New storage solutions could support high-res, high-speed video

canon patent details stacked sensors with autofocus layer 47498039 l
Missisya/123rf
Camera manufacturers make resolution look easy with upward of 50 megapixels in a number of the latest high-end cameras, but as the resolution climbs, another challenge emerges — how do you store all of that data quickly enough to support video at high frame rates? Turns out, the answer may involve giving each pixel it’s own storage bank for that data. The idea comes from three different groups that presented their research at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Electron Devices meeting earlier this month, including two high speed camera developers and Canon.

Global image shutters are generally considered the best option for video because they expose the entire sensor at once, eliminating the distortion in fast-moving subjects caused by the rolling shutter usually associated with CMOS sensors. CCDs, by design, use a global shutter — but they also overheat when used at fast shutter speeds.

However, a CMOS sensor can be given a global shutter if each pixel stores data in its own set of separate memory cells, instead of storing all of the image data in one memory bank. That allows for high-resolution video at fast frame rates, but that’s also why those high-resolution cameras are often limited to only short clips — those small, individual memory cells don’t have the capacity to store enough data for long videos.

Kuroda presented a partial version of a CMOS sensor that expands each pixel’s memory capacity. While the sensor presented was only a 96 x 128 pixel sensor built for testing, the team was able to capture one million frames per second for longer than other laboratory-level high-speed cameras, about 480 microseconds, since each pixel has a whopping 480 memory cells.

A research group from Tohoku had a similar goal but a different approach. Instead of spreading all those memory cells across the sensor, the team built the memory deeper into the camera — discovering that the deeper design meant less current loss. The design allows for increasing the recording length of those same high-speed laboratory cameras in a smaller space.

But for the photographers who don’t have access to those high-end laboratory cameras used in engineering and science, Canon could be bringing a new memory cell design to consumer cameras in the future. During the meeting, representatives from Canon illustrated a work-around that allows each memory unit to receive data four times during a single exposure, instead of just once. Canon says that by emptying the data from each pixel multiple times instead of just once, the photograph’s saturation and dynamic range improves.

While the early research shows promise for enhancing laboratory cameras, it’s not yet clear if (or when) that same concept would trickle down to expand the often short maximum clip length for 4K video from DSLRs, or if Canon’s research will eventually bring that enhanced dynamic range to market.

Mobile

Benchmark scores surface for Google's midrange Pixel 3 XL Lite

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 Lite XL.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Emerging Tech

Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a new method of 3D printing which is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Here's how it works and why it could prove a game-changer for 3D printing.
Emerging Tech

This high-tech shopping cart has the same aim as Amazon Go

The technology powering Amazon Go's cashier-free stores is pricey and a challenge to set up, but this high-tech shopping cart from a New York startup offers a similarly frictionless shopping experience at a fraction of the cost.
Photography

From 11K to just OK: The biggest photo gear announcements at CES 2019

From 11K cameras to 1 TB media cards, CES 2019 brought a peek at new gear for photographers and videographers. But what photography gear grabbed our attention the most? Here are the biggest photo gear announcements from CES 2019.
Photography

What to look for and what to avoid when buying a camera

Looking to buy a new camera? Our comprehensive camera guide for 2016 has answers to any camera or photography questions you might ask, whether in regards to pricing, image quality, or weatherproofing.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.
Photography

Going somewhere? Capture more than your phone can with the best travel cams

Hitting the road or doing some globetrotting this year? Bring along the right camera to capture those once-in-a-lifetime vacation memories. Here's a list of some of our current favorites.
Photography

From 4K powerhouses to tiny action cams, here are the best video cameras

Although not as popular as they once were, dedicated video cameras still have their benefits. From travel vlogging to home movies to recording your kid's little league game, here are the best video cameras you can buy right now.
Photography

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Photography

Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

What types of imagery are we most drawn to? According to recent stock photography data from Adobe, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock, authentic, holistic, and humanitarian content will be in high demand in 2019.
Photography

This A.I.-powered camera follows the action to produce epic selfie videos

Want to capture more epic action selfies? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action. Using a handful of different modes, the camera works to keep the action in the frame.