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Could a Sony 128-Megapixel Sensor with Global Shutter and Color and Monochrome Variants Give Rise to a Sony Medium Format Camera?

re: The Camera Market is Down to Two 35mm Format Contestants: Sony A1 and Canon TBD
re: Sony A7R IV: Which High-Speed and High-Capacity SDXC Cards Are Best?

This new Sony sensor is planned for release in April 2021.

It is 46.2 mm x 32.9 mm (oddball aspect ratio 1.4:1) with 13,400 x 9,528 pixels at 3.45 microns in size (128 megapixels). That’s 4.6% larger in area than the 43.8 X 32.8mm sensor in Fujifilm GFX100S and Hasselblad X1D II 50-C.

While the industrial version in its color and monochrome variants might not be directly applicable to professional cameras, it might be and/or some modified version might be.

But while the global shutter makes it highly attractive for machine vision purposes, the maximum frame rate in 14-bit is only 12.9 fps (21.8 fps in 10-bit mode). Therefore, it would really only be useful for still photography, and it would be herky-jerky for Live View operation.

Still, it shows us that very high resolution sensors of medium format size are in progress, and other goodies might be in the pipeline.

It also shows that Sony is serious about monochrome at least of industrial use—but why not also consumer cameras?

Sony to Release Large Format CMOS Image Sensor with Global Shutter Function and Industry’s Highest Effective Pixel Count of 127.68 Megapixels

IMX661 3.6 type (56.73 mm diagonal) 127.68-effective-megapixel CMOS image sensor

Delivering Increased Pixel Count, High-Speed Imaging Performance, and Contributing to Solutions in the Field of Advanced, Diversified Industrial Equipment

Tokyo, Japan — Sony Corporation announced today the upcoming release of a large format 56.73mm diagonal CMOS image sensor "IMX661" for industrial equipment with a global shutter function and the industry's highest*1 effective pixel count of 127.68 megapixels.*2

This product features an increased pixel count that yields an optical size nearly 10 times larger than the common 1.1-type image sensor corresponded to the C mount*3 for industrial equipment. It also features Sony's original global shutter pixel technology "Pregius™", which enables capture of motion distortion-free images. Furthermore, the Sony's original device configuration and interface technology employed enable high-speed image readout at a data rate nearly four times faster*4 than conventional products.

Sony expects that the new sensor, when used in industrial equipment cameras for a wide variety of applications, will help to solve a variety of complex challenges, thereby contributing to the development of industry.

  • *1 Among CMOS image sensors equipped with a global shutter. According to Sony research (as of announcement on March 9, 2021).
  • *2 Based on image sensor effective pixel specification method.
  • *3 The joining mechanism between lens and the camera body.
  • *4 Compared to Sony's "IMX253" 1.1 type, 12.37 effective megapixels CMOS image sensor equipped with a global shutter function.

Main Features

The industry’s highest effective pixel count of 127.68 megapixels

This product features a large optical size of 3.6-type (56.73mm diagonal), nearly 10 times larger than the common 1.1-type image sensor corresponded to the C mount lens for industrial equipment with a pixel size of 3.45 μm, resulting in a massive pixel count of 127.68 megapixels, which is the industry's highest for a CMOS image sensor equipped with a global shutter. It enables a wide viewing angle and high-resolution imaging by increased pixel count, and the motion distortion-free imaging demanded on cameras for industrial equipment, thereby improving imaging efficiency and recognition precision.

High-speed image readout

Generally, increased pixel count means increased signal processing volume, which causes issues such as a drop in frame rate and longer readout times. In order to realize high-speed readout, it is necessary to improve the processing functionality of the AD converter which converts the analog signal output from the pixel to digital signals, and at the same time, increase the speed of the output interface. This product features Sony's original device configuration employing a chip-on-wafer process where chips with certain functions are stacked on top of the pixel wafer, allowing for optimal positioning of the AD converter. This design improves AD converter processing functionality without increasing the size. The new sensor also employs the Scalable Low Voltage Signaling with Embedded Clock (SLVS-EC™)*7 high-speed interface standard developed by Sony, in order to make output interface faster. These two original technologies enable 127.68 megapixels,10bits,21.8fps, which is a high-speed output data rate nearly four times faster than conventional models*4.The dramatic increase in multi-pixel and readout speed greatly contribute to the improvement of productivity in industrial applications.

*7 A data transfer method that uses an embedded clock signal. This eliminates the need for skew adjustment between lanes and reduces the amount of wiring needed, making board design simpler and suitable for higher speeds.

Equipped with signal processing capabilities needed for a variety of industrial applications

The new product is equipped with a range of signal processing capabilities required for industrial equipment CMOS image sensors to meet diverse applications and needs. These include such as; trigger synchronization for controlling imaging timing during high-speed inspections; Region of Interest (ROI), which reduces post signal processing load by only reading out the required regions; gradation compression, which reduces data volume while outputting required information; multi-exposure, which is capable of detecting the trajectory of moving objects; short exposure time for blur-free imaging of objects moving at high speeds; pixel binning readout, which can enhance sensitivity in low luminance situations.

Model name IMX661 (color, black and white)
Unit cell size 3.45 μm x 3.45 μm (H x V)
Effective pixels 13,400 x 9,528 (H x V), 127.68 megapixels
Image size Diagonal 56.73 mm (3.6-type)
Active area 46.2 mm x 32.9 mm (H x V)
Package Ceramic LGA
Micro lens EPD -100mm (CRA 15.8 degrees)
Power supply Analog: 3.3V
Digital: 1.2V
Interface: 1.8V
Output 4.7Gbps/lane SLVS-EC 16/8/4 lane
891Mbps/lane SLVS 16 lane
Frame rate 14 bit: 12.9 fps
12 bit: 19.6 fps
10 bit: 21.8 fps
Main functions Global shutter, trigger synchronization, ROI, gradation compression, multi-exposure, short exposure, pixel binning readout

Roy P writes:

It’s unlikely that Sony gets into medium format directly.  They’re already in MF, through Phase One, Fujifilm and Hasselblad.  This segment declined with the progress in 35mm, but I think it’s on an uptick again, but it’s not a huge segment.  As we can see, the #3, Hasselblad, is struggling, and the #4, Pentax, barely has a pulse.  But both Phase One and Fujifilm are doing well.

For Sony to jump into this, they would end up competing with their customers, and they’d have to commit to designing an entire new line of lenses.  Sony does have its own phone line in spite of being the biggest supplier of sensors to Apple, but that is not a head to head competition.  Sony’s phone is really a camera first, and an accessory to Sony’s 35mm cameras, and lastly a phone.  But going into medium format would create another battlefront, and will be an overextension even for a big company.

Canon has had the opportunity and the resources to get into MF for decades, but has smartly decided to keep away.  It’s strategically the better approach for Sony to still participate in the MF market by selling sensors at juicy margins, keeping 3-4 other companies invest their money to build an ecosystem over Sony’s sensor technology, and be dependent on Sony.

I think Olympus also gets its sensor from Sony.  Sony could have jumped into MFT and taken over, but again, that would have been yet another battle, and Sony smartly kept away from it, being satisfied selling sensors.

That’s my take on Sony and MF…

DIGLLOYD: makes sense to me, even if it’s disappointing to think that way.

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