Canon aspires to use stacked sensor technology to improve camera capabilities, especially in regards to autofocusing performance.
Stacked CMOS sensor tech is not new – in fact, it can be found on the Sony a9 camera. Additionally, the technology has also been implemented in mobile phones.
Advantages of stacked sensors
The “regular” two-layer sensor design uses a layer of pixels and a layer of circuits to process information, but the stacked sensor design includes a third layer of DRAM or temporary storage that can store that information. This layered sensor design has the potential of significantly increasing the read-out speed of the data from the image. This extra speed can be utilized to enhance the processing of complex image information like autofocus, and reduce artifacts like rolling shutter.
Canon’s patent application
To make the story short and simple, Canon new sensor design is made from four elements: the layered-structure imaging element consists of one chip which contains a pixel portion, a second chip as a drive unit for the pixel portion, a conversion unit to convert the pixels signals into digital signals, and a control information conversion unit. In order to dive deeper, you can refer to the charts and explanation on the application itself.
The chart below illustrates the construction of the imaging apparatus and the imaging elements which are described above.
This design has the potential to facilitate and utilize data transfer by significantly improving sensor performance.
So what’s the deal here?
It looks like the main goal here is to enhance autofocus speed, since AF is mentioned many times in the application as the main keyword. Indeed, this structure can increase the speed and efficiency of the AF function in a camera by shortening the data transfer time, without deteriorating the image quality.
Additionally, it must be noted that this is not an invention yet. It can take some time to produce the first prototype and then a fully-operational product.
Although the patent application does not refer to any specific Canon camera line, I would say this patent is related to Canon’s DSLR line. We know that Canon already has some pretty decent autofocus capabilities on the C200, so maybe it is the DSLR line that still lacks those capabilities in video mode and could benefit from this stacked sensor apparatus.
What do you think Canon could have in store for us? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!