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Quantum Film Might Replace CMOS Sensors

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the never-look-inside-the-camera dept.

Input Devices 192

An anonymous reader writes "Quantum film could replace conventional CMOS image sensors in digital cameras and are four times more sensitive than photographic film. The film, which uses embedded quantum dots instead of silver grains like photographic film, can image scenes at higher pixel resolutions. While the technology has potential for use in mobile phones, conventional digital cameras would also gain much higher resolution sensors by using quantum film material." The original (note: obnoxious interstitial ad) article at EE Times adds slightly more detail.

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192 comments

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lol (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31577218)

first post!

NIce (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31577226)

This may mean higher quality porn. I'm "excited", if you know what I mean.

Re: NIce (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31577848)

Since you have a micropenis, no we don't know what you mean.

Re: NIce (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578998)

Surly that will no longer be a problem with the greatly increased resolution!

Sensitivity is not Resolution (5, Insightful)

lastomega7 (1060398) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577242)

There seems to be a sensationalist mix-up with the two terms... is this technology going to bring about more sensitive pixels (i.e. higher ISO capabilities) or just more pixels on the sensor? or both?

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577256)

Also, resolution doesn't equal picture quality. I'd rather have a good lens system than a 20 Megapixel sensor.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (5, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578460)

personally I would rather have a good lens system and a 20 megapixel sensor.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (1)

dudpixel (1429789) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578918)

mod parent up.

As the owner of a Nikon D40X (10MP) and having a brother-in-law who bought the D40 (6MP) I can definitely say the extra MP counts as far as resolution/detail goes. Granted, it is also a newer sensor, but I think it still supports the argument, based on the fact that the 10MP sensor gives more detail than the 6MP sensor. Not much was changed between the 2 camera models - they even supplied the same default lens.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (2, Informative)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577296)

Near as I can tell we've exceeded the useful range of pixel density increases for all but the most high-powered applications, so there's no reason to look for better resolution.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577314)

You don't see any market for smaller cameras?

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (2, Informative)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577362)

You don't see any market for smaller cameras?

It's not about smaller cameras - when your pixels are smaller than individual photos (as is the case now), making them smaller only increases the "noise" part of the s/n ratio.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31577726)

The marketing people have unfortunately fooled you. Diffraction unfortunately makes smaller aperture AND increase resolution (megapixels) incompatible at the same time. Also, smaller aperture obviously makes S/N abysmal. For reference: see the shit that comes out of a camera phone with a 1-2mm aperture.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (5, Informative)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577836)

There is a physics problem when your image sensor is too small - photons have size and mass, and there is a point at which you cannot collect enough light to take a good picture.

That's why expensive cameras have larger image sensors - they aren't packing more pixels per square inch, they are actually packing fewer pixels per square inch. A high end 10 mega-pixel will have an image sensor that is 10x bigger than a pocket-sized 10 mega-pixel camera, and it will take phenomenally better pictures.

This is the source of the GP's confusion about what the summary means - is "quantum film" more sensitive to light? Or are they simply able to pack more sensors in a smaller area? If they are actually able to collect accurate color information from fewer photons (i.e. more sensitive to light), then you can shrink the size of high end image sensors and still maintain quality. If it simply allows them to pack more pixels onto a sensor without being able to collect accurate color data with fewer photons, then quantum film is absolutely worthless. It offers no benefit to the quality of images in that case, even if they can crank a camera up to 30 megapixels it will still look like shit.

Quantum film (5, Funny)

Jay L (74152) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578256)

Is "quantum film" more sensitive to light? Or are they simply able to pack more sensors in a smaller area?

That's the trouble with it - you can know its sensitivity or its resolution, but not both, and the act of measuring one changes the other.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578268)

Actually, photons have neither size nor mass

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photon

Good point about sensor size. A post below touches on diffraction problems, and there are other problems with small sensors such as S/N, being more demanding on lenses' resolution, etc.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (1)

shadowofwind (1209890) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578344)

photons have size and mass

Photons do not have mass, though this is somewhat a matter of semantics.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578900)

Photons have no rest mass. They do carry energy, and so when they impact something (namely the channels in the CMOS sensor, or the quantum wells in this new fangled contraption) they impart energy equivalent to a moving, massive particle.

In CMOS, this energy has to be exactly enough (so, tuned to a specific color) to raise a channel electron to a higher orbital (which is effectively what the gate voltage does in a regular MOSFET). In the quantum dots, the photon excites an electron with exactly the right energy so that it resonates in the crystal. Pulling the electron up causes a slight voltage drop in the metal behind it, and thus a small current. I think.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578712)

Photons don't have mass. They do however have momentum. (p=h/lambda, note: deriving mass from this momentum using p=mv is a common physics mistake and makes no physical sense) They also don't strictly have size. If you're referring to fitting them through things and collecting them with objects, treating light as waves generally works, with photon just representing a quantization of the energy contained in the wave. If you were to try to characterize photon size, it would variable by the wavelength of the photon, though for imaging purposes this makes no sense as the aperture size doesn't merely determine whether light can get through or not but determines the angular resolution of the imaging system.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578920)

Not only that, high quality cameras will have multiple CCDs.

A video camera with one 1/4 '' Sharp CCD is not the same as a camera with three Sony 1/3'' CCDs. Even if they both deliver 5 megapixel images.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31579176)

Photons have no mass.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (4, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577996)

This is about the laws of physics. I'm sure somebody will correct me if I'm not explaining this very well, but...

There's a limit to how precisely a lens can focus light. Now, in theory, as the aperture gets smaller, the diffusion decreases, so you might think that the small lenses would be result in a more precise image than larger ones. However, with those smaller lenses come smaller image sensors, which means that even if the lens can focus light to a smaller point, the pixels are also smaller, thus canceling out much of this improvement.

The bigger problem is that the smaller the lens, the greater the impact of even tiny lens aberrations on the resolving power of the lens. A speck of dust on a 1.5mm lens makes a huge difference, whereas it can be largely ignored on a lens with a 72mm diameter.

Also, as resolution increases, light gathering decreases. That's pretty fundamental to the laws of physics. Think about the bucket analogy. You have four square buckets measuring 1 foot by 1 foot. You place them side by side during a thunderstorm. You get another bucket that is two feet on each side. You place it beside the others. The same amount of rain (approximately) falls onto the four small buckets as the single large bucket, thus the large bucket has four times the amount of water in it that any one of the smaller buckets does.

The same principle applies to pixels. All else being equal, resolution and light gathering are inversely proportional. Small cameras are already hampered pretty badly by light gathering because of their small lenses. Increasing the resolution just makes this worse. I can tell the difference in noise between my old 6MP DSLR and my 10MP DSLR. I can't imagine what 20MP in a camera phone would look like. :-D

I think the real question should not be whether we can make smaller cameras, but rather whether we can make existing small cameras better by improving the light gathering. This technology might do that---whether it will work better than some of the newer CMOS sensor designs that already move the light-gathering material to the front remains to be seen---but at some point, making things smaller just means that they're easier to lose. I think we're at that point, if not past it....

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (0)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578258)

This would take far too much effort to correct point by point.

I'm sorry dgatwood but it's almost not even wrong.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (2, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578664)

Err... diffraction, not diffusion.

Also, my second paragraph was backwards in that the diffraction increases as the aperture gets smaller. The smaller sensor thus compounds the problem further.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31579004)

The term you are groping for is "diffraction" not "diffusion".

The diffraction limit is reached when the Airey (sp?) disc size reaches the size of a pixel, or exceeds it.

You might want to Google "circle of confusion" to find a lot more on this subject.

Basically, there are real limits to photography and photographic imaging, and modern sensors are at or near those limits already.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577754)

Tell that to anyone using a transmission electron microscope. I have friends who dislike the digital microscopy due to the detail being much lower than film. While it is quicker and less susceptible to movement problems, you lose most of the detail due to the electrons being far smaller than the CMOS sensor's pixels.

I really think this jaded "we don't need any more technology" bullshit is just a modern day luddite attitude. It seems to be a fear of being superseded with the technology you currently use. Maybe it's that or the fear that the camera(s) you spent thousands of dollars on are made redundant by this tech. Heaven forbid that an amateur can start taking photos better than pros.

I remember people said similar stuff when digital photography came in, now it's the standard.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577816)

I think a $50,000+ electron microscope would qualify as "the most high-powered applications," particularly in the context of the article, which is talking about cell phone cameras.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (2, Informative)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577776)

Having more pixels is a good thing for anyone who takes photographs. It provides better capability to can crop an image to a smaller size, and still have enough resolution to print or display something.

A lot of people just vomit their photos onto Facebook, but many still take the time to do a simple crop/levels/contrast edit. The only people who don't need more megapixels are those that never edit their pictures. And they probably don't care about quality anyway.

Most cameras can take pictures in all but the lowest light levels. I have taken hand-held pictures around a campfire with the proper lens. In fact, this just moves the problem from dark pictures to blown out pictures. Increasing sensitivity without being able to either stop down the lens or to decrease the exposure time is worthless .. daytime pictures come out too bright but you don't need a flash for indoor shots for cheap cell phone cameras.

One issue not mentioned is electronic noise. The closer together you bring elements on a CCD, and the longer the exposure, the more noise that is generated. Poor lens, very small CCDs, and poor camera software are the major causes of poor quality in small cameras. My wife and I have a 14MP and an older 7MP dSLR camera. The 14MP not only provides for the ability to crop, but the noise levels are significantly lower probably due to improved software and electronics. Given the choice, I will grab the 14MP. The images take up more disk space, but it is worth it when it comes time to edit.

It is not an improvement to make a photo-detector smaller and increase the resolution if it can't work in bright sunlight or has a lot of noise at low light levels.

So for now .. I'll mark the article interesting until someone actually produces a working camera that can be tested against current cameras in the same price range.....

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (4, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577842)

No, it doesn't. The lens system of the camera only has a certain resolving ability. Once you pass that point, you can make the sensor as high resolution as you want and you're just wasting your time because the lens isn't passing information at that level of detail anyway. Basically, you're measuring blur more and more finely.

Take a picture from anything less than a high end SLR or medium format camera and zoom in until you're actually looking at one image pixel to one screen pixel. Now tell me how good the image looks. Pretty crappy, hey? That's because the lens isn't capable of producing a decent image at even the resolution of the current sensor, never mind a better one.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (5, Insightful)

farnsworth (558449) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578292)

What you say is certainly true. But let's say that you have an entry-level slr with a junky $50 lens, and then you suddenly have $500 to spend on your setup. Do you buy a fancier camera or a fancier lens?

Of course, if money is no object, more of everything will certainly improve things. But practically speaking, the vast majority of folks in the real world would be better off paying more attention to their glass rather than to their silicon.

A nice lens on a relatively limited camera will take amazing photos. A crappy lens on the best camera will not.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31579130)

A nice lens on a relatively limited camera will take amazing photos. A crappy lens on the best camera will not.

A nice lens on a camera with a poor sensor, will take poor photo's.

Two things are important in photography, the lens being one for sure. The other is the collection medium. Be it film, paper, or a digital sensor.

I never understood, during the days before digital, why people would spend thousands on a camera body and a couple more thousand on lenses, and then buy the cheapest film available.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578806)

my cannon G11 10mp is better thant the 14MP G10

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (2, Informative)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577334)

Couldn't one lead to the other? Would averaging 4 noisy pixels give you a better light sensitivity than just having the one?

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (1)

lastomega7 (1060398) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577420)

A pixel (currently) comprises a large surface with which to capture light. The way higher end cameras are going, there seems to be a fork between higher resolution (e.g. Nikon d3x or Canon 1ds-mkiii) and higher sensitivity (Nikon d3s or Canon 1d-mkiv). So yes, you can trade off pixel density for sensitivity, but in the end the per-area sensitivity would be the same.

The discrepancy here is did they figure out a way to make the sensitivity increase or just up the pixel density? It looks like (if you RTFA) they did make it a lot more sensitive, but who knows how much area the individual pixels will have to take up. The articles present the information as if both the resolution and sensitivity quantum leaps. Pun intended.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577750)

> ...who knows how much area the individual pixels will have to take up.

Assuming the stuff is more or less as the articles say it is that will be up to the designer of the imaging chip. You build your transistor array and then coat it with this stuff.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (3, Informative)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577520)

Couldn't one lead to the other? Would averaging 4 noisy pixels give you a better light sensitivity than just having the one?

To a certain extent, yes. But, there is a certain minimum overhead for every pixel. The more pixels you cram onto a sensor, the more space on the sensor is dedicated to overhead instead of picking up light. Consequently, there are real limits to how much resolution you would want to have on a sensor.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577430)

According to the articles, both.

In particular: (2, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577602)

According to the articles, both.

In particular:

  - It replaces the in-chip photodetector with an on-top-of-chip detector, allowing all the real estate on the chip be used for the REST of the system rather than reserving most of it for light sensors. That means you can use bigger features (and cheaper processes) - and/or get more pixels by shrinking the features back down a bit.

  - It gives about a 4x sensitivity improvement. (2x because the quantum dots are more sensitive, another 2x because they get to be on top (so the light isn't attenuated by chip structures) and cover the whole pixel rather than part of it.) You can use that to make 4x more sensitive pixels of the same size, 4 times more pixels of the same sensitivity, or some other tradeoff.

Re:In particular: (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577926)

Nice, sounds pretty sweet.

The big problem with digital cameras is light sensitivity, we can pack 15 mega-pixels into a camera-phone but the loss in light sensitivity means you'd have been better off sticking with 1 mega-pixel, the picture quality will be abysmal. That's why high end cameras use image sensors that are many times larger for the same amount of pixels than cheap consumer models.

Finally! (1)

uberjack (1311219) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577478)

I've been waiting for technology that would make my computer's bootup sequence more sensitive [wikipedia.org] to my needs.

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (2, Informative)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577530)

The two are closely related, as the smaller the pixel's physical dimensions, the fewer photons it can capture for a given exposure time resulting in a lower S/N ratio. For any given sensor size and technology you need to trade off resolution against ISO performance, so a technology providing an four fold increase in sensitivity would, for instance, let you:
  1. Quadruple resolution
  2. Quadruple ISO performance (reduction in noise)
  3. Double resolution and double ISO performance

Re:Sensitivity is not Resolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578954)

If you read the EE Times article they seem to be referencing actual sensitivity.

This collects photons on the surface instead of through several microns of metal, making it 2x more sensitive than silicon. Additionally, quantum dots utilize the light more efficiently, adding an additional 2x sensitivity.

The result is that they say they can either make an existing size sensor 4x more sensitive (and that is actually using an inferior fab process to the big guys, read between the lines and they just need to upgrade fab) or they can make an equally sensitive sensor that is 4x as small.

The band gap is configurable digitally instead of being a fixed hardware feature.

Combined with fab at room temp and cheap process they claim they can actually produce these chips at dramatically lower costs than the existing big dog chips.

Course, if all that is true, or even half of it then a big dog will buy them tomorrow and we won't be seeing price drops, just big dog profit increases.

Finally a film replacement? (2, Interesting)

ZERO1ZERO (948669) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577266)

Will this lead to large format film cameras being made smaller but same quality?

Can the speed be adjusted like ISO 100-400 etc?

Re:Finally a film replacement? (1)

dmiller (581) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577730)

Larger sensors will always have a noise and sensitivity advantage to smaller sensors: larger surface area == more photon gathering ability. Also, I'm surprised they cite a four-stop improvement; I thought we were within that range of the quantum limit with current sensors already.

Quantum film (1)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577924)

Where do I get my Quantum film developed at ?
I thought photography was getting away from film . . .

Re:Quantum film (2, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31579096)

> Where do I get my Quantum film developed at ?

You put it in a box with a certain cat.

> I thought photography was getting away from film . . .

Well, it is and it isn't.

Re:Finally a film replacement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578418)

They were talking about 2 stop advantage, 4x. As current tech is about 60-80% (80% peak QE CCD-sensors are pretty cheap and widely used in astronomy) peak efficient, it seems like this new tech is up to 360% efficient. Most current cameras are getting 30-60% peak QE right now. From pocket cameras to DSLRs.

I call bullshit on the technology. Snake oil or they're being very creative with truth.

Re:Finally a film replacement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578854)

Also, I'm surprised they cite a four-stop improvement; I thought we were within that range of the quantum limit with current sensors already.

I don't know if the summary is accurate (I'm betting it's not), but "four times more sensitive than photographic film" isn't very high. That's two stops (remember, each stop is a factor of two), and it's comparing against film, rather than modern digital sensors, which are much more sensitive.

Re:Finally a film replacement? (1)

dudpixel (1429789) | more than 4 years ago | (#31579050)

I would REALLY like to see a point-and-shoot camera with a full size sensor from a DSLR. Give me the colour quality and exposure advantage of an SLR with the small(ish) form factor and convenience of a point-and-shoot.

Even if physical size is the issue - there are many non-photographers or hobby-photographers who would like a camera with good colour range coupled with point-and-shoot handling.

Instead the sensors on point-and-shoot cameras are getting smaller (albeit higher res) and DSLR camera bodies are still bulky and with no "intelligent auto" modes.

Night vision goggles (3, Insightful)

Meshach (578918) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577270)

FTFA:

For the future, the company also plans to target other specialized applications, such as pitch-black night vision goggles, cheaper solar cells and even spray-on displays.

Right now night vision goggles give a very grainy tinged image. Clarifying that could have millions of applications.

Re:Night vision goggles (1)

giorgist (1208992) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577476)

Pitch black night vision goggles ?
Wow ... is that like the photoshop filter that can take photos
taken with the lense cap on and convert them to full colour pictures ?

PS: Unless it is the goggles that are painted pitch black ... in that case
do that make them any blacker ?

Re:Night vision goggles (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577688)

Pitch black night vision goggles ?
Wow ... is that like the photoshop filter that can take photos
taken with the lense cap on and convert them to full colour pictures ?

I think "pitch black night vision goggles" is a term-of-art for night vision goggles that can produce usable images at light levels that would APPEAR pitch black to an unaided eye - though there are enough photons available that with sufficient amplification you don't need added illumination.

Re:Night vision goggles (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577744)

Wow ... is that like the photoshop filter that can take photos taken with the lense cap on and convert them to full colour pictures ?

Take a look at the pictures on the right:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_body#Radiation_emitted_by_a_human_body

. With enough sensitivity everything gives off infrared radiation, even things we would normally think is pitch black. Certainly at least enough for soldiers to operate at night without any artificial lighting at all already, and I'm guessing this could make them much better. The lens cover is different, no light is really no light. But even in the absence of sun, moon, stars, fire and artificial light it is never totally dark, just pitch dark.

Re:Night vision goggles (4, Interesting)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578040)

> With enough sensitivity everything gives off infrared radiation...

Actually it does so with no sensitivity at all, just by being hotter than absolute zero. However, to detect infrared your sensor must not only be sensitive to it, it must also be significantly colder than the object you are trying to image. otherwise it will just detect its own emissions.

Re:Night vision goggles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578084)

You went through the effort to put the <blockquote></blockquote>. Couldn't you have also included the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_body#Radiation_emitted_by_a_human_body">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_body#Radiation_emitted_by_a_human_body [wikipedia.org] </a> around it too? Pretty please?

Re:Night vision goggles (1)

SheeEttin (899897) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577528)

Clarifying? How about entirely rewriting to make sense? "Pitch-black night vision goggles"? If I wanted pitch black, I wouldn't be wearing the goggles. :\

Re:Night vision goggles (1)

colman77 (689696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578420)

The infrared spectrum is generally broken up into 3 subcategories - shortwave, midwave, and longwave. If you look around a dark room with no windows using a SWIR camera/lens, you won't see anything, because most natural objects (people, walls, basically anything except lights and the cosmos) don't give off SWIR radiation. MWIR and LWIR, however, would still work because pretty much everything gives off radiation at these wavelengths (MWIR is the region of the spectrum which allows one to measure temperature). I suppose you could call this "pitch-black night vision," although I've never heard that anywhere in the IR optics industry.

Don't care about more pixels (2, Interesting)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577328)

I want the pixels that I have on iso 50 and with F1 over a 700mm objective please. Make it smaller and less 'noticeable' then the L-glass I have to carry with me these days and I might buy myself a new body and some glass... Oh, this one is really important. Make it cheaper please. I know you know that we (photographers) will just give you all that we have for a decent setup, but it would be so cool if a real good objective, would cost less than a real good car.

Re:Don't care about more pixels (0, Flamebait)

CrashandDie (1114135) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578212)

I'm assuming you're french, and therefore used "objective" instead of lens. There are a lot of photogs that indeed will throw huge amounts of money at their hardware, but to be honest it's usually a useless investment. [kenrockwell.com]

Also, why you'd be talking about glass in a thread that is specifically aimed at sensors beats me. You don't need 700mm at f/1. Plus, any body that you use with some Canon L is necessarily going to be full-frame, meaning you don't need to be at ISO 50. With full-frame, you can without any problem go up to ISO 400 and not notice any noise -- especially with fast lenses.

To be honest, you sound more like the arrogant paps who don't understand a whole lot about photography than a decent photog. Maybe you too tape up your lens' controls, and just know that you need to be at x meters from your target to be in focus?

You say you want more portable glass. However, you're still asking for a 700mm lens. You do realise, that in order to have 700mm lens at f/1, you need an entrance pupil with 700/1 = 700mm worth of diameter? Yup, that's right, 70cm of diameter in order to achieve f/1. Not sure that's ever going to be portable, mate.

Didn't think anyone would call your bluff out here, eh?

Re:Don't care about more pixels (2, Informative)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578588)

Must have done something wrong. I replied to you but don't see my post coming up in my posted messages. Ah well, again. I'm Dutch. A lens is a piece of glass nicely cut and when you combine a couple of them you get an objective. At least, we make that difference here. Here in the Netherlands they really are different things. I wasn't aware that lenses has a more broad meaning in English. Well let me tell you why the glass. Because as I said. I don't need more pixels. I work in low-light environments and I actually do know a thing or two about this subject. And I even have to use the manual focus due to the autofocus being way to slow in bad light... Even on lenses with USM. (another more important improvement over more pixels). I say 700mm because I need 700mm. 200mm doesn't cut it on most stages. At least not the venues where I work. Now ofcourse I know these things are huge. Have you seen the 1200mm from Canon? I did once at an exhibition. 150.000 dollars, needs a trailer to move... I'm pretty sure there is a way to make those things, smaller, less sensitive to dust and cheaper. But really, don't call people bluffers when you have tell them that you need a full frame for L-glass. L-glass works perfectly on any body, even the cheap D400/D350's. It is the other way around. Try to fit a cheap lens on a fullframe when you start seeing black edges. Talking about bluff...

Re:Don't care about more pixels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31579072)

In English, we often call the single pieces of glass "lens elements" or "elements", and the assembly a "lens". The term "objective" isn't used for lenses in English.

I agree, CrashAndDie is completely wrong about L lenses requiring full-frame bodies; I have used a 24-70 L lens on a 350D, although it works much more nicely on a 1Ds. He also makes a dreadful mistake quoting Ken Rockwell :-)

I have seen the 1200mm. It's huge and heavy, and from memory, only f/5.6. The current 800mm is also f/5.6. I very much doubt you'll ever see a 700mm f/1. Perhaps the closest you can get is the SigMonster: the 200-500mm f/2.8 zoom that weighs about 35kg.

Re:Don't care about more pixels (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578602)

Forgot one in my haste. I can assure you that even on 4000eu bodies in bad lightconditions you will get noise even as low as 100 or 200 iso. Nothing that can't be fixed, but saying it isn't there and how you can easily go to 400 just isn't true. Don't even speak of iso1600. Where the grain on the oldschoolfilm was actually quite pleasant, the nois of sensors has little to do with adding 'feeling'.

finally... (2, Funny)

spectro (80839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577348)

A camera to take pics of Schrödinger's LOLcat

Re:finally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578892)

If you had not put Lol, i would have mod you

Won't this cause other problems? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577366)

With silicon, having to pass through narrow gaps should reduce the amount of light coming at the sensor from an unexpected angle as would occur due to lens flare, imperfections in the lens, etc. Without that, I'd expect the clarity of the image to be impacted. Am I missing something, or is this just trading one problem for another?

Also, how does this improve over already commercially available newer CMOS designs [displayblog.com] that push the photo-sensitive material to the front surface?

This technology is very spooky (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31577380)

You can't know if a film is Lawrence Of Arabia or a Rob Schneider picture until you actually watch it. Very spooky at any distance.

Re:This technology is very spooky (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 4 years ago | (#31579052)

It's actually both until you watch it.

CCD? (1)

Antonymous Flower (848759) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577424)

how is this different from a Charge-coupled device?

Re:CCD? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577496)

Fundamentally.

Re:CCD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31577560)

Could you be a little more specific?

Re:CCD? (-1, Troll)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577674)

No.

Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still suck (2, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577446)

I don't know too much about the physics of photography, but it seems to me that the real problem in the picture quality of tiny cameras is that the lenses are terrible. Improving the sensors just means that we'll get very accurate digital representations of blurry images, produced by tiny, dirty lenses with minuscule, fixed focal lengths. Even as things stand now, a older camera with good optics and a 5MP sensor produces much better images than a new camera with cheap optics and a 12MP sensor. It seems to me that sensor isn't the bottleneck anymore.

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (1)

DreadPiratePizz (803402) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577712)

Having fixed focal lengths is not bad! Prime lenses always give a quality advantage over zoom lenses, which is why in film production, prime lenses are used almost exclusively when image quality matters. Zoom lenses are only used on budget productions, or when there's actually a zoom in the take.

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577878)

He means fixed focus lenses.

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31577864)

The issue is that todays sensors reveal lens flaws that could not be noticed with earlier film cameras or older DSLR's. From what I understand it would be very difficult to mass produce cameras and lenses reliably with more resolution. This is why so many lenses are considered defective out of the box. LensRentals.com has a story about it. http://www.lensrentals.com/news/2010.03.06/this-lens-is-soft-and-other-facts [lensrentals.com]

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31577978)

If the sensor gets small enough, the lens can be something other that a refractive solid. Perhaps a drop of liquid in some sort of electrostatic suspension, where problems with the material are far less, and the lens can be focused by reshaping rather than moving.

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31577980)

The lenses are actually getting pretty good. For example, take a look at 300mm f/2.8L. The thing is crazy sharp. Heck, it's still pretty sharp with 2x teleconverter (300mm f/2.8 -> 600mm f/5.6) on it! Or 85mm f/1.2L, wow! Those things could probably outresolve 100MP+ 35mm DSLR sensor.

If anything, it's diffraction that bites you in the ass. Small aperture, like f/22, is just a blurry mess because of it, no matter how good the lense.

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578066)

Odd, I get crisper pictures with smaller apertures, all else being equal, and I'm pretty sure everybody else in the world does, too. You've got it completely backwards there.

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (3, Interesting)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578122)

As an engineer who does astronomical optics rather than a photographer, I can say with certainty with absolute certainty that all else being equal (i.e. diffraction limited case) a larger aperture is sharper. This is simply a matter of physics. The resolution is inversely proportional to diameter of the aperture due to the wave-like nature of light.

Now, if by 'crisper' you don't mean sharper, but rather a fuzzy measure of how you think it looks, its not surprising because smaller lenses of good quality are easier to make, and will thus approach the ideal diffraction limit. But this isn't a case of all other things being equal, and won't be as capable.

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578596)

Just to clarify, I wasn't referring to the lens diameter. I'm well aware that you get a more focused image with larger optics. I was referring to the diameter of the iris, and was confusing the depth of field with the focus.

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578910)

i think he must mean a deeper "Depth of Field" with a smaller aperature si "sharper". maybe he's not so good at focusing....

-s

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578182)

To paraphrase Nyeerrmm for laymen, stopping down the aperture, AKA higher f-stop gives you more Depth of Focus or Depth of Field. This means the plane of focus is deeper. Put most simply, the higher f-stop gives you MORE things in focus. So you think it's sharper. But it doesn't mean the things that are in focus are any sharper. More things are sharp, but any one spot is less sharp.

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578586)

Yeah, that's what I was thinking of. You're right. My brain was spacing out. Mea culpa.

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (1)

Frostalicious (657235) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578416)

Odd, I get crisper pictures with smaller apertures, all else being equal, and I'm pretty sure everybody else in the world does, too. You've got it completely backwards there.

Most lenses reach ideal sharpness around F8, so you are both right.

Smaller apertures and you run into diffraction limitations. Larger apertures and you run into narrow depth of field issues, as well as design issues. I believe it is difficult to accurately manufacture the lens to align at large apertures.

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (1)

shis-ka-bob (595298) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578608)

You are talking about the Canon 300mm f/2.8 lens, which is a legend. The optics date back to the early 70's. One of these took a picture of Henry Kissenger that was so sharp you could read his classified document. It only costs a bit over 4 grand. The MTF function for this lens it just crazy good, see http://reithian.com/mtf.htm [reithian.com]

The Canon 85mm f/1.2 is also a legend. And only about 2 grand.

If these lenses are only 'pretty good', you must be accustomed to the optics in research telescopes ;-)

Re:Doesn't mean much as long as the optics still s (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578612)

I don't know too much about the physics of photography, but it seems to me that the real problem in the picture quality of tiny cameras is that the lenses are terrible.

It seems to anybody who knows anything about the problem with digital cameras that you don't have a clue. And this statement proves it:

Even as things stand now, a older camera with good optics and a 5MP sensor produces much better images than a new camera with cheap optics and a 12MP sensor. It seems to me that sensor isn't the bottleneck anymore.

The reason the old 5mp camera produces a better picture than the 12mp camera is not because of the optics, it's because of the size of the individual pixels on the chip. The 5mp camera has sensors that are 2-3 times larger than the 12mp camera, which means they can collect that much more light, and therefore can have shorter exposure times and/or more accurate color.

That's why the $1000 + 12mp cameras use an image sensor that is many times the size of a $100 12mp camera - so they can pick up more light. The optics can't improve the picture the image sensor picks up, they can only avoid harming it. That's why they are so expensive, because meticulous care goes into ensuring the lenses don't ruin the picture the image sensor picks up while enabling you to zoom great distances.

What this quantum film is supposed to do is improve the light sensitivity without increasing the size of the image sensor, or allow you to shrink the image sensor without losing light sensitivity. Applying this to camera-phones would allow them to come somewhere in-between current consumer grade cameras and professional cameras, consumer grade cameras would be in the realm of the professional grade sans-optics, and they'd be able to crank up the resolution on professional cameras without losing any quality.

Quantum! (3, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577490)

"This is either a picture of your Aunt Mavis... or not."

More in The Economist (2, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577538)

I read a story about this [economist.com] in a recent issue of The Economist. The article focuses more on the other direction -- how quantum dots can be used to enhance LEDs to create more pleasing/efficient/versatile lighting. But it also mentions how they can be used to read light, too; for example, to make better solar panels.

We need bigger sensors! (1)

djlemma (1053860) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577552)

If this technology could be used to make larger sensors more affordable, that would be quite exciting for the professional and pro-sumer photographers out there. Right now the largest sensors that are in an affordable price range for normal humans are the full-frame 35mm style, and even those are pretty pricey. When you get into the medium format backs, one can expect to spend a similar amount to a new sedan... or in some cases, a new sportscar. As far as I know, they haven't even built a sensor that's large enough to be called "Large format" that's marketable- all the large format digital backs are scanners, as far as I know.

Larger sensors do more than reduce noise and increase low-light sensitivity- they also reduce depth of field, which is something that often separates the amateur photos from the ones taken by the pros. Of course, a cheaper sensor isn't going to reduce the cost of the glass, but maybe somebody else can figure that one out!

Re:We need bigger sensors! (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578630)

Actually it allows smaller sensors to work as well as larger sensors, and larger sensors to work better.

It's what you really want (better pictures in a cheap camera), even if you think you want something else (bigger sensors in a cheap camera).

Schrodinger's Lolcat (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31577622)

Im Livin in ur Box

OR MEBBI IM DED

I'm Sitting On the Fence (4, Funny)

Flere Imsaho (786612) | more than 4 years ago | (#31577696)

I dunno about quantum photography, it's neither here nor there.

Quantum or Nano? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578206)

Is this Quantum or Nano technology? Reading the article its sounding more like nano than quantum as field states and other quantum theories are not applied, its simply "really small dots embedded in a substrate" to create a new semiconductor. Its very irritating having people throw quantum around for really small things when nano is more applicable.

if the word QUANTUM is in the name..... (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578406)

... it's vaporware.

Re:if the word QUANTUM is in the name..... (1)

serbanp (139486) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578838)

yeah, I actually checked the calendar to see if it's April 1st already...

Pictures... (1)

honestmonkey (819408) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578476)

or it didn't happen. Right? Amiright? I slay me. Seriously, though, the article was just a bunch of words. Pretty pictures, that's what I want.

Similar article at Scientific American (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31578496)

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=quantum-dots-cell-camera

They're black! (1)

shis-ka-bob (595298) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578498)

"Our quantum film even looks like photographic film—an opaque black material that we deposit right on the top layer of our image chip."

This is important. Current digital sensors are reflective & that results in a specular reflection. This greatly increases the flare, since much of the light the strikes the sensor reflect back into the lens, where it can reflect from a lens back to the sensor. This is one area where digital has been noticeably worse that film. See PhotoTechEDU Day 4: Contrast, MTF, Flare, and Noise @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNvFsOvVkOg&feature=channel [youtube.com] . This is the major loss of contrast at low spacial frequency (eg ~ 10 lp/mm). The digital censors are not living up to the potential of the glass. This could really help. Now if I can just save up enough for a next generation Leica M10...

Re:They're black! (1)

baldusi (139651) | more than 4 years ago | (#31578880)

The digital censors are not living up to the potential of the glass. This could really help.

Have you ever used a Canon 5D mk II, Not to mention an EOS 1D mkIV or Nikon 3Dx? Canon had to redesign many lenses because the glass was not upto the new resolution of the sensors.

Re:They're black! (3, Interesting)

shis-ka-bob (595298) | more than 4 years ago | (#31579058)

this is not an issue of resolution. This is an issue of of contrast. For example, a reflecting telescope w an 8 inch mirror will out resolve a 4 inch refractor. But the refractor's image of the moon will have dramatically more contrast.

If you point any of those cameras toward the sun, you will see flare. This is carefully explained in the video. To suppress flare, you need to stop reflections. On the glass, you can multilayer coatings. On the sensor, you can't do that. So you have to live with the reflection. If you have a concave lens element facing toward the camera body, you have a little concave mirror just waiting to reflect the specular reflection of the sun back onto your sensor. If the new sensors are black, they are not going to reflect much - so less flare.

Re:They're black! (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#31579128)

Do you maybe have a source that you know is good on that. I didn't knew that they had to redesign their glass. Sounds like an incredible expensive operation when you have lenses in the price-range canon L-series is. Despite being a canon-user and mark ii user I have not run into trouble with my existing glass. The 5d works great, produces fine images, but it could be I am missing out on even better images. So would be cool if you have some more info on that.
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