A patent filed by Samsung shows the company is working on a new method for capturing more vivid colors inside digital cameras. While removing the optical low-pass filter from the sensor is now more common than not, the patent illustrates how adding to the sensor — instead of taking away layers — could potentially enhance the color reproduction and help cut back on noise even more.
Traditional digital sensors use colored filters to transmit the different wavelengths that create color inside the image. According to the patent, the sensor loses a significant amount of light energy because it absorbs light in all but one wavelength. That process means about 2/3 of the light is lost.
The patent instead proposes splitting the light into two separate beams, so the sensor is no longer hit with almost every wavelength, to prevent that loss of light and help create more vivid colors. The beam splitter would separate the light into both red and blue sub-pixels. The patent seems to suggest that the split light would either extend to green sub-pixels or that a third split would be used to separate the green light. While the method for capturing the green isn’t clear yet, the technology would treat the reds, greens and blues of RGB separately, helping to reduce the loss of light in current sensors.
The color or beam splitter is integrated into one of the sensor’s layers. Diagonal strips of highly refractive material work to split the light, which then hits the sensor that maintains the randomized array of RGB pixels.
The implications of the new sensor design could be pretty significant, since most photographers adjust the colors of their images in post processing, often because they weren’t quite true to the original scene. But besides the original intent of creating vivid colors, preventing the loss of light could also help the sensors perform better in dim environments, and cut back noise at higher ISOs. Since the technology currently only exists as a patent, it’s unclear when — or even if — the idea would make its way into Samsung cameras and smartphones.