Panasonic’s new organic sensor can switch between visible and NIR sensitivity

quanta image sensor low light camera 46492036  close up
Muhammad Amal Farial Khalid / 123RF
Panasonic has been working on organic imaging sensors for a few years now, but its latest design goes beyond full-color imaging to offer near-infrared (NIR) sensitivity suitable for night vision. Whereas normal visible+NIR cameras sacrifice some spatial resolution in order to serve double duty in both daylight and night vision, Panasonic’s new design avoids this by using two stacked layers of organic photoconductive film (OPF), one for the visible spectrum and one for NIR light.

panasonic organic visible nir sensor

By controlling the voltage to the OPFs, it is possible to switch between visible or visible+NIR sensitivity. The voltage is distributed unequally between the OPFs, so that the visible light layer on top always receives a greater amount than the NIR layer below. At low voltage, both layers are inactive, while at medium voltage just the visible layer is active. At high voltage, both layers are active.

Compared to a traditional CMOS imager, an organic sensor captures more light and separates the photoelectric conversion and circuit readout stages of digital imaging, enabling a true global shutter. The sensor can also hold more information at each pixel location which leads to a claimed 3 EV improvement in dynamic range.

While this technology, in general, holds a lot of promise for all aspects of digital imaging, Panasonic’s visible+NIR version of the sensor probably won’t ever be found in the company’s photography or filmmaking products. Instead, it is likely destined for use in security cameras or scientific equipment. The ability to switch between visible and visible+NIR imaging at a frame-by-frame basis, potentially at very high frame rates, could be beneficial for machine learning, object recognition, and motion analysis.

Because the OPF layers themselves are designed for sensitivity to specific wavelengths of light, the system does not require an IR cut filter employed by typical digital cameras. This minimizes the space required, which could potentially make the technology viable for consumer smart home cameras in the future.

Product Review

With outstanding image quality, the ‘basic’ Sony A7 III excels in every way

Replacing the four-year-old A7 II as the new entry-level model in Sony's full-frame line, the A7 III is an impressively capable camera that gives more expensive models a run for their money.
Emerging Tech

DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs Mavic 2 Zoom: What’s the real difference?

DJI's Mavic 2 series drones are ready to fly -- but which one is right for you? The Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are nearly identical save for their cameras. Here's what you need to know about these powerful new UAVs.
Home Theater

If you've got questions about Ultra HD Blu-ray, we've got answers

Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players are a killer way to beef up your home theater. Here's everything you need to know about one of the most significant advances to hit home entertainment in years.
Product Review

Fewer pixels, better camera? The Nikon Z6 shows the beauty of restraint

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

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!
Product Review

DJI has always been the king of drones, and the new Mavics are almost perfect

After flying both the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom for over a week, we’re convinced that these are two of the best drones that DJI has ever made.
Mobile

How to choose the best MicroSD cards for your smartphone or tablet

If you need some extra storage space and your device supports it, then a MicroSD card is an obvious place to start. Here, we look at what to consider and suggest some of the best MicroSD cards for your smartphone.
Photography

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer trades in his gear for a toy camera

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Oden Balilty recently rose to the challenge of shooting for an entire day using nothing but a toy camera, and at the end of it even found a few reasons to praise it over his pricey DSLR.
Social Media

Instagram purges fake followers, likes, and comments generated from other apps

Instagram looking a little more authentic? You can thank machine learning. A new tool is helping Instagram spot followers, likes and comments generated from third-party apps -- and this is just the start.
Product Review

Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 may be a beast in size, but its images are absolute beauty

There’s no such thing as a perfect lens, but the Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E ED comes incredibly close. The original 105mm f/1.4 delivers exceptional quality, albeit in a bulky package.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Photography

Deluxe D-Lux: New Leica compact camera adds quality and luxury

Essentially a rehoused Panasonic Lumix LX100 II, the D-Lux 7 adds Leica styling -- and price -- to Panasonic tech. The camera retains much from its predecessor, but brings some needed updates and refinements.