Basically, every digital image sensor out there relies on silicon photodiodes to capture light. Jointly developed by researchers at Panasonic and Fujifilm, a new image sensor technology uses an organic layer instead -- and early tests results of the technology blow the status quo away.
The new organic CMOS image sensor technology is currently being presented by researchers at the 2013 Symposium on VLSI Technology in Kyoto. In short, the technology uses an organic layer rather than a photodiode to convert incoming light into electricity. That's a simplification, but here's a look at how the proposed sensor changes an imager's architecture:
As the image illustrates, the new design's photo-sensitive layer is one-seventh the width of the conventional structure while leaving a greater area exposed to actual light.
In terms of image quality, that translates to higher dynamic range and improved light sensitivity. The image below, which is pulled from the study, illustrates the benefits of better dynamic range.
Sensors with higher dynamic range can record a greater difference between the darkest and lightest values in scene. According to calculations by SLR Lounge, the new sensor capable has 29.2 stops of dynamic range compared to 15.3 on the Nikon D800E, which has the best range of anything commercially available. (Dynamic range is calculated on a logarithmic scale, but without getting into it, let's just say: that's a freaking huge improvement.)
That's pretty cool! But also difficult and there's no commercial method for manufacturing the new sensors just yet. Now, it's up to the companies to figure out how to actually implement the technology, which they claim could be useful on everything from security cameras, to point-and-shoots to your smartphone's camera. [Fujifilm via SLR Lounge via PetaPixel]