Atomos 8K Sensor Development Completed – “Sapphire F8”, Full Frame, 8K60, Global Shutter

November 8th, 2022 Jump to Comment Section 12
Atomos 8K Sensor Development Completed – "Sapphire F8", Full Frame, 8K60, Global Shutter

Atomos Sapphire F8 is a new full-frame global shutter image sensor developed by the Australian company that can record up to 8K 60fps, 4K 240fps, or 2K 360fps. The sensor is also supposed to have a good power efficiency with only 2W power draw in 8K capture mode. Atomos is currently discussing with camera manufacturers about using the sensor in their upcoming cameras.

The Australian video technology company Atomos, known mostly for its external recorders and monitors, seems to be entering completely new waters. Surprisingly, the company recently announced that it completed the development of its new 8K video sensor and is currently exploring commercialization. In other words, Atomos is now in discussion with several camera manufacturers about using the sensor in their upcoming cameras. The company will not manufacture the sensor in-house, but they claim to have partnered with a sensor production facility, so they are ready to start the manufacturing process of the sensor.

Sapphire F8 sensor. Image credit: Atomos

An interesting historical insight, included in the press release, is that five years ago, Atomos acquired intellectual property rights and technical team from Grass Valley, a broadcast equipment company, known for their NLE software Edius.

The Atomos cinema camera that never happened

Now as we all know, Atomos never made a camera by themselves. On the outside, the company sticks to external camera recorders, but that is arguably an area that will not remain relevant for a very long time, with more and more cameras being able to record edit-ready codecs like ProRes internally. That might be a reason why Atomos originally wanted to enter the camera market. As Atomos CEO Trevor Elbourne disclosed in an interview for PetaPixel a few days ago, the company was in the process of developing its own cinema camera a few years ago.

As Elbourne said, however, the development eventually took too long and Atomos decided to cancel the camera project and decided to focus on the sensor itself. The decision was fueled by Blackmagic Design being faster with their development and beating Atomos by entering the camera market earlier. The company then considered the market segment to be too saturated for the Atomos camera.

Atomos Sapphire F8 sensor specs

At the moment there is not much information and specs available about the new sensor. What we do know, thanks to the PetaPixel interview, is that the Sapphire F8 is a full-frame 17:9 aspect ratio sensor with DCI 8K resolution (8192 x 4320 pixels) and it features global shutter technology. The sensor can shoot uncropped 8K at up to 60 frames per second, 4K at up to 240fps, or 2K (1080p) at up to 360fps.

Sapphire F8 sensor. Image credit: Atomos

The Atomos CEO Trevor Elbourne claims that the sensor has 15-stops of dynamic range and it is capable of shooting HDR video using line-by-line dual exposure (capturing both short and long exposures of alternate lines to produce HDR images). Atomos further claims the sensor maintains full 12-bit ADC resolution across all recording modes. Of course, as usual, we will put the sensor through our rigorous and standardized CineD Lab Tests as soon as we get our hands on a camera that uses the sensor.

Power efficiency – less heat?

Interestingly, the sensor is designed to be very power efficient. Elbourne claims it only has a power draw of 2W in the 8K capture mode. Low power draw usually comes hand in hand with reduced heat generation, so it would be interesting to see how the sensor compares in terms of thermal dynamics. It could theoretically mean smaller camera bodies without the need for active cooling.

Sapphire F8 sensor. Image credit: Atomos

The better power efficiency of the image sensor also means that camera manufacturers can equip their cameras with a more powerful image processor.

Are 8K sensors still rare?

Furthermore, Atomos claims in the press release that “8K content has been lagging because, outside of big camera makers such as Sony, owning 8K sensor technology is extremely rare.” There are currently quite a few cameras that already record 8K or higher resolution, some of which are even relatively affordable – Canon R5, Canon R5 C, Sony a1, Sony a7R V, Fujifilm X-H2 (CineD review here), Blackmagic URSA 12K, and then, of course, multiple RED cameras.

Currently the most affordable 8K mirrorless camera – FUJIFILM X-H2. Apparently with a Sony sensor inside? Image credit: CineD

As Atomos correctly points out, most of the sensors are made by Sony. It would make therefore sense for other camera companies, that do not develop their own sensors, to have the freedom of choice. Albourne mentioned specifically Panasonic.

Even if Atomos soon reaches an agreement with any of the camera manufacturers, it might still take years before we see the sensor in a finished camera. It is, however, good to see a power-efficient, high-resolution global shutter sensor becoming available to any camera manufacturer.

What do you think about the Atomos Sapphire F8 sensor? How relevant is 8K for you generally? Would you like to see it in a cinema camera anytime soon? Let us know in the comments section underneath the article.

Source: Atomos, PetaPixel, DPreview


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