ATOMOS Offers 8K Image Sensor to Third Parties
Australia-based ATOMOS, perhaps best known for their camera displays/recorders, has revealed that an 8K image sensor called Sapphire they have been working on for five years, is now at the point where they are showing it to other manufacturers. The goal is to offer the image sensor only, not to build a camera.
We spoke with CEO Trevor Elbourne, who explained a little of the history of its development. He said that about five years ago, ATOMOS began work on a digital image processing IC to support a camera sensor they had on their roadmap. At the same time, the opportunity arose to acquire an image sensor development team – a group formerly part of Thomson (now Technicolor). It seemed like an ideal fit. As development continued, the camera market became much more congested, and the notion of developing a camera was abandoned. However, the decision was taken to continue the development of the 8K image sensor to offer it to third parties subsequently.
Although there are already 8K cameras in the field, the ATOMOS image sensor performs at a higher level for video capture applications. The image sensor is 35mm full-frame sized and can support 17:9 8K-DCI resolution capture at 60 fps. It uses a global shutter for up to 8K/30p and a rolling shutter for 8K/60p capture. With a global shutter, the sensor supports other capture modes, including high frame rates like 4K/240p and 1080/480p. Dynamic range is an impressive 15 stops, which is achieved with clever off-chip processing, explained Elbourne. The sensor also has an extremely low power draw – just 2W when capturing at 8K/30p, so it is ideally suited to battery-operated devices. Like most image sensors, it uses a Bayer sensor pattern for color applications. Low light performance is still something they are working on optimizing.
Elbourne says they are talking to several interested parties in the cinema camera and high-end video camera space for conventional media and entertainment applications. But they are also seeing a lot of interest from the security sector – commercial, military, and government where the extra pixels are critical. Industrial inspection is also an area with interest and enough volume to interest ATOMOS. They have a CMOS partner lined up to make the sensors once customers are lined up.
To engage with customers, ATOMOS has developed an SDK to work with the sensor, which is free to qualified developers. The third-party integrator would undertake the de-Bayering, image processing, and all the other features associated with a functional camera.
In addition to its state-of-the-art performance levels, Elbourne sees a market need for another supplier of cinema-grade image sensors. Companies that make their own image sensors and cameras may not always offer the latest versions to image sensor customers.