Canon's monstrous CMOS sensor goes meteor watching
Canon first revealed its ultrahigh-sensitivity CMOS image sensor back in 2010, where its gargantuan proportions were given as 202 x 205 mm (7.95 x 8.07 in) – almost 40 times the size of a 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor. Now the veteran camera maker has revealed that the sensor has been used to record video of meteors at a level "so dark that image capture had not been possible until now."
Given that huge real estate, it's hardly a surprise that the sensor is capable of capturing much more light than the Rebel T3i DSLR it's pictured with above. Canon reckons that the roughly 20 cm square sensor can manage to shoot video at 60 frames per second with just 0.3 lux of illumination, which is about the same as given off by a full moon.
The company says that it was produced in "the cleanest of cleanroom environments" to keep imperfections and dust to an absolute minimum, and that it made use of a parallel processing circuit and "exercised ingenuity with the transfer method itself" to overcome distortion and transmission delay problems.
Naturally, such a sensor is unlikely to find its way into any commercially available cameras, but it has the potential to serve academics well for the study of the heavens or the after-dark goings on in the animal world.
By way of example, Canon installed the giant CMOS sensor in the one-meter Schmidt camera at the Kiso Observatory, located at Mount Ontake in Japan and operated by the University of Tokyo. Doing so enabled the first video recording of meteors "with an equivalent apparent magnitude of 10, a level so dark that image capture had not been possible until now."
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