Photography

Nikon announces 4K, 1,000-fps video sensor with adaptive exposure

Nikon announces 4K, 1,000-fps ...
Nikon's new 4K, 1,000-fps video sensor
Nikon's new 4K, 1,000-fps video sensor
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Nikon's new 4K, 1,000-fps video sensor
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Nikon's new 4K, 1,000-fps video sensor
Examples of a scene that requires enormous dynamic range, with one half overlit and the other underlit
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Examples of a scene that requires enormous dynamic range, with one half overlit and the other underlit
The new sensor actively adjusts exposure throughout the image, letting more light into underexposed sections and less into the overexposed bits
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The new sensor actively adjusts exposure throughout the image, letting more light into underexposed sections and less into the overexposed bits
Frames from a 1,000-fps capture of a cigarette lighter sparking
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Frames from a 1,000-fps capture of a cigarette lighter sparking
Dual-layer architecture takes exposure readings from the top layer and uses them to control exposure for individual areas on the main image sensor
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Dual-layer architecture takes exposure readings from the top layer and uses them to control exposure for individual areas on the main image sensor
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Nikon cameras have had excellent sensors in them for many years, principally because Sony's been making them. But this new sensor could be a game-changer, with super-slow motion, huge dynamic range, and exposure live-adjusted throughout the image.

Announced at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, the new CMOS sensor has a resolution of "approximately 17.84 million pixels" and a square shape around 1 inch diagonally. Its high-speed readout allows you to shoot 4K video at up to 1,000 frames per second – putting it in contention with monsters like the Phantom Flex 4K costing upwards of a hundred grand. Even at 1,000 fps, it still offers a wide dynamic range of 110 dB, but if you slow down to 60 fps that figure jumps up to 134 dB.

Dual-layer architecture takes exposure readings from the top layer and uses them to control exposure for individual areas on the main image sensor
Dual-layer architecture takes exposure readings from the top layer and uses them to control exposure for individual areas on the main image sensor

And it's got a pretty neat process for dealing with overexposed and underexposed areas in the image; the new sensor runs two image sensors on top of one another. The top sensor's pixels are grouped into blocks of 16x16, effectively making it a 256 x 256 superpixel array, and as light passes through it on the way to the bottom sensor, each superpixel on the top layer takes its own exposure measurement and uses it to control the exposure time for the group of 256 smaller pixels below it.

In this way, you end up with a camera that lets more light into areas of the image that need it, and less light into the bits that are too bright. A terrific idea and we're fascinated to learn how well it does the job, what the output looks like, whether those superpixel exposure chunks are visible in the image, how far this thing can be pushed, and what kind of things you'll be able to do with the image afterwards.

The new sensor actively adjusts exposure throughout the image, letting more light into underexposed sections and less into the overexposed bits
The new sensor actively adjusts exposure throughout the image, letting more light into underexposed sections and less into the overexposed bits

There's no word yet on a camera featuring this new sensor, or when we can expect to hear more, but it certainly looks like a pretty special piece of kit, and we're looking forward to hearing more.

Source: Nikon (in Japanese)

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7 comments
MashiachTheReal1
Amazing!! This is a very promising development!! (I've got a 2nd hand DSLR Nikon, but I haven't used it yet because it's not full-frame and its CMOS is so small, that it's only good for pics for eBay or Amazon... I'm waiting to have the money for a full-frame one)
Brian M
"exposure live-adjusted throughout the image"
Probably not as good as having a better true dynamic range but can see the advantage of it preventing overexposure or under exposure (noise) , but wonder if at the same time it could detract from the (or apparent) dynamic range of the recorded image?
Catweazle
It would be interesting to know how it transfers 4K pixels of data to storage 1,000 times per second!
guzmanchinky
I'll take a GoPro sized camera with this capability, please...
fasteddie2020
I think a good HDR capability would be better, but I can see some situation where this could prevent a complete wipeout.
If cheap enough, it would be a perfect security camera or lab camera for dynamic events (explosions).
Do we know who Nikon is targeting with this imager?
Is this also a Sony imager?
Really amazing capabilities.
CraigAllenCorson
They need to get a few of these up to ISS ASAP. At last, the deniers will have their background stars!
paul314
decibels is a really odd measure for a camera's dynamic range. If that's being used literally, that would be about 30 stops, which would correspond to a factor of a billion in intensity.