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New Sony sensor achieves industry smallest pixel size

Sony has developed a new 1/2.3 size CCD image sensor (diagonal 7.763 mm) for consumer digital still cameras that offers a 14.2 M effective pixel resolution. Sony adopted a new optical condensing structure that adds an upwardly convex lens below the existing micro lens as a technique to improve optical condensing and create a 1.43 µm unit pixel CCD image sensor, the industry's smallest unit pixel. At the same time, the new sensor achieves HD (720p) video imaging and continuous still imaging of 3.55M pixels at 5.389 fps...


All about the new Sony ICX681SQW CCD image sensor (pdf)
The Industry's Smallest Pixel Size Achieved

Through even finer fabrication technologies, Sony reduced the unit pixel size in the ICX681SQW to 1.43 µm from the 1.55 µm unit pixels in the current Sony ICX677 Series devices (diagonal 7.791 mm (Type 1/2.3) 12.19M effective pixels) and achieved an even higher pixel count in a Type 1/2.3 CCD image sensor.

To assure imaging performance in the industry's smallest pixel size, Sony adopted a new optical condensing structure that adds an upwardly convex lens below the existing microlens as a technology to improve optical condensing. Furthermore, by introducing thin-film technologies for the Poly-Si transfer electrodes and micro lenses, Sony reduced the smear component contamination from the vertical register and furthermore assured high optical condensing performance. (See figure)

As a result, despite a 15% reduction in the area per pixel from current products, this device achieves the superb imaging characteristics of a 165 mV (typ.) sensitivity (G signal), a 465 mV (min.) saturation signal, and a -86.0 dB (typ.) smear. (See table 2 in pdf.)

Power Consumption Reduced by 12%

In the ICX681SQW, along with the finer pixels, the area of the vertical register was also reduced by about 16% from current products. Sony also optimized the vertical register structure and the circuits used on the chip so that it was possible to assure that the amount of charge handled and the charge transfer characteristics, which are the representative characteristics of the vertical register, were maintained.

Furthermore, we also achieved a reduction in the VL supply voltage (from -7.5 to -6.5 V), which is in a tradeoff relationship with those characteristics, by structural optimizations. As a result, the power consumption was reduced by about 12% to 378 mW from the 431 mW of the current products. (When a CXD5141GG is used and the chip is operated in mode 3.)

Continuous 1/4 Resolution Still Imaging

In addition to the higher resolution provided increased pixel count, the ICX681SQW also adds a 1/4 resolution still imaging mode that achieves higher ISO sensitivity and an improved continuous imaging function. In this mode, improved high-sensitivity characteristics can be acquired by adding two pixels in the vertical direction and two pixels in the horizontal direction. In addition, by compressing the number of pixels to 1/4 the actual count, images can be output at high speed. This allows the ICX681SQW to achieve high frame rates and produce high-sensitivity 3.55M-pixel still images at the high speed of 5.389 frame/s.

Sony ICX681SQW specifications

■ Diagonal 7.763 mm (Type 1/2.3) 14.2M effective pixels
■ Pixels size: 1.43 μm unit pixel
■ Eight-field readout
■ Horizontal divided into fourths output
■ Horizontal 2-phase drive

Additional information: All about the new Sony ICX681SQW CCD image sensor (pdf)
May 25, 2010
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