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NuCORE's logo. Click here to visit the NuCORE website! NuCORE shows new image processors
(Wednesday, May 14, 2003 - 12:07 EDT)

NuCORE Technology Inc. has today introduced two new image processors for digital still and video cameras at an event in Tokyo.

The CleanCapture SiP 1270 and NDX 1260 Image Processors are designed to work together to reduce noise, with a range of attendant benefits. The NDX 1260 is an analog image processor that takes the analog image data from the CCD sensor, performs analog white balance pre-processing, pixel-level gain control and analog to digital conversion with 16-bit internal resolution and 12-bit output.

The SiP 1270 post-processes the resulting digital data, and NuCORE says that it strives for "image quality at every point of design trade-off". It can support CCDs of up to 24 megapixels, CompactFlash and Secure Digital interfaces, USB 1.1, MotionJPEG video, digital zoom and more.

According to our friend Yamada Kumio of the digitalcamera.jp website, processing speeds for NuCORE's new CleanCapture chips are in the order of 75 megapixels / second, significantly faster than NuCORE's current chips which operate at up to 50 megapixels / second. Advantages of the promised low image noise, as well as the obvious smoother-looking images, would include smaller compressed file sizes, and hence a potential increase in number of stored images on a certain media capacity or longer video clips.

NuCORE says it has been sampling the chips to "key customers" in the first quarter of this year, and expects the first cameras using the new processors to appear in Q3 of this year. Pricing varies depending on what is being ordered, and the chips are now available both for sampling and production.

A number of interesting slides from NuCORE's presentation in Tokyo, as well as sample images comparing performance of NuCORE's chips alongside unidentified digital cameras can be seen at digitalcamera.jp.

Original Source Press Release:

NuCORE Introduces CleanCapture Image Processors; New Products Demonstrated at Media Event in Tokyo

TOKYO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 14, 2003--NuCORE today formally introduced its CleanCapture(TM) SiP 1270 and NDX 1260 Image Processors. The products offer the highest image quality and performance for image capture and processing for application in digital still and digital video cameras. The image processors were demonstrated to a broad press and industry audience at the Aoyama Spiral in Tokyo.

NuCORE NDX 1260 and SiP 1270 CleanCapture Image Processors

The NuCORE NDX 1260 is an analog image processor. NDX technology (NuCORE Dynamic range eXpansion) provides an image capture quality difference that can be easily seen in printed photographs and CRT monitors. The NDX 1260 is a mixed signal (analog and digital circuits) semiconductor. It takes the image data from the CCD sensor and executes analog to digital conversion with the absolute lowest noise, utilizing 16 bit internal resolution for exceptional granularity, smooth tonal response and grey scale accuracy. The NDX 1260 performs analog white balance pre-processing and a pixel by pixel gain control for red, green and blue for RGB (still) and also CYMG (video) to provide the highest quality, lowest noise 12 bit output for digital post processing by the SiP 1270.

The very low noise characteristics and the cleanest image capture in the industry provides the following benefits when coupled with a RGB or CYMG CCD sensor:

  • Minimum color distortion in red, green, blue A to D conversion
  • Virtually no color phase noise due to no crosstalk between colors
  • Less digital back end processing required to reduce noise related artifacts, which in turn reduces saturation problems
  • Smaller JPEG files at the same resolution due to less of a noise component to compress
  • More JPEG still images on a given memory card; less time required for e-mail transmission of said images
  • Longer MJPEG movie record times at a given resolution and storage size
  • More security cameras on an Intranet at a given resolution
  • Lower bandwidth required to transmit images in 1-3 mega pixel CCD camera / cell phone applications, which translates into faster transmission times
The NuCORE SiP 1270 is a digital image processor (SiP means smart image processor). The SiP 1270 is a no compromise, back end processor that has many image quality and performance features to compliment the NDX 1260 analog signal processor.

The SiP 1270 is a highly integrated digital "system on a chip" or SOC that is fabricated in TSMC's 0.13 micron CMOS process technology. It includes a flexible hard wired image processing pipeline that achieves the highest performance in the industry. NuCORE's design philosophy was to focus on image quality at every point of design trade-off. For example, the "edge enhancement" block required the development of complex algorithms in order to deliver the crispest edge definition in the consumer and professional digital imaging products.

"It is very unique that a company would dedicate this kind of passion towards image quality and have the courage to back it up in the architectural and design decisions," said Seiichiro Watanabe, NuCORE's founder and chief technology officer. "I have been told many times that our products are too good for the general marketplace requirements so I am gratified to see that many consumer camera manufacturers now want the best quality."

NuCORE includes both CYMG (video) and RGB (still) processing capability in the NDX 1260 and SiP 1270. NuCORE demonstrated high-resolution video processing at today's event in Tokyo and achieved leading performance in digital burst and shutter latency for digital still cameras. The SiP 1270 is an enabling technology to create hybrid cameras that offer the best video and still quality in a single camera.

The SiP 1270 also includes a high quality motion JPEG engine, capability to support up to 24 mega pixel CCDs, high speed compact flash and SD card memory interfaces, the industry's highest quality and performance digital zoom, USB 1.1, interfaces for hard disk and minidrive storage, and an embedded ARM(TM) 9 microprocessor.

First NuCORE "CleanCapture" Based Cameras Expected in Q3'03

The NDX 1260 and SiP 1270 are second generation designs. The first generation NDX and SiP 1250 were designed into a high volume consumer digital still camera and a high-end professional digital video camera. The first generation products provided a successful proof of concept for our conservative Japanese customers, revenue sufficient to close an additional venture capital funding round of $22M in January '03, and a technology learning curve that benefited the new SiP 1270 and NDX 1260 designs.

Today's introduction is the first detailed public explanation of the specifications of the NuCORE CleanCapture image processors as well as the announcement of the trademarked CleanCapture brand name. A demonstration of silicon and software functionality designed to highlight the major product benefits was performed at the Tokyo event.

The NDX 1260 and SiP 1270 were sampled to key customers in Q1'03 and the first cameras with the new NuCORE image processors will be introduced in Q3'03.

"I am extremely proud of the results of the engineering team. NuCORE clearly has a world class product, and now the challenge is to get the NUCORE solution to market broadly in cameras that end users find compelling," said James N. Chapman, president and CEO of NuCORE. "I am convinced that the NuCORE solution can help get OEMs to market faster and that is important as design cycles are shortening due to competition on the final camera products."

Software, Development Tools that Enable OEM Differentiation

NuCORE provides a rich software tool kit to support fast time to market for camera OEMs. There is an API software architecture so OEMs can program their user interface and on screen display preference without a need for direct knowledge of what the underlying hardware is doing. A complete source code license is available to major OEMs for a one-time fee of $200,000.

A development kit capable of easy evaluation of the NuCORE NDX 1260 and SiP 1270 is available six weeks after receipt of order for $19,500. Many camera OEMs seeking to quickly improve the quality of their cameras and lessen the burden on digital back-end post processing (particularly on DSP based architectures) of their current "noisy" analog front end solutions can buy these kits to get a NuCORE NDX 1260 designed in quickly.

Major camera OEMs have spent many years investing in their own color science technologies. Their expertise is important to their brands and to their customers. NuCORE offers the capability through advance tuning tools for OEMs to program their own color science parameters and tune images to their preference

"NuCORE's image tuning software tools can help OEMs get to market quickly AND keep their own differentiation that is so important to many Japanese customers," said Marlin Jones, senior vice president of engineering at NuCORE Technology.

Availability and Pricing

The NuCORE SiP 1270 and NDX 1260 are available now in both sample and production quantities. Evaluation systems are available. The SiP 1270 and NDX 1260 are premium products that are priced competitively for high volume applications (1 million units per year) in the consumer digital still camera and digital video camera segments.

Prices vary for individual NDX 1260s or SiP 1270s at different speeds and quantities.

Image Processors are a Key Camera Sub System

A digital camera consists of four major sub systems.
  • Lens or Optics -- Optical zoom capability, quality
  • CCD or Sensor -- Mega pixels of image data, resolution
  • Image Processor -- Image capture & processing, quality, performance
  • Memory -- Megabytes of storage, pictures stored, performance
Most end users that are researching the purchase of a digital camera are aware of the importance of the lens, CCD and memory. The image processor sub system is very important to achieve the highest image quality and fastest burst and shutter performance. This is especially true as the CCDs increase from 2 or 3 to 4, 5 and 6 mega pixels of resolution.

About NuCORE

NuCORE Technology is a developer of leading edge digital image processing chips for still and video cameras. NuCORE's products offer the industries highest quality image capture and enhanced camera performance with reduced power consumption. By providing a platform, including software and development boards, NuCORE helps camera makers speed new products to market. For more information, see www.nucoretech.com.

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