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Canon unveils 120-megapixel camera sensor

  • Canon 120-megapixel sensor
  • Canon CMOS sensor

By Barry Collins

Posted on 24 Aug 2010 at 15:23

Canon claims to have developed a digital camera sensor with a staggering 120-megapixel resolution.

The APS-H sensor - which is the same type that is used in Canon's professional EOS-1D cameras - boasts a ridiculous resolution of 13,280 x 9,184 pixels. The CMOS sensor is so densely packed with pixels that it can capture full HD video on just one-sixtieth of the total surface area.

Processing such enormously high resolution images should, by rights, cripple the average camera. However, Canon claims it would be possible to shoot 9.5 frames per second with the new sensor "by modifying the method employed to control the readout circuit timing". Whether the camera could buffer such high resolution images in its memory is another matter altogether.

Canon 120-megapixel sensor

The 120-megapixel sensor has seven and a half times as many pixels as the company's current top dog, the 16-megapixel sensor found in the 1D.

However, those expecting an enormous boost in image resolution in the near future are set to be disappointed. The company unveiled a 50-megapixel CMOS sensor in 2007, but that has yet to arrive in a DSLR.

"While we have no plans for a consumer product [containing the 50-megapixel sensor], we are looking at it for commercial products," a Canon spokesperson told PC Pro, with medical imaging devices among the likely uses.

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User comments

They should retro fit the Hubble telescope with these. Although iirc NASA like Nikon (or maybe I made that up :) )
Anyway, expect spy satellites with these in by the end of the year. I just hope my tinfoil hat will fool them...

By jamesyld on 24 Aug 2010

At that sort of resolution (which unquestionably has a use, commercially) the biggest problem is the resolving power of lenses, which at today's optical standards simply won't cut the mustard.

By Bureaunet on 24 Aug 2010

Top Dog.

"The 120-megapixel sensor has seven and a half times as many pixels as the company's current top dog, the 16-megapixel sensor found in the 1D"

While the 1DIII is the top dog in terms of the rather unusual APS-H format, Canon has two cameras with higher resolution sensors. Both full frame; the 5DII and the 1DsIII.

It is difficult to see how such a sensor might be used, since as Bureaunet correctly says, lenses currently cannot resolve to such a fine level. Glass lenses are never likely to be able to either. Today's 20+MP cameras are already stretching lenses.

APS-H has always been reserved for high speed, low noise cameras, where the headline grabbing megapixie race has a lesser influence, so other than proof of concept, it is difficult to see where this is going to be deployed. UNLESS Canon are going to produce a Foveon sensor, which would effectively produce very sharp 40MP images. Nice! That would be advantageous for medical applications as well as landscape photography.

By PaleRider on 24 Aug 2010

How annoying...

The injection protection has stripped out my pedant tags which I put around the 5D/1Ds paragraph, thus absolving me of any nit-pickery. :-)

By PaleRider on 24 Aug 2010

I agree that it's a bit specialist at 120mpix, but denser CMOS sensor technology should be great for shrinking devices such as mobile phones / spy-cams.

By john_coller on 25 Aug 2010


Sounds like an oversized point-and-shoot camera sensor, with corresponding ISO performance.

By Lomskij on 25 Aug 2010

I want one for my telescope!

By wlack on 26 Aug 2010

Onboard HDR?

The resolution they quote would produce a 24bit image size a spit under 350Mb. 9.5 frames a second? That's just under 3.25 Gb of raw data processing per second! I'd love to see the processor that can keep up with that.

On the other hand, he says thinking out of the box, this CCD will capture 7.5 times the data of a normal CCD. Why not take 7 lower resolution pictures simultaneously at different settings, then combine them to result in onboard HDR processing? The human eye does it, and I think this CCD ought to be capable of it. Now that would be a quantum leap in photographic quality. We already have quality you can print wall sized, we don't actually *need* more pixels in the image, what we need is more accuracy and realism in the detail they pick up.

Perhaps I ought to patent the idea before it's pinched and someone else makes millions.

By CeltiKaos on 26 Aug 2010

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