Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Canon Developing First Ultra-High-Sensitivity ILC Equipped with SPAD Sensor

Canon U.S.A., Inc. is developing the MS-500, the world’s first ultra-high-sensitivity interchangeable-lens camera (ILC) equipped with a 1.0 inch Single Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD) sensor2 featuring the world’s highest pixel count of 3.2 megapixels. The camera leverages special characteristics of SPAD sensors to achieve superb low-light performance while also utilising broadcast lenses (sold separately) that feature high performance at telephoto-range focal lengths. Thanks to such advantages, the MS-500 camera is expected to be suitable for such applications as high-precision monitoring.

There is a growing need for high-precision monitoring systems in such environments as national borders, seaports, airports, train stations, power plants, and other key infrastructure facilities, in order to quickly identify targets even under adverse conditions including darkness in which human eyes cannot see, and from long distances.

The currently in-development MS-500 camera is equipped with a 1.0 inch SPAD sensor that helps reduce noise, making it possible to produce clear, full-colour HD imaging even in extreme low-light environments. When paired with Canon’s extensive range of broadcast lenses, which excel at super-telephoto image capture, the camera is capable of accurately capturing subjects with precision in extreme low-light environments, even from great distances. For example, the camera may be used for nighttime monitoring of seaports, thanks to its ability to spot vessels that are several miles away, thus enabling identification and high-precision monitoring of vessels in or around the seaport.

With CMOS sensors, which are commonly used in conventional modern digital cameras, each pixel measures the amount of light that reaches the pixel within a given time. However, the readout of the accumulated electronic charge contains electronic noise, which may diminish image quality, due to the process by which accumulated light is measured. This could lead to degradation of the resulting image, particularly when used in low-light environments. SPAD sensors employ a technology known as ‘photon counting’ in which light particles (photons) that enter each individual pixel are counted. When even a single photon enters a pixel it is instantly amplified approximately 1 million times and output as an electrical signal. Every single one of these photons can be digitally counted, thus making possible zero-noise during signal readout – a key advantage of SPAD sensors. Because of this technological advantage, the MS-500 camera will be able to operate even under nighttime environments with no ambient starlight5, and will  also be capable of accurately detecting subjects with minimal illumination and capture clear colour images.

The MS-500 camera employs the bayonet lens mount (based on BTA S-1005B standards) which is widely used in the broadcast lens industry. This enables the camera to be used with Canon’s extensive range of broadcast lenses, which feature superb optical performance. As a result, the camera will be able to recognise and capture subjects that are several miles away.

Going forward, Canon will continue to pursue research and development and work to create products that could surpass the ability of the human eye and contribute to the safety and security of society. Canon has a long history of comprehensive imaging – optical, sensor, image processing and image analysis – technologies.

Canon plans to begin selling the MS-500 in 2023.

The Canon MS-500 camera is being displayed as a reference exhibit at the Canon booth during the 2023 NAB Show for broadcast and filmmaking equipment.


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