As many of you know, most camera sensors are flat little CMOS sensors that capture light information from your lens and convert it into digital data (electrons) for the camera’s computer system to translate into an image. And for the longest time, most sensors have essentially been flat and square because that’s just the easiest way to fabricate them and to calibrate the entire camera system. As you can see in the image below of Sony’s latest camera, the A7s, it is capable of astonishing things including ISO of 409,000 and 4K video, yet it still only has a flat CMOS sensor (which Sony manufactures).
Now, last week at a VLSI conference in Hawaii Sony showed off their new curved CMOS sensors, of which they currently only have 100. Sony said that they achieve this feat by making the CMOS sensors and then ‘bending’ them into the curved shape using their special equipment. The thing about having a curved CMOS sensor is that the idea is that the curved sensor will actually be more sensitive in the corners as well as in the center, which should improve how our camera sensors perform in the future. This also should reproduce images that may end up looking a lot more like what we see with our eyes than ever before. This is because our eyes are curved inside and out and our retina is curved as well, which means a curved camera sensor should more accurately capture how we see things and may help take photography and videography to the next level of realism.
Sony already has 43 mm and 11 mm prototypes of these curved CMOS sensors for cameras because those are the two most popular sizes. The 43 mm prototype is a clear shot for Sony to look at the full-frame DSLR market while the 11 mm prototype curved CMOS sensor is going to be targeted more towards smartphone users or high-end smartphones looking to set themselves apart from the rest of the smartphone pack.
Some people my not know this, but Sony supplies the bulk of camera sensors for both DSLRs and smartphones, with their camera sensor division being one of their most successful and profitable divisions. In fact, they do almost all of Nikon’s camera sensors as well as many camera sensors for most smartphone vendors that can usually only be discovered through teardowns. Either way, these developments will hopefuly ultimately result in better photography for both professionals and consumers in a variety of devices.