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Foveon Releases Full-Color Image Sensor

Digital photography technology provider Foveon Inc. recently introduced its X3 image sensor, which the company says is a major improvement over CCD and CMOS image sensors. The new sensors will improve digital camera photography by capturing three times the color resolution of comparable sensors. Foveon hopes that the X3 will lead to digital cameras that are simpler to design and that provide more image quality and performance.

The Foveon sensors consist of three layers of photo detectors embedded in silicon and can detect three colors at every pixel location. The X3 can thus capture red, green and blue light at each pixel, resulting in sharper images, enhanced color and no "color rainbow" artifacts. CCD and CMOS sensors detect one color at each pixel and mathematically estimate the remaining two colors. The Foveon sensors enable higher-quality photographs with fewer pixels because the pixels are based on real measurements. This also makes for smaller file sizes.

The technology is scalable and will be used in designs for different sizes of image sensors. The first sensors are targeted for professional and advanced amateur camera users. The first camera that will use the X3 chip is the SD9 SLR digital camera from Sigma Corp. Additional sensors are being designed for digital still/video cameras, PDAs, cell phones, security cameras and fingerprint-recognition systems.

The new technology also integrates high-resolution still photography with professional full-motion video within one sensor, enabling a new dual mode still/video digital cameras. The X3 chips also incorporate a capability known as Variable Pixel Size, so pixels can be grouped together to create larger, full-color "super pixels."