CEA-LETI has developed a fully-functional 20 MP full frame curved sensor

by Jaron Schneider

posted Thursday, July 13, 2017 at 11:25 AM EDT

 
 

CEA-LETI, a France-based research institute for electronics, has delivered a fully functional prototype full frame 20 megapixel curved sensor. Specifically, two members have been awarded prizes during the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science in Prague, Czech Republic, in part to acknowledge their involvement in the emergence of curved detectors: The Tycho Brahe Prize for Bernard Delabre from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and the New Technologies MERAC prize for Emmanuel Hugot from the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, who is leading an ERC programme on these developments. 

The last time we talked curved sensors wasn't that long ago, and it was specific to very small sensors for use in compact cameras (like cell phones or point-and-shoots). The reason to pursue a curved sensor is to improve image quality by directly correcting the field curvature in the focal plane. Curved sensors would help save about one third of the optics (parts usually used as field flatteners) and then avoids undesirable distortion effect either in the image and also on the optical properties across the field of view. 

"By directly correcting the field curvature in the focal plane, curved detectors help saving about one third of the optics, usually used as field flatteners, and then avoids undesirable distortion effect either in the image and also on the optical properties across the field of view.

After ten years of effort to convince the astronomical community about the benefits offered by curved focal planes, the activity is now ongoing around the world, with academic developments at ESO, Stanford, MIT, but also at the industrial level with recent realizations from Sony and Microsoft."

-Emmanuel Hugot from the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, who leads the curved sensor program together with Bernard Delabre from the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Quote via Image Sensors World

When discussing Microsoft's curved sensor, we touched on whether there was a reason to actually require a curved sensor, and what benefits it would provide if scaled up to a larger size. For Microsoft and Sony, building a curved sensor was focused on the wider consumer market, while the one developed by CEA-LETI would be more for astronomical observation. "This is the dawn of a new era for astronomical instrumentation," a press release about the development writes. "With the access to wider fields and exquisite homogeneity of the optical properties across the images, and faster systems not possible with classical flat foal planes. Also, fewer components are needed, and the remaining ones are less complex."

 
Photo Credit: LAM / CEA-Leti

Personally, while I'm very much in favor of pursuing new technologies and pushing boundaries, it's hard to get excited without actually seeing the benefits of the sensor. Microsoft did give us a few image examples, but they were very high-level and are hard to appreciate as a photographer/artist, instead aimed more at the highly technically minded. But CEA-LETI did not even provide that, with the only image provided being of the sensor itself. I have no doubt curved sensors are beneficial since the push to research them has been expanding, but I'll be the most excited when I can actually see how it will benefit me as a photographer.

Via DP Review