. If noise is reduced (as a result of more photons reaching the panchromatic photoreceptors), then resolution in the shadows will surely increase. I've always found that to be the case, haven't you?
It will be an improvement in the cases where the noise is so bad that the increased sensitivity really helps to retrieve image detail that would otherwise be obscured.

It does not mean, however, that it is a general per-pixel improvement. I don't see Kodak claiming that (in fact, the citation I quoted shows that they very clearly don't claim that), only that its greatest advantage is significantly less chromatic noise in low-light situations, and greater general sensitivity.

Kodak have not addressed what this does to the risk of blown highlights, so we don't really know if this will give a higher dynamic range.
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« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2007, 09:32:37 PM »
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Yes, and this problem also applies to the CFAv2.

What you're apparently claiming, is that what improvements in sensor technology that happen will benefit CFAv2, while they won't benefit the Bayer style arrays.

Why not?

Remember, this is just the colour filter above the sensor wells!

I understand this new technology is principally a new CFA with a new way of demosaicing and interpolating the color information. It doesn't necessarily involve fundamental changes to the rest of the sensor technology (at least such fundamental changes are not mentioned), but I expect if Canon were able to buy a license to use this new CFA they would have to implement other changes in sensor design to make it work and make it work better than the current Bayer type. I can't see them buying a Kodak sensor.

For example, if you were to simply replace the Bayer CFA with CFAv2, on an exisiting sensor, then base ISO for half the pixels would jump to ISO 800 (because the panchromatic pixels are receiving 3x as much light with the same exposure), but the other half of the pixels with a color filter in front would never reach full well capacity and color accuracy would certainly suffer for this reason.

What changes to sensor design might be required to get around this problem might be fun to speculate upon.

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And if you look at the CFAv2, you'll see that you need more pixels to reproduce the same colour information as in a Bayer array (read the blog ...). In other words, you could easily claim that a large proportion of the colour information is wasted with CFAv2.
But the demosaicing is happening with far less colour information to go by.

More pixels will be provided. As I mentioned before, this new CFA seems to lend itself very well to further increases in pixel count without compromising high ISO performance. Just a one stop improvement in sensitivity might allow for double the number of pixels on a given size sensor whilst maintaining the same signal-to-noise for each pixel and the same over-all dynamic range for the image as a whole.

The comparison of quantities of colored pixels in both designs is 16.6% red, blue and green for CFAv2 versus 25% red, blue and green for Bayer. (I've discounted the extra 25% of green because I believe this is for luminance purposes and I'm not sure how that contributes to over-all color accuracy).

If we now compare say a 20mp upgrade to the 400D, employing the new CFA, with the existing 10mp 400D, we could expect higher resolution from the 20MP camera without compromising dynamic range or high ISO performance. Agreed?

Even if lenses sometimes were not adequate to deliver that extra resolution, I expect we would still get some because I doubt that such a high density sensor would require an AA filter which has the effect of softening the image.

Lets compare color accuracy. The 10MP 400D has 2.5m red, blue and green pixels (plus 2.5m additional green for luminance purposes).

The new 20mp 400D has 3.3m red, blue and green pixels (plus 10m for luminance).

Comparing the final images, one has 2.5m items of red data and the other has 3.3m items of red data. Which is more accurate? Is color accuracy even going to be an issue with such high pixel density?

I know you could argue that a 20MP Bayer sensor would have 5m items of red data and that 5m is better than 3.3m, but that argument discounts the role of the new algorithms for the CFAv2.

The other issue which I think deserves more investigation is, "Just how much color information does the human eye require in order to get a realistic sense of accurate color in a scene?"

I'll mention just two observations which make me think it is far less than you suppose.

(1) During the transition from B&W TV to Color TV there was a problem regarding compatibility with old B&W sets. It was necessary to devise a color system so that the signal could be received by B&W sets which the majority of the population still owned. Without getting into technical details, the engineers devised a way of superimposing the color signal onto the existing luminance signal, which resulted in a modest increase in the bandwidth of the transmission from something like 4.5MHz to 5.5MHz.

The impression I get is you simply don't need as much color information as luminance information. The color can be filled in.

(2) Anyone who has scanned old slides must have been amazed at how successful computer algorithms can be in restoring faded color.

I've scanned slides that have been so faded that, when I first looked at them holding them to the light, I thought they were B&W. Now I'm not going to pretend that I got them looking as though they were taken yesterday, but the very small amount of color information still there was sufficient to enable a very surprising degree of restoration.

With slides that have undergone a more modest degree of color fading, there seems to be no problem in getting the colors looking perfect, as though the shot really was taken yesterday.

Kodak, can I please have a high paying job selling your new sensor design.  
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #19 on: June 24, 2007, 09:44:39 PM »
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This new technology is mostly aimed at producing compact digital with better high iso image quality isn't it?

If anything, the trend in high end digital is more towards capturing MORE color information and not LESS like in the new Kodak technology.

Consumers don't really care about colot accuracy and noise is perceived as a much bigger issue. Pros see things the opposite way and noise is in fact not so much of an issue for many applications.

Regards,
Bernard
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