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Fuji's SuperCCD III logo. Courtesy of Fuji Japan, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Fuji's third-gen SuperCCD explained!
By Michael R. Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Wednesday, January 30, 2002 - 18:03 EST)

Curious as to what the improvements in the latest iteration of the FujiFilm SuperCCD imager are? If so, then read on...

As most readers are probably already aware, Japanese camera giant Fuji Photo Film Co. Ltd. took the wraps off its latest new models with the worldwide announcement of the FinePix S2 Pro, FinePix S602 and FinePix F601 digital cameras. All three have one common trait, the fact that they use the third generation of Fuji's proprietary SuperCCD imagers - but what exactly does that mean?

According to Fuji, improvements in the third-gen SuperCCDs include a new LSI (large scale integration) processor which uses luminance and chrominance information from the images to reduce noise. Two further additions (at least, in the consumer-grade SuperCCDs) are Pixel Data Coupling and Pixel Mixing.

Pixel Data Coupling aims to reduce noise and allow higher ISO ratings - which would be useful for example in low-light environments where camera shake might be a problem. Nothing comes for free, though, and the way Pixel Data Coupling works is that resolution is traded for noise - each pixel in the final image is the result of light gathered from 4 pixels-worth of information from the imager .

Pixel Mixing, meanwhile, allows for faster frame-rates and higher-quality video by combining data from vertically adjacent cells of the same color into one unit, and then combining this new data from two horizontally adjacent cells before read-out. Whilst the final result doesn't contain all of the individual cells' data separately, the data has at least been taken account of - and there's only 1/4 as much information to read off the imager. Whilst this is a concession that you wouldn't want to make for still images where lost data can mean lower image quality, when your final output is a 640x480 video file then this looks to be a good way to increase speed with minimum degradation of the final image.

Fuji have provided us with an interesting document detailing the third-generation SuperCCD, which we're reproducing below (note that we've modified the images from the originals to fit the format of our site):

Fujifilm?s Third Generation Super CCD System:
Offering an Outstanding Ultra-high ISO Sensitivity of 1600 and High-Quality VGA-Sized Video Recording

In 1999, Fujifilm announced the successful development of its Super CCD image sensor system. Ever since, Fujifilm has applied this technology extensively, introducing a wide range of digital cameras for both the consumer and professional markets, thereby opening up a world of possibilities in digital photography.

Fujifilm?s Super CCD system features unique octagonal-shaped photodiodes in an interwoven arrangement that realizes a larger photodiode for each pixel. The sensor shape and arrangement of the Super CCD system produces well-balanced digital image quality with increased sensitivity, offering a much wider dynamic range. It also improves the signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio and gives higher resolution, greater tonality and true-to-life colors with sparkling clarity. The Super CCD system has been designed to control the total balance of all these factors in order to create exceptional images.

Although Fujifilm?s Super CCD systems have always had a higher sensitivity than conventional CCDs, its third-generation Super CCD system achieves a comprehensive improvement in overall image quality, thanks to a redesign which features an advanced image-processing algorithm.

Typically, increasing the sensitivity of a CCD amplifies the noise in the images. However, with the third-generation Super CCD system, this problem has been resolved through the use of Fujifilm?s new Noise Reduction Technology, which uses the new LSI to process both the luminescence and chroma information from captured images. As a result, it offers high-sensitivity shooting while maintaining outstanding picture quality. Fujifilm has also newly developed its Pixel Data Coupling Technology, which is applied by the new LSI to realize the higher ISO sensitivities of 800* and 1600*.
* In 1280 x 960 mode only

Consequently, in addition to attaining excellent image quality and natural colors under normal lighting conditions at ISO settings of 160, 200 and 400, the new Super CCD is also capable of taking exceptional high-speed or low-light photographs when set to higher ISO settings of 800 and 1600. These higher ISO settings allow users to take pictures of a wider range of subjects under a greater range of situations, including non-flash photography under dimly lit conditions and fast-action shots. It also helps to eliminate camera shake from hand-held picture taking.

Fujifilm?s VGA-sized Movie Recording
The third-generation Super CCD system has a greatly improved movie recording function. It can capture high-quality, VGA-size digital video recording at a high frame rate of 30 frames/second in the FinePix S602 Zoom and 15 frames/second in the FinePix F601 Zoom. This is thanks to a world-leading breakthrough in horizontal and vertical direction ?Pixel-Mixing Technology?, accomplished by the Super CCD?s unique interwoven pixel arrangement. The technology combines pixel information in the vertical and horizontal directions, realizing higher frame rates and high-quality VGA movies with enhanced image brightness.

Pixel Data Coupling Technology
The LSI?s advanced image-processing algorithm combines the information from each group of four adjacent pixels into a single pixel, realizing the higher ISO sensitivities of 800 and 1600.

Pixel Data Coupling in the FujiFilm SuperCCD. Courtesy of Fuji, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins

Pixel Mixing Technology
The Super CCD combines data from two vertical pixels into one unit of data, and then similarly combines data from two horizontal pixels into a single data unit. This near-instantaneous processing allows for more pixel information to be read, resulting in higher frame rates and high-quality, VGA-size movies with enhanced image brightness.

Pixel Mixing in the FujiFilm SuperCCD. Courtesy of Fuji, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins

Source: Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc

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